Some people don't understand the statement that the two disciples, who were walking along the road on their way to Emmaus on the Sunday afternoon after Jesus rose from the dead, made to Jesus in Luke, chapter 24:
21 “…today is the third day since these things were done.”
In other words, “…today is the third day since these things happened.”
What does this statement mean?
The first thing that we need to understand is that everything in the Bible is significant and every word of the Bible has a purpose. Since the Word of God tells us that the village of Emmaus was 60 furlongs (12 kilometers) from Jerusalem, that must be significant.
13 And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.
We also know that the two disciples were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Therefore, this walk would take—depending on how fast they were walking—about 1½ to 2½ hours.
This means that they had approximately two hours to talk while they were walking along.
14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
This verse tells us that these two disciples were talking about everything that had happened.
This would include—but not be limited to—Jesus teaching and healing and performing miracles throughout Israel for 3½ years, Jesus being arrested and falsely accused and tortured and tried and convicted and scourged and crucified and dying and put in a tomb on Wednesday, and the chief priests and Pharisees asking Pilate to make the tomb secure and Pilate granting their request and them making the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard around it on Thursday.
15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them.
16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know Him.
17 And He said unto them, “What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?”
18 And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto Him, “Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?”
19 And He said unto them, “What things?” And they said unto Him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:
20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and have crucified Him.
21 But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.”
In other words,
Jesus asked them, “What things are you talking about that happened in Jerusalem in these days that have made you sad?”
They replied, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth.”
Cleopas and the other disciple were “sad” because of “the things concerning Jesus of Nazareth that happened there (in Jerusalem) in these days” (verses 17–19).
(Obviously, Jesus teaching the Word of God and healing people did not make them sad, so that couldn't have been what they were referring to!)
What happened in Jerusalem in “these days” concerning Jesus of Nazareth that made Cleopas and the other disciple sad?
Whatever they were talking about that made them sad, took place over more than one day.
They could not have only been talking about Jesus being arrested, falsely accused, tortured, tried, convicted, scourged, crucified, and dying and put in a tomb, because that all took place on one day, Wednesday.
They must have also been talking about what happened on Thursday when the chief priests and Pharisees came together to Pilate and asked him to make the tomb secure until the third day, and Pilate granting their request and them making the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard around it.
62 Now the next day (Thursday), that followed the Day of the Preparation (Wednesday), the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,
63 Saying, “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while He was yet alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’
64 Command therefore that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night, and steal Him away, and say unto the people, ‘He is risen from the dead:’ so the last error shall be worse than the first.”
65 Pilate said unto them, “Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.”
66 So they went, and made the sepulcher sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.
The chief priests and Pharisees asked Pilate on Thursday that the tomb be made secure “until the third day,” Sunday (the third day after Thursday). This was because Jesus said that He was going to rise from the dead “the third day (after He was crucified and died),” which was Saturday (the third day after Wednesday).
Matthew 16:21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
Matthew 17:23 And they shall kill Him, and the third day He shall be raised again….
Matthew 20:19 And shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him: and the third day He shall rise again.
We see in Matthew 27:63 that the chief priests and Pharisees said that Jesus said, “After three days I will rise again.”
This is because the phrase “the third day” means the same thing as “after three days.”
If the guard guarded the tomb until Sunday, and Jesus' body was still in the tomb on Sunday, a day after He was supposed to rise from the dead, that would prove that Jesus did not rise from the dead “the third day.”
But the guard did not guard the tomb until Sunday because Jesus rose from the dead and left the tomb at about 3:00 P.M. Saturday afternoon. The guard then left also (after they were able to get up!).
So when Jesus said that He was going to “rise from the dead the third day,” He was referring to “the third day after He died.” Jesus died on Wednesday, so “the third day after He died” would be Saturday.
But when Cleopas and the other disciple said, “…today is the third day since these things were done,” they were referring to “the third day after the last thing that was done,” which was the guard being placed around the tomb. The guard was placed around the tomb on Thursday, so “the third day since these things were done” would be Sunday.