Death is coming for all of us. We try to push the idea out of our minds by entertaining ourselves, by staying busy, or by self-medicating. The fact remains that death is closer to us now than it was when we read the first sentence of this blog. Where is the hope? Where is the happily ever after? Who can bring good news to the fact that death is steadily drawing us closer and closer to our final breath? There is only one person that can adequately bring light to our dark situation, and that person is Jesus Christ. If Jesus died, descended into Hades, and rose from the dead, then He is qualified to give us an informed perspective on what will become of us. He can only do this if He did in fact rise from the dead. There is a vast amount of evidence that Jesus did rise from the dead. I want to share one of these evidences with you, because most likely you play a role in this piece of evidence.
It is currently Saturday night before Easter Sunday, and I am planning on celebrating the resurrection of Jesus tomorrow with my church family. Sunday is an important day for Christians, because the 1st day of the week is when Jesus supposedly rose from the dead. John 20:1 says, "Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.” Throughout church history Christians have met on Sunday to pray, read Scripture, and worship the living Jesus. This tradition sprung from the belief that Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday. If Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead on a Sunday, then it is very peculiar that the early Christians would choose Sunday as their day of worship.
The earliest Christians were religious Jews. They followed Old Testament law, which included keeping the Sabbath day holy. The Sabbath spanned from sun down on Friday night until sun down on Saturday night. The question we need to ask is why would strict Jews abandon the Law to observe the Sabbath and replace it with the first day of the week as their day of worship? Something highly significant must have happened on the first day of the week. After Jesus’ ascension, we see the disciples meeting together on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1). Interestingly enough, the day of Pentecost was always on the first day of the week (Leviticus 23:15-16), which means the disciples were gathered together on the first day of the week. Luke gives us some insight on what was practiced on this day in Acts 20:7. “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.” Notice, it does not say “on the last day of the week”, but “on the first day of the week” they gathered to break bread and hear a message from Paul. The Apostle Paul himself gives us more insight into what was being done as Christians gathered on the first day of the week. He says in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.” Paul assumes that the Corinthians were meeting together on the first day of the week and instructs them to give money in order to help other Christians. Hearing a message, breaking bread, and giving alms was part of what was done on the first day of the week. We also have an account from 112 A.D. penned by Pliny the Younger, a Roman Senator, to Emperor Trajan that describes what Christians did as they gathered for worship on the first day of the week. It states, “they were accustomed to meet together on a stated day before it was light, and to sing hymns to Christ as to a God, and to bind themselves by a sacramentum, not for any wicked purpose, but never to commit fraud, theft, adultery; never to break their word, or to refuse, when called upon, to deliver up their trust.”
In Revelation 1:10, we gain more insight from the Apostle John about this day. He says, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet” What is the Lord’s day? Is it a holiday that John celebrates once a year? Who is the Lord that John is referring to? Interestingly enough, John gives no explanation for what the Lord’s day is. It’s as if he expects the reader to know what he is referring to. The Jews had many holidays such as Passover, the Feast of Booths, the Day of Atonement, Hanukkah, etc… All of the Jewish holidays have one thing in common: they are celebrations of divine providence. Each holiday celebrates what God had done in the history of Israel. However, there are no holidays commemorating great people in Jewish history. There is no holiday for Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah or any other great person. But John describes a specific day that belongs to the Lord, to Jesus. Not only is this day celebrated once a year, but it is celebrated on the first day of every week. Again, we must ask what would possess strict Jews such as John and Paul to abandon worship on the seventh day of the week, adopt the first day of the week as the day of worship, and attribute this day with the Lord Jesus? In addition to this question, why don’t we find any argument, any justification, any defense in the New Testament for Sunday worship? Why are all of the New Testament writers silent on this issue? It’s as if they expect us to know why Sunday is significant.
All of the Gospel writers are unanimous in attesting that Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1-2, Luke 24:1, John 20:1). Also, Jesus is said to appear to many different groups on this first day of the week. He appears to Mary Magdalene (John 20:14-16), the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), to the disciples without Thomas (John 20:19-25), and to the disciples with Thomas present (John 26-29). No day would be associated in the minds of the disciples with more evidence of Jesus’ triumph over death than Sunday. Additionally, if Jesus had not been raised from the dead, His followers would have commemorated Him on a Friday, the day of His death, instead of arbitrarily picking a day that had no significance. Something must have happened. The earliest Christians claimed, in the New Testament writings, that what happened was that they discovered the empty tomb and that the resurrected Jesus appeared to them. The resurrection gives us the only adequate cause for the first Christians worshipping the Lord on the first day of the week.
Ever since that first Easter morning, Christians have been gathering on the first day of the week to worship Jesus as God, pray, listen to God’s Word be preached, and give money to the cause. Tomorrow many of you will attend a church service to celebrate that Jesus came back from the dead, proving that He had conquered Satan, sin and death. The very act of you attending a church service on the first day of the week is a witness that something very significant happened on the first day of the week 2,000 years ago. You yourselves will be a living testament to the fact that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead on that first Easter Sunday morning. Death is coming for us all, but we have a King who conquered death and promises to resurrect our bodies in the same way that He himself was resurrected. We do not merely have empty promises, but we have an assured hope, because our savior demonstrated that He can actually raise people from the dead. Be encouraged, Jesus is Risen, and if you have believed in Him, you will be raised as well!
“There ain’t no grave can hold my body down.
There ain’t no grave can hold my body down.
When I hear that trumpet sound
I’m gonna rise right out of the ground.
Ain’t no grave can hold my body down.”
 Pliny the Younger in Epistle X, 97.