First day of the week

This morning in (adult) Sunday School, someone asked me to clarify the sequence of events from the evening of the Last Supper to the resurrection. I know that not everyone agrees with the traditional view that Jesus was betrayed on Thursday evening and rose early Sunday morning. But disputes over the timeline were not pertinent to the lesson (and I’m not the teacher, though as pastor’s wife I am frequently asked questions not covered in the quarterly), so I explained briefly that what I set forth was the traditional view.

I remember from Bible school that some people think Jesus died on a Wednesday, in order to have him in the tomb for “three days and three nights.” From what I have read, however, I am inclined toward the traditional view that he died on a Friday. (Not that I think it is an essential matter. Why he died is far more important.) What I did not realize until I did some web surfing today, however, is that not everyone agrees that he rose from the dead on Sunday.

It did occur to me to wonder briefly about it this morning. I explained that Jesus was buried on Friday afternoon because the next day was the Sabbath, and for the Jews the day started at sunset. Then the women had to wait until after the Sabbath to go to the tomb. Yet the Sabbath ended at sunset also, but the women went to the tomb early the next morning. I immediately thought of a reasonable explanation – no one was going to want to go to a tomb in the dark.

Apparently, however, some people do believe that the resurrection took place at the end of the Sabbath on Saturday afternoon. Evaluating the merit of their claims versus the traditional view is beyond me – that is, I find the arguments for a Sunday resurrection sufficiently convincing, but it’s always easier to find convincing arguments for what one already believes.

What struck me this weekend, thinking about it, is that the first day of the week was the beginning of the work-week. For us, Sunday is the first day of the week but is still part of the weekend. It is no longer as widely observed as a day of rest as it was a few generations ago, but for most people it’s not a workday.

For most people in our society, the beginning of the workweek is Monday. And as so many people have jobs that they are less than happy to go back to, we have all sorts of Monday-related humor. My younger son likes reading Garfield comics, and Garfield is well known for hating Mondays.

I don’t know whether people in Jesus’ time had the same feeling about going back to the daily grind after their day of rest, but it would hardly be surprising if they did. Going back to the daily grind after your close friend Jesus was killed would make this first day of the week even more depressing. A real downer of a “Monday.”

Instead, what an amazing reversal to discover Him alive again! The first day of the week never felt the same way again. It became a weekly celebration of Jesus’ victory over the grave, so marked by that spectacular event that it became known as the Lord’s day. Eventually, among Gentile Christians, it became the weekly day of rest, with the work week starting on Monday.

So perhaps that just gives people a different day to be unhappy about going back to work… Yet the significance of the resurrection is that not only did death lose its sting for those who believe in Christ, but life – here and now – is transformed into one of joyful service. Even work done for one’s master – or boss – can be service to God, according to Paul (Eph. 6 and Col. 3).

I don’t hate my job, but I admit I find it hard to look forward to going back to work on Mondays. (Unlike how I felt about some previous jobs, where I actually did look forward to going to work, because I enjoyed both the work itself and the people I worked with and for.) As Easter Sunday draws to an end but the Easter season continues, I need to focus on letting God transform my life in that regard, so that my job is one of joyful service to him and not just a way to make a living.

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