Resurrection and the First Day of the Week
One of the great reasons we gather on the first day of the week is in honor of our resurrected Lord. We gather to take the Lord’s Supper, which does commemorate His death, but it is more than that. He was raised again, and this gives meaning to His death that could not otherwise be seen. Death could not have the final word. God defeated it through Christ. The first day gathering is not arbitrary, but full of meaning for a number of reasons. Here we wish to focus briefly on why the resurrection is front and center:
1. The Day of Christ’s Resurrection was the first day of the week. “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” (John 20:1).
This fact alone should make us think of the importance of this day as the Lord’s Day. This is one of the reasons we meet on this day to celebrate His death and resurrection. Jesus didn’t just die, and if that’s all that happened, we have no traction for our faith. Paul indicates this in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19. The first day of the week was the day that victory was declared, the devil was defeated, and God’s people arose from the dust of the slavery of sin and death.
In Psalm 2, the anointed king of Yahweh is brought forth as a response to those who wanted to cast off God’s fetters: “He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You” (vs. 7). Paul quotes this and applies it to the resurrection of Jesus in Acts 13:32-33: “And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are MY Son; today I have begotten You.’”
The resurrection was God’s proclamation of victory, of Christ’s kingship over all (1 Pet 3:18-21). He “was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,” and “declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 1:3-4). This proclamation was made on the first day of the week when our Lord arose.
This day, then, should remind us of the power of God, which is that “strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named” (Eph. 1:19-21). Though we remember His death, we also cannot think of His death without knowing that death wasn’t all there was. We do this “until He comes,” which tells us that He is alive, raised, and coming again.
2. As a pointer to the resurrection, the Feast of First fruits is connected. Here is something else about the timing of the resurrection that contains great significance. Due to the time of the year and the connection to the Passover, then later Pentecost, the day of the resurrection of Jesus was connected to the Feast of First fruits (Lev. 23:9ff; another was Pentecost, Num 28:26, also filled with meaning). The “the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest” was to be waved before the Lord the day after the Passover Sabbath. This was to be done when they entered the land and they begin to reap the first fruits of the harvest, which would demonstrate their reliance on God who brought them into the land and show their thankfulness.
Paul references this in speaking about the resurrection Christ: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Cor 15:20). Paul also said that Christ our Passover has been sacrificed (1 Cor 5:7). Notice the typology appealed to here based on the timing of the events—Christ is sacrificed as our Passover lamb who takes away the sins of the world, and raised up as first fruits to God. This leads to the harvest on Pentecost.
That first harvest was an indicator of a greater harvest yet to come (the Feast of Weeks). In our case, Christ as our first fruits is the guarantee of the greater harvest of God’s people who would also be raised from the dead. This is the argument Paul is making in 1 Corinthians 15. Because Christ was raised, we will be raised.
When we gather on the first day of the week, we ought to think of Christ’s death and resurrection, and we ought to think of the first fruits harvest. Consequently, we are offering up to God our sacrifice of praise, showing our faith that we, too, will follow in the resurrection of our Lord.