Last week I explained to two of my great-grandchildren why the day of rest and worship shifted from Saturday for the Jews to Sunday for Christians: Sunday was the day our Lord rose from the dead.
I then reviewed for them, and other family members around the table the following Christian certainties under-girding the Lord’s Day:
On Friday of Holy Week our Lord’s brutalized body was hastily placed in a tomb because the Jewish Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday, and the work of his burial was forbidden from then until after sundown on Saturday.
Thus for a part of three days: Friday, all of Saturday and the early part of Sunday, our Lord had been entombed.
At daybreak Sunday morning the Jewish Sabbath was over and several deeply grieving and devoted women, all followers of Jesus, went to the tomb with spices, in order to finish the burial rites.
Adding to their grief and distress, they found the tomb open and empty. Two of the women rushed back to Jerusalem to report this to the disciples.
Mary Magdalene stayed behind. As she stood weeping beside the tomb, she was addressed by ‘someone’ standing near the tomb. She rebuked him, thinking he was the gardener and that perhaps he had moved the body elsewhere.
But when the Lord Himself answered back, “Mary,” she fell at his feet and cried out, “Rabboni” — Teacher!
This is why Mary was the first witness to tell the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.”
After that first early morning appearance to Mary Magdalene, Jesus appeared in the afternoon to two disconsolate men walking the Emmaus road leading away from Jerusalem. At nightfall he appeared for the third time that day, this time to frightened disciples huddled within a locked room in fear for their lives.
Of course he subsequently appeared to many more before his ascension into heaven. But that first Sunday was Resurrection Day, a day unmatched by any other in history.
Our Lord’s resurrection from death on Sunday makes that day, rather than Saturday, the Lord’s Day of rest and corporate worship.
Whether in cathedrals, storefronts, sod huts, or even secret hiding places, Christians raise their voices together in song and prayer to celebrate Jesus’ living presence with his people.
That conversation with family was short but memorable. The children learned about the special reason for the Lord’s Day, perhaps for the first time, and the adults reviewed the conviction together with them.
Sunday is a day to rest from our labors, to gather for worship with a company of his people, and to say again with conviction, “The Lord is risen indeed!”