ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK
By Lee M. Haines
“On the first day of the week…” – the all-important Christian celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.
As I write this, we have just come through the Christmas celebration – gifts are being utilized, stored, or exchanged, ornaments are being taken down and put away. Not only the Christian world, but the secular world and much of the non-Christian world have joined in this extravaganza. But historically Christians did not quickly develop a celebration of Jesus’ birthday. It was centuries before the church emphasized Christmas strongly.
What has always been primary in importance for the church has been Jesus’ resurrection. Paul was so bold as to say in I Corinthians 15 that His resurrection is the heart of the gospel. “If He did not rise,” Paul says, “our preaching is useless and so is…faith.” “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (I Cor. 15-1-8, 12-19). So the great Christian celebration has always been Easter.
But Easter has never been just a once-a-year celebration. All four Gospels join in saying that He arose “on the first day of the week” – a day our present calendar calls “Sunday” (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1; John 20:1). By comparing the Jewish calendar with the church’s ancient traditions, it is virtually certain that Pentecost, the first infilling of Jesus’ disciples with the Holy Spirit, occurred on the first day of the week (Acts 2:1). Very early in the church’s life and development, the first day of the week became the regular day for believers to gather together for fellowship and worship and hearing the Word (Acts 20:7) and for the regular giving of offerings (I Cor. 16:2). By the time John wrote the book of Revelation, he refers to this “first day of the week” as “the Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10).
It celebrates the past – the resurrection of our Lord from the grave – not an imaginary or fraudulent resurrection, not a resuscitation from a near-death experience, but a real resurrection. It means that He is the Son of God, the Savior of all who believe in Him, the Lord of heaven and earth, the Head of the Church, the Mighty One who can deliver us, overcome His enemies, reign triumphantly forever.
It celebrates the present – that sinners have been transformed into saints and that they can meet together on the Lord’s Day in the presence of God the Father and Christ the resurrected Son and the blessed, indwelling, empowering Holy Spirit, and sit together in the heavenlies at the same time that they reach out to bring others into His kingdom.
It celebrates the future – that we will arise from the dead by His power, that He is preparing for us a heavenly, eternal abiding place, and that we shall live with Him forever and forever. The “first day of the week,” the Lord’s Day, will blend into an everlasting Day of the Lord that will fill all of eternity. Hallelujah. He arose!
Reprinted from The Wesleyan Advocate, March, 1997.