Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

Here’s something you may or may never have thought of before (unless you’ve read any of the great books on Christian apologetics out there). The fact that the traditional day of Christian worship is Sunday is another piece of evidence that the Resurrection really happened.

Huh?

Yes, it’s true. Consider this: most of the early disciples of Jesus were Jews, and the Jewish day of worship has always been on Saturday. In the time of Jesus it had already been that way for thousands of years. Setting aside a specific day of worship was so important that it was one of the Ten Commandments.

And yet within one generation this new group of Jesus-followers had changed their day of worship to Sunday, to commemorate the day Jesus came back to life.

It’s hard to comprehend today the magnitude of such a change. Most of us live in a world where tradition doesn’t extend much beyond Christmas rituals and whose house we eat at for Easter. For the Jews, however, tradition meant their very survival. Their traditions gave their national identity clearly-defined borders. It was the difference between their culture surviving or being subsumed into the dust of history.

Quick! How many Hittites, Assyrians, and Babylonians do you know in your neighborhood? Each of these cultures in their heyday were far more powerful than Israel but it is the Jews who remain today, while the others have become archaeological studies. The main reason for this was that the Jewish people held on tightly to their traditions and religion throughout multiple conquerings and enslavements.

Even losing their homeland several times for hundreds, even thousands, of years, could not bring about the end of Jewish culture. They refused to give up their beliefs and did not intermarry with their conquerors, which would have meant their culture becoming assimilated with those around them and ultimately being lost.

The day of Sabbath was so sacred to the Jewish people that when Jesus came along and started healing people on the Sabbath, it enraged the leaders so much that they actually began plotting how to kill him. Even walking through a grainfield on the Sabbath was enough to consider him a heretic and a sinner. To them, such an act was the same as spitting in God’s face.

Of course, Jesus’ response brilliantly exposed their utter misunderstanding of God’s purposes for the Sabbath:
I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it? If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath. (Mt 12, Mk 2, Lk 6)
Although their traditions saved their race, the Pharisees had become slavishly devoted to them—to the extent that they had substituted worship of God for worship of the Law.

So now you see an inkling of why the move to Sunday, and so quickly, was such a bold (some might say reckless) statement. It actually threatened their lives to do so. And yet, they did it anyway.

They didn’t do it lightly, and they didn’t do it as a repudiation of their heritage. The early followers saw Jesus’ mission not as replacing Judaism with something completely foreign, but fulfilling Judaism. Filling it full. Fleshing it out. Finally seeing the culmination of God’s work in the people and history of Israel.

The early Jesus-followers also didn’t turn their back on Judaism. They respected and loved their faith. In fact, they remained observant Jews, so much so that the first great controversy in the early church was whether the new Gentile believers in Jesus would be expected to adopt and follow the Law of Moses.

I don’t think it was easy at all for them to change the day of worship to Sunday. It was an apparent paradox for them: they were honoring their millenia-old faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…but they were doing so by profaning one of their most sacred traditions. And risking their lives at the same time.

What else could have caused them to make such a drastic change?

--Jeremy
Truth poorly defended loses not its truthfulness;
likewise Falsehood aptly defended loses not it's falsity.

P.S. Another great pointer towards Resurrection that I just came across is that the early church also abandoned another key aspect of Jewish life: the sacrifice of animals. This was as much a core piece of being a Jew as honoring the Sabbath...maybe even more so. And yet this practice completely stopped immediately after the first Easter among those who believed in Jesus.

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