Author: H.M. Riggle
The two greatest events that ever occurred on earth we have in the gospel. They are the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The salvation of all mankind centers in Christ’s death and resurrection. All other events fade into mere insignificance when compared with these. Two monuments have been erected in the Christian age to commemorate these events. They are the “Lord’s Supper” and the ”Lord’s Day.” The first is in ”remembrance” of His death; the last commemorates His resurrection. The Lord’s Supper is to show His death “till he come”; the Lord’s Day is a day of holy convocation, a day of rejoicing and spiritual devotion, because “he is risen.”
There is nothing in the events of Saturday-the seventh day-to inspire a Christian under the gospel. Christ was in the tomb. A guard of Roman soldiers were carefully watching the place. A sable gloom hung over the scene, and the pall of death cast its dark shadow. Yes, the world’s Saviour lay under the power of death. His body rested in the sepulcher and His soul was in Hades. It was a restless and disheartening day to the disconsolate disciples. When their Lord was buried their hopes died with Him. (Luke 24:17-21). It was a day of mourning and sadness. The disciples were weeping, Mary the mother was heart-broken, and if ever angels wept, it was on that day. If ever hell rejoiced and demons shouted it was on that Saturday. The remembrance of that day would always be a grievous one to the Church. It would recall the agonies of death, the cross, the bitter cries, the expiring groan, the mournful sepulcher. It would ever after create a feeling of sorrow. Yes, the events of that day-that Jewish Sabbath Day-have forever spoiled it to the Christian heart. Think of it, the wicked Jews were rejoicing and Satan triumphing! If ever the Devil had hope, it was while Jesus was dead, during the Sabbath Day.
But as the first day of the week-Sunday-begins to dawn, a mighty angel like lightning descends, the earth quakes, the guards fall like dead men, the stone rolls away, the tomb opens, and Christ arises a conqueror over death, hell, and the grave. (Matt. 28:1-4). Satan’s last hope is gone; the wicked Jews are dismayed; the holy women are glad; the hope of the disciples is revived; angels rejoice; the salvation of a world is secured; the sufferings and humiliation of the Son of God are ended, and He walks forth the Almighty Saviour, the Lord of all. This is the Resurrection Day. No wonder it became the memorial day of the Church.
It was the resurrection day on which everything turned. Jesus might have lived the pure life He did, might have wrought all the miracles He did, might have died on the cross as He did, might have been buried as He was, yet all this would not have saved a soul if He had not risen from the dead. ”If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” (I Cor. 15:17-18). The resurrection completed the work which made Jesus both Saviour and Lord. Jesus Himself, when asked for the evidence of His authority, pointed to His resurrection on the third day as the proof of it. (John 2:18-21; Matt. 12:28-40; 16:21). Paul says that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” (Rom. 1:4). It was this that proved His Divinity. It was this that converted His own brethren in the flesh. Prior to the resurrection “His brethren believed not on Him.” That there will be a final day of judgment, God ”hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31).
Christ only is our hope and salvation. Him the Jews rejected and put to death. To the third day He lay in the tomb, and the sorrowful disciples said, “We trusted that it had been He which would have redeemed Israel.” (Luke 24:21). With His death, all their hopes seem to have expired. All was lost. But on the third day after the crucifixion they heard of His resurrection. Mary saw the Lord and told the rest. Though their faith was weak, hope began to revive. In the evening they were drawn together in assembly. Behold, He appeared in their midst. So it is true the Lord has risen! His resurrection confounds the Jews who rejected and crucified Him. The stone they had rejected suddenly triumphs and becomes the head of the corner. He in whom they had hoped and trusted for redemption has actually now “become their salvation.” The great day of triumph, when Jesus arose from the dead, is ”the day which the Lord hath made”; hence John rightly terms it the ”Lord’s Day.” (Rev. 1:10). A day when all the Christian world from the resurrection to this time have been led to set apart for the assembling together in prayer and praise to God. ”In it we will rejoice and be glad,” said the prophet. ”We celebrate Sunday as a joyful day,” said Tertullian, one of the primitive Church fathers. And so say the redeemed of the Lord generally.
We keep days because of what occurred on them. Two of the mightiest events in the history of Christianity and the Church occurred upon the first day of the week-Christ’s resurrection, and Pentecost. The great outpouring of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Acts 2, the dedication of the new covenant sanctuary-Church-its complete organization as a distinct body, the marvelous conversion of 3000 souls, all took place on this day. Jesus has said that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” This great and ever-widening stream of salvation work destined to become “a great mountain and fill the whole earth,” and finally “cover the earth as the waters cover the sea,” had its “beginning at Jerusalem.” Pentecost was on the first day of the week. We humbly ask: How could it be otherwise that the day should become a memorial day to the Christian Church? The resurrection, Pentecost, and the first day of the week are always associated together in the Christian’s mind.
It is not the day but the events that occurred on that day that we Christians celebrate. One day is not a whit better than another. One day is no more holy than another. It is not Sunday, because it is Sunday, that we keep-it is the resurrection day, the Pentecostal day, and this occurred upon “the first day of the week”-Sunday.