While Christianity emerged out of Judaism, one of the key differences between the Christian church and the Jewish faith is that Christian worship centers around Sunday (most services on Sunday morning, but also services on Saturday nights and Sunday evenings) while Jewish synagogue worship is focused on Saturday, with the Jewish Sabbath day from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday to commemorate that God rested on the 7thday of the week (Saturday) when he created the world (Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 20:8-10). While we are used to having Saturdays and Sundays off for the “weekend,” Jews alone took Saturdays off in the ancient world (and at times were accused of laziness – to which Jewish writers responded that they can accomplish in 6 days what others need 7 days to do!). Observing the Sabbath was one the “essentials” for the Jewish people of Jesus’s time and differentiated them from others; it was a key component of their faith.
Therefore, it is quite remarkable that early Christians – many of whom were Jewish – started to meet on the first day of the week. In Acts 20:7, we read that Christians gathered together to break bread (have communion) and hear the Apostle Paul speak and teach about Jesus – that sounds a lot like a church service to me! The church in Corinth also gathered on the first day of the week and had a collection or offering for the poor (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). The appearance of Jesus to “Doubting” Thomas in John occurs when the disciples were gathered together on the first day of the week, a week after the resurrection of Jesus (John 20:26). The disciples of Jesus gathered together on a Sunday when the Holy Spirit came upon them in Acts 2, showing a practice of gathering on the first day of the week. This first day of the week became known as the “Lord’s Day,” with it being a day in which God reveals himself to people in a special way at times (Revelation 1:10). By the end of the first century, Christians were meeting on Sundays, as discussed by the early Christian leader Ignatius of Antioch; the Bible verses above show the reason for this early practice.
What caused this great shift from the 7th day being prioritized to the 1st day? It was the resurrection of Jesus, which happened on the first day of the week. Therefore, every Sunday is Easter Sunday, or more appropriately, Resurrection Sunday. This is one reason that Easter always falls on a Sunday rather than shifting throughout the week like Christmas does – it remembers that Jesus rose on the first day of the week, a Sunday. Just as creation began on day one in Genesis 1, so new creation begins on the first day with the resurrection of Jesus. The Sabbath Day was a shadow that pointed to the substance, which is life in Christ (see Colossians 2:16-17), which came about on the first day of the week.
It is not wrong to have a Sunday each year with special focus on the resurrection, but each Sunday should also have this focus – because the sheer act of gathering around Sunday (whether morning, evening, or evening before) is because Jesus rose from the dead. Perhaps this analogy helps – at times, you will hear dating couples, newlyweds, or new parents marking little anniversaries (one month, two month, etc.) – but they will also celebrate the big ones (like, one year, two year, etc.). Each Sunday is another “week” anniversary of the resurrection of Jesus, with Easter Sunday being the “year” anniversary. Hopefully, someone cherishes their spouse, significant other, or child each day and each week, but the anniversaries and birthdays provide a day for greater focus on this truth that we can too easily forget but the fundamental on which our faith rises or falls (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).
So, as you head towards worship, remember that it is another week anniversary of this wonderful truth; may every Sunday be Resurrection Sunday!
Questions about the Bible or theology? Contact Pastor Brian at Theology@faithchruchonline.org