Categorized | Change of The Sabbath

Jesus and Apostles On Sunday

Some years ago a prominent Catholic priest offered one thousand dollar to anyone who would prove from the Bible that Sunday, the first day of the week, was to be observed as a holy day. This challenge created widespread comment. No one ever claimed the reward.

It is with no small interest that we proceed to examine the New Testament with reference to the possible sacredness of the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday.

Jesus And The First Day of The Week

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each wrote a book recording events of Jesus’ life from birth to death, resurrection, and ascension. No other disciple wrote such an account in the New Testament.

According to these first four books of the New Testament, which present His teachings, what did Jesus have to say about the first day of the week? How many times did he mention it? To many it comes as a surprise that, in the record, Jesus utters no word regarding the first day of the week. The Christ of the Gospels is completely silent.

He who came to declare God, declared nothing at all about the first day of the week. He who came to magnify the law did indeed reveal a deep spiritual meaning but exalted no new holy day.

At creation He worked on the first day and rested on the seventh. As a carpenter He worked on the first day and rested on the seventh. As the redeemer He finished His earthly redemptive ministry on the six day and rested in the tomb on the Sabbath. Concerning the first day He makes no statement either before His death or after His resurrection. First day or Sunday sacredness, if it have any, comes not from the lips of Christ.

But is not the first day of the week mentioned in the New Testament? Yes, eight times. These references we shall now examine.

Matthew’s One Record

“In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.” Matthew 28:1.

Here we see that the Sabbath ends before the first day of the week begins. Therefore the two days are distinct one from the other. There is no slightest hint of any sacredness being attached to the first day of the week. Matthew wrote his record several years after the resurrection of Christ.

Mark’s Two Records.

“When the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had brought sweet spices that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.” Mark 16:1,2.

“Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.” Verse 9.

Here again is no word from Christ, but only Mark’s record of the resurrection. The Sabbath was past before the first day came. They are two different days. One is holy; the other, one of the six working days. Years after the resurrection Mark knew of no first day sacredness.

Luke’s One Record

“Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.” Luke 24:1.

Luke likewise gives no record that Jesus ever referred to the first day of the week. He does point out (in the two preceding verses) that some of Jesus’ most ardent followers “rested on the Sabbath day according to the commandment.” Naturally this was according to the fourth commandment. These friends of Jesus had never heard of any change, nor had Luke.

John’s Two Records

“The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre.” John 20:1. John gives he same story, a simple record of the early morning experience.

“Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” John 20:19.

Here again John’s record gives on account that Jesus ever mentioned the first day of the week.

What John does say is that the disciples were gathered together “for fear of the Jews.” And there Jesus appeared before them. This was at the close of this same resurrection day.

Some have thought that the disciples may have been celebrating Christ’s resurrection. This is completely in error, because the disciples did not believe Jesus had risen.

Mark makes this unmistakably clear. Mary Magdalene, having seen the resurrected Christ, told the disciples, but they “believed not.” (Mark 16:11) And again, “After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.” Verses 12, 13.

Luke writes of these same two men who saw Christ, and states: “They rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, ……saying, The Lord is risen indeed……And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” Luke 24:33-36.

This is the same meeting of which John wrote. What was the reaction of the disciples who had thus far refused to believe He had risen? We read on: “They were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.” Luke 24:37. Here is the conclusive proof that the disciples gathered in the upper room were not celebrating the resurrection. They did not believe that He was risen, and were frightened when they saw Him.

Jesus invited these doubting disciples to feel of His body and behold His wounded hands and feet. Then He asked for food and are before them. Thomas, one of the twelve, was absent form the gathering. Hearing of it, he refused to believe until he might actually feel of the wounded flesh of the savior’s hands and side. Some days later Jesus invited him to do this. Then, and then only, did Thomas believe that Jesus had actually risen from the dead.

To the honest seeker of truth it seems clear beyond all question that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the recorders of Jesus’ life and teachings, knew nothing of any Sunday sacredness. They maintain a significant silence on the sanctity of any day save the Sabbath.

One Record In Acts

“Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.  And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.” Acts 20:7,8.

Luke wrote the book of Acts , giving an inspired historical account of the early New Testament church. He recorded eighty four Sabbath services (after Christ’s ascension) and only one first day meeting, the one referred to in the text above.

Paul and his missionary company had spent seven days at Troas. (Verse 6.) Their farewell gathering was held at night, since there were lights in the upper chamber. Paul preached until midnight.

The first day of the week (Bible time) begins Saturday night at sundown and ends Sunday night at sundown. In as much as this meeting was held on first day of the week and at night, it must therefore have been  on what we call Saturday night, the first day having begun as sundown. Had it been held on what we call Sunday night (after sundown on Sunday), it would have been on the second day of the week. That is why Conybeare and Howson, in their work The Life and Epistle of St. Paul, say, “It was the evening which succeeded the Jewish Sabbath.” – Volume 2, p. 206.

It is interesting to note what followd. Paul having preached, conversed, and eaten, found that day was breaking. His company had already set sail Saturday night (the first day of the week). Sunday morning the apostle walked nineteen miles across a point of land to Assos, where his company took him on board ship. Verses 11-14.) Neither Paul nor any of the believers attached any sacredness to the first day of the week. They had spent seven days at Troas. Then on Saturday night (after the Sabbath) they had a farewell gathering with believers, “ready to depart on the morrow.”

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