While we’ve been focusing on learning all we can about Mashiach, the Jewish Messiah, we’ve seen how the rabbinical views about Messiah have changed over the centuries. We know that the predominant understanding of Messiah was that He’d come to suffer and atone for His people, but by the time Jesus arrived, that view had altered somewhat because the people were so crushed beneath the boot of Rome, they were longing for a warrior Messiah to liberate them. Considering that Scripture describes two distinct messianic profiles, its easy to see why they were universally hoping and longing for Mashiach ben Da’vid to come, not Mashiach ben Yosef.
While reading an article from One For Israel – a Messianic Jewish website that’s dedicated to explaining who Jesus really is to a Jewish world – I read an article about what Judaism believed with regard to the resurrection of the Messiah. According to this article, ancient Judaism actually did believe that Messiah would come to suffer and die for the people, but crucially, He would rise from the dead after three days.
Have you ever heard of the Theology of Catastrophic Messianism? It’s a theology that developed around 4BC after Herod the Great died. Apparently his demise sparked a huge revolt by the Jewish people against the Romans. Like I said, they were fed up with Roman occupation and their brutality. Out of this rebellion came several Jewish heroes, one was named Simon. Unfortunately, the rebellion failed badly and many Jewish cities and communities were destroyed and burned. Rome won again!
The Jewish hero, Simon, died during the rebellion, and a religious theology grew around him, ‘Catastrophic Messianism’. This theology embraced the humiliation, suffering and death of whoever the messiah was, but interestingly, this death and humiliation – according to this theology – was an essential part of the ultimate redemption that the messiah would bring. Not only that, but this theology, based on Scripture – Scripture that we’ve spent many weeks examining – also included the belief that messiah would rise from the dead after three days. 
Now I want to tell you about an amazing archaeological discovery in Jerusalem. It was written about in the New York Times in July, 2008 by Ethan Bronner. I want to read two paragraphs for you.
“A three foot tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing quite a stir in Biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days. If such a messianic description is really there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, since it suggests that the story of His death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognised Jewish tradition at the time.”
Now I’m not equating such a find with Scripture, which is God-breathed and inspired, but what I am at least suggesting is that in Judaism, in ancient Judaism, the idea or concept of a resurrection from the dead after three days for the Messiah is historically viable. It’s not a foreign concept or idea, it was already believed and understood before Jesus was born. This ancient stone, called the Gabriel Stone attests to that.
The first five words of one of the lines of text has been interpreted to say, “In three days live.” In Jewish thought, the three days of Jonah in the belly of the great fish, and the three days fast by Esther and her people, are equated to types of death before resurrections, and this theme of a three day death before resurrection is seen in the test of the Gabriel Stone, which apparently links to the Messiah, the ‘Prince of Princes.’
Most people are aware of the story of Jonah, who fled from God’s call to Nineveh, and after a short and almost lethal storm at sea, was thrown overboard and swallowed by a fish. He stayed in its belly for three days before being spewed onto the beach back where he started, had a change of heart and travelled to Nineveh after all. There’s the picture of resurrection after three days in the grave.
The story of Esther is less known, but essentially, while in ancient Persia, the Jewish people have a law passed against them by a high ranking man who despised the Jews and determines to exterminate them. When Esther, who is the queen and who has kept her Jewishness a secret, finds out about this law of extermination, calls upon her maids and her people, to fast for three days and nights, before she takes her life into her hands, to go before the king to plead for their salvation. Such action could have resulted in her execution, she was in effect, a dead woman walking, who was granted her life by the king. So again, we see a picture of death followed by resurrection after three days.
Next time we’ll focus on the specific detail of the ‘third day’.