THE NEW COVENANTAL SABBATH
A. THE SABBATH AND JESUS CHRIST
(a) The sabbath during Christís earthly life
The Old Testament had ended with the prophecy of the coming Messiah, the Lord of the Sabbath, the "Messenger of the covenant". To announce His advent, "Elijah the prophet" would first be sent to prepare His way, to turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and vice-versa, before the "Messenger of the covenant" Himself suddenly came to His temple, on the "great and dreadful day of the Lord" (Mal. 3:1-2; 4:1-6).
"Elijah" came in the personage of John the Baptist1. At his conception the angel of the Lord revealed that "many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God, and he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias [Elijah], . . . to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:16-17). Six months later (Luke 1:26-27, 36, 44) the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary the cousin of Elizabeth (who was expecting John the Baptist), and revealed that she herself was to bear the Messenger of the covenant prophesied by Malachi, Who would in fact be the Son of God Who would sit on the Davidic throne and reign without end over the house of Jacob2. When she then visited Elizabeth, and when the latter blessed her and called her "the mother of my Lord" (Luke 1:39-45), Mary replied that God had remembered His covenant "in remembrance of His mercy as He spoke to Abraham, and to his seed for ever"3.
When John the Baptist was born three months later, his father Zacharias exulted that God had kept His promise "to remember His holy covenant; the oath which He sware to our father Abraham" (Luke 1:72-73), in that He had "raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David . . . to give knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of their sins" (Luke 1:69, 77), by visiting them as "the dayspring [margin: sunrise , cf. Mal. 4:2!] from on high . . ., to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death"4.
Six months later, the Messenger of the covenant suddenly came to His temple5 ó the Saviour, Christ the Lord, was born that day6 in the city of David (Luke 2:11). Precisely eight days later (Luke 2:21), on the first day of the second week of His life, the Lord was circumcised, thus foreshadowing His "rebirth" (according to His humanity) into newness of life on the first day of the (second) week of His renewed life after His later death on Calvary7.
After the days of Maryís purification8, when the infant Lord of the Sabbath was brought to the house of Godís "rest" when the Messenger of the covenant suddenly came to His temple, He was there and then acknowledged as the Messiah by the expectant Simeon and the prophetess Anna (Luke 2:22-38). After this He visited the temple again at the age of twelve9 at the time of the Passover feast, and after He had "fulfilled the [seven] days" and astounded the Jewish teachers in the temple with His understanding, He returned to Nazareth where He remained until thirty years of age, doubtless visiting the synagogue every sabbath10.
In those days, about 27 A.D., His cousin John the Baptist, the "Elijah" of Malachiís prophecy, started to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord and the Day of the Lordó for the kingdom of heaven was at hand ó by preaching repentance even unto the natural seed of Abraham, and warning them of the wrath to come and the coming baptism of fire11. For it was now no longer enough to be a member of the old covenant of circumcision: the covenant was now to be renewed by the penitent being baptized into the New covenant12.
It was probably a sabbath year13, and not inconceivably exactly thirty years to the day after His circumcision14, when the Lord was baptized in the river Jordan by John on that early phase of the Day of the Lord15. For in a certain sense the Day of the Lord arrived on the day of His baptism, on the day on which the Lord of the Sabbath entered the New covenant as the Son of man and for man when the Spirit "rested" on Him16, and after which as the Second Adam He immediately withstood the temptations of the devil in the wilderness to which the first Adam had succumbed in paradise, and to which the sons of Israel had succumbed in that other wilderness whereby they ó like Adam before them ó had then forfeited their entry into the sabbath rest.
Returning to the Jordan, Jesus called His first disciples, conceivably on a sabbath17, and returned to Cairn in Galilee in February 27, AD.18, but returned to Jerusalem again in April to celebrate the Passover, where [as the "Messenger of the covenant Who (again) suddenly came to His temple"], He cleansed His Fatherís temple of the wicked money-lenders19.
After giving instruction on the rebirth and baptism as its sign and seal (John 3-4), Jesus returned to Galilee via Samaria in the November of 27 A.D. after the imprisonment of John the Baptist20. Thenceforth He commenced His Galilean ministry with the eschatological declaration: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand"21. "And He taught in their synagogues [particularly on the sabbath22] being glorified by all" (Luke 4:14-15).
Arriving in Nazareth, the Lord went into the synagogue on the sabbath day "as His custom was"23 ó thus proving His regular attendance at communal sabbath worship in His office as the Second Adam. As the Second Adam, His example probably establishes that the first Adam also so worshipped or was to have so worshipped; as the Second Adam His example is mandatory for all His federal descendants, His sabbath-keeping children.
Standing up in the synagogue on that sabbath day, Jesus opened and expounded the book of Isaiah from the sixty-first chapter, declaring that the Spirit of the Lord24 had anointed ("echrisen") Him [as "Christos", the "Anointed One"] "to preach the gospel to the poor, . . . the acceptable year of the Lord"25. And from His words: "This [sabbath] day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears", it is clear that the Lord of the Sabbath had delivered this epoch-making sermon on the sabbath day in what was almost certainly a Jubilee sabbath year26.
After this momentous occasion, the Lord came down to Capernaum, and taught them on the sabbath days27. Then, momentarily interrupting His Galilean ministry, he attended an unknown feast28 in Jerusalem, where He miraculously healed a man long infirm at the poo1 of Bethesda on the sabbath day. The man had been waiting together with a great multitude of blind and crippled people for an angel to stir the water of the poo1 ó for the first invalid who stepped down into the poo1 after that occurrence would be healed of his infirmity.
After instructing the healed man to take up his bed and walk, Jesus went to the temple, where he again encountered the man. The man, who had just been chastised by the Jews for carrying his bed on the sabbath, thereupon informed them that he had done so at Jesusí command29. "And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay Him, because He had done these things on the sabbath day" (John 5:16).
Done what things on the sabbath ó healed the man, or enjoined him to carry his bed? Probably both ó in which case the Jews accused the Lord falsely on both counts. For firstly, although some30 Jewish rabbinical schools forbade sabbath healing, the Old Testament certainly did not, cf. II Kgs. 4:18-35; and from the fact that all the invalids were gathered round the pool on that sabbath, they probably also accepted the possibility that the angel could come and heal one of them on that day, as the Angel and Messenger of the Covenant, the Lord of the Sabbath, indeed did! And secondly, the rabbisí prohibition of the carrying of sabbath burdens was a patent contortion of the trading burdens prohibited in Jer. 17 and Neh. 13 to try to make those texts falsely prohibit the carrying of medical burdens ó against the probable teaching of II Kgs. 4:18f! All their objections to the miracle just performed at Bethesda were engendered not by the love of God or the knowledge of His Word, but only by hatred towards and jealousy of Jesusí powers (John 5:39-42, 47).
Therefore, falsely accused of having broken the sabbath (John 5:18), Jesus did not accuse them back in return; for Moses would accuse them, whose words on sabbath observance they had sought to twist to their own ends (John 5 :45-47). It was not He, Jesus, the Son of God, Who had performed the healing of His Own account ó for "the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" (John 5:19). So it was the Father Who had healed the man through His Son on the sabbath. Had the Father then broken the sabbath, because He had worked on that sabbath and healed the man? The very idea is absurd, for the Father had worked uninterruptedly since the very foundation of the world, and thus on every sabbath since then too ó "My Father worketh hitherto"31. But because the Father Who gave His Son works to finish (John 5:36) ó works to perform even on the sabbaths and to finish on that last (Saturday) sabbath at Calvary, because "My Father worketh hitherto" (on the sabbath), Jesus could add: "[therefore] . . . I work [too]"32. For His Father would even raise the dead33, even raise the dead Son after His sabbath of death unto His new (Sunday) sabbath of life. And if the Father would do this, how dare the rabbis accuse the Son (and therefore His Father too) of having broken the sabbath in healing the man at Bethesda? !34
Returning to Galilee after the festival to continue His ministry there, Jesus called His twelve disciples by the lake of Galilee35, and then entered the synagogue of Capernaum where he taught with authority and healed a man with an unclean spirit on the sabbath day36. Then, leaving the synagogue, he went and healed Simon Peterís mother-in-law in her home37. The news of these two sabbath healings went through Capernaum like wild-fire. For at sunset ó the apparent point of termination of the Jewish sabbath in Jesusí day38 ó all the invalids in that locality were brought to Jesus to be healed, brought by people who were probably afraid of their rabbis and the latterís vain traditions against sabbath healings, in spite of its sanctioning before their very eyes that very sabbath by the Highest Rabbi, the Lord of the Sabbath Himself 39.
And so Jesus "preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils"40, often on the sabbath, calling to the weary and heavy laden: "Come unto Me . . . and I will give you rest . . . and ye shall find rest for your souls"41.
It was at about this time42 that Jesus went through the cornfields on the sabbath day43 ó according to Luke, "on the second sabbath after the first"44. Because His disciples "were an hungred" (Matt. 12:1-3), they spontaneously ate of the ears of corn, even as the hungry David and those with him, driven by necessity, had eaten of the shewbread on that other sabbath centuries previously45. But when certain of the Pharisees saw the Lordís disciples plucking the ears of corn, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them, they exclaimed: "Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?"46
Now it is instructive to note that the Pharisees did not base their complaint on the fact that the disciples were eating of another manís corn ó for their manner of eating was patently allowed by the Mosaic law47. Neither did they complain that the disciples had walked further (through the cornfields) than the rabbinical tradition of the "sabbath dayís journey" permitted48 ó for perhaps the disciples, like the Pharisees, were all on their way to or from the synagogue. No, they based their whole case against the Lord and His disciples on the fact that He was allowing His disciples to transgress some of the merely traditional and anti-Scriptural thirty-nine "Aboth"49 by "reaping" (plucking the ears) and "threshing" (rubbing them in their hands) on the sabbath day.
In His reply to the Pharisaical complaints against His disciples, the Lord did not even deign to discuss their vain traditions. Instead, He went straight to the Word of God which their traditions transgressed50. "Have ye not read", he replied, "what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread . . .?"51 With this answer the Lord not only incidentally overthrew the tradition of the sabbath dayís journey [for David fled a far greater distance than that on the sabbath51] and any possibility of His disciples appropriating anotherís property [for David had done this too, and in any case it was He, the Son of God, Who owned the cattle upon a thousand hills (Ps. 50:10), and could dispense with His Own corn as He wished], but He also went right to the heart of the Pharisaical accusation. Over against their restrictive traditions, He posited the perfect freedom of the authoritative Word of God.
This He did again in His next ironic statement: ". . . have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?" (Matt. 12:5). Surely the Pharisees would not have the insolence to accuse the temple priests of sabbath profanation by virtue of their sabbath labours in the temple; and so the Lord of the Sabbath Whom the temple had foreshadowed, the Messenger of the covenant Who had suddenly come to His temple, quickly added: ". . . in this place (standing before them in the cornfield!) is One greater than the temple"52. Yes indeed, for if those Levitical temple priests had not desecrated the sabbath by their sabbath temple labours, how much the less were the followers of the Priest forever after the order of Melchizedec53 there and then desecrating the sabbath by their "reaping" and "threshing"! The Pharisees had yet to learn, He said, that: "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath"54.
Thus the Lord of the Sabbath overthrew the false legalism, the nomism of the Pharisees. But His words are no authority for the equally false heresy of antinomianism. Man was not made for the sabbath, but the sabbath was made for (that is, intended to be kept by) man ó and therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath. Furthermore, the sabbath was made for man ó not merely for the Jew. Man ó Adam ó was made first, and then the sabbath was made for him, for him to lord over. When Adam failed to do this, the Second Adam did it in his stead, and thus ó as man ó became Lord of the Sabbath ó Lord in every way, Lord to change it back to the supralapsarian "Sunday" too, when He had kept and perfected the Adamic covenant throughout His life and death. His disciples were with the Lord of the Sabbath on His sabbath and to them His Word on sabbath-keeping (and corn-eating) was law. But to the Pharisees (and to the somewhat antinomian Sadducees) it was not. It was they, not the disciples, who were the sabbath-breakers. For in rejecting the Word of the Lord of the Sabbath ó both the written Word of the Old Testament which He had just quoted and the incarnate Word of the New Testament Who had just quoted them ó they themselves were desecrating the sabbath55.
On "another sabbath"56 Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, when He beheld a man with a withered hand. Aware that the scribes and Pharisees were watching Him, Jesus deliberately determined to heal him. But first He would reason His enemies to a standstill.
His enemies, anticipating what was about to happen, and anxious to indict Him, cunningly asked Him: "Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days?" (Matt. 12:10). Of course it was lawful, and the Lord may have gone on to point to the Word of God57 [or even to certain extra-Scriptural Jewish traditions at variance with those of his questioners!]58. But instead He pointed them to their own sabbath practice to expose their duplicity. He asked them in reply: "What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it and lift it out?" (Mart. 12:11). Their silence condemned them, for they were all guilty of this practice; and their silence constituted tacit agreement with His argument.
Then the Lord pursued His argument further with another rhetorical question: "How much then is a man better than a sheep?!" (Matt. 12:12a). Here He implied not only that He was the Shepherd of men, but also that it was only logical to treat the image of God with more compassion than a mere animal. Again their silence conceded His point ó for they illogically, not to say cruelly, would rather help an animal on the sabbath than a human being! So Jesus came with His final question: "Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? To save life or to destroy it?" (Luke 6:9.) For to heal a man on the sabbath was positively good; but to refuse to heal him if one could then do so was nothing less than evil! Again a stony silence reigned in the hearts and on the lips of His enemies. So Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, answered His Own question: "Wherefore, it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days" (Matt. 12:12b), and promptly healed the man59.
After casting out evil spirits which seek rest and find none (Matt. 12:22f, 43), the Lord of the Sabbath preached His Sermon on the Mount, in which He stressed the binding obligation of Godís moral law, and, therefore, by implication, of the Sabbath Commandment too as part thereof. For He had not come to destroy the moral law, but to fulfil it. And to emphasize that He was here referring not to the ceremonial but indeed to the moral law, He proceeded to expound the Fifth, Seventh and Third Commandments, adding that till heaven and earth passed away, not one jot or tittle of the law would ever pass away until all be fulfilled, and therefore that whosoever broke one of the least of those Commandments and taught other men to do so (as the Antinomians ancient and modern do), would be called the least in the kingdom of heaven60.
Spending the Passover of April, 29 A.D., in Galilee, Jesus fed the five thousand and then proceeded to give His discourse on the bread of life61. As this was very probably on the sabbath day62, one is perhaps justified in regarding this occurrence as the kernel of the later Lordís Supper in which the "bread of life" was broken symbolically on the Sunday sabbaths63. Then, He enjoined the keeping of the Fifth Commandment (Matt. 15:3-4) to the scribes and to the Pharisees, chastising them in the synagogue in connection with their "vain traditions" whereby they made the (moral) Commandments of God of no effect64. He dissociated Himself from their sabbath traditions too, as before65, and it is quite possible that this whole controversy took place on the sabbath day66.
"Perhaps it was on the Sabbath", writes Edersheim67, that Peter confessed the Lord of the Sabbath as "the Christ, the Son of the living God" and that Jesus prophesied His resurrection on the third day after His impending death68. Then, "after six days"69 or "about an eight days after"70 ó thus probably at the dawn or close of another sabbath71, Jesus and three of the apostles went up into a high mountain where He was transfigured in glistening glory ó a preview of the glory of Resurrection Sunday, revealed on that mount on what was perhaps a prior yet glorious Sunday, revealed after what was perhaps the "close of another Esabbath]"72. For on that mountain Jesus, Malachiís "Messenger of the covenant", identified John the Baptist as Malachiís "Elijah" who would come "before the coming of the great and dreadful Day of the Lord"73 before the day of the Lord of the Sabbathís Sunday resurrection from the dead when He, the Sun of righteousness, would arise with healing in His wings74.
In A.D. 29 in the month of October75, Jesus went to Jerusalem for the feast of tabernacles, and taught in the temple in the middle of the feast, where He accused the Jews of breaking the law of Moses (John 7:2, 14, 19). The Jews had accused Him of breaking the Mosaic law, and particularly of breaking the sabbath76, but it was in fact they, not Jesus, who had transgressed the law (John 7:2, 14, 19). They did not hesitate to inflict a physical "injury" on a male infant by administering circumcision as the sign of the covenant even on the sabbath day77, yet they had the audacity to be angry with the Messenger of that covenant, because He, the Lord of the Sabbath, had "inflicted" a physical healing on His Own sabbath day78.
On the last day, the eighth day or "sabbath" or "great day" of the feast79, Jesus stood up and proclaimed: "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink", speaking of the Spirit Which He would pour out like rain from on high and Which His followers would receive on that later eighth day, Pentecost Sunday80. Whereupon many of the feast-goers realized that He, the eschatological Messenger of the covenant, was indeed "the Prophet" and "the Christ" (John 7:40-41).
Just after this feast of tabernacles, Jesus revealed Himself as the "Light of the world" and the great "I am", the God of the covenant Who is before Abraham was ó perhaps again on a sabbath81. Then He proceeded to heal on the sabbath day a man blind from birth, which act led to the following utterly unscriptural and to some extent even untraditional82 accusation: "This man is not of God", exclaimed the Pharisees of Jesus, "because He keepeth not the sabbath day." But others more charitable than they (and perhaps more versed in the Scriptures too) retorted: "How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?"83.
In December of the same year (29 A.D.), Jesus attended the Chanukah or feast of dedication in Jerusalem in the winter84, and then went to Perea85 where, teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath, He healed a woman infirm for eighteen years. Then the ruler of the synagogue indignantly told the worshippers: "There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day." But the Lord replied: "Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?" The thrust of His argument was irrepellable: if the Jews all loosened a mere ox from its six day bond on the sabbath day, how much the more should a person (the image of God) ó nay more, this daughter of Abraham (a subject of the covenant of grace) be loosened from her eighteen year bond of sickness on the sabbath day! Hereupon His adversaries were ashamed ó and well they might be, for they had been judging the Lord of the Sabbath for helping an immortal soul on His Own sabbath day while they had refused to do this, but not refused to help dumb asses86.
Having again announced His resurrection unto perfection on the third day after His death87, it came to pass that "He went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day". But the Pharisees watched Him. Evidently Jesus did not consider it wrong to dine out on the sabbath when so invited (though He did stress that dinners and suppers rather be prepared for the poor and the lame and the blind as works of mercy rather than as unnecessary works of entertainment for friends and relatives and rich neighbours). And the Pharisees, so steeped in that enjoyable practice, did not consider it wrong either. But they watched Jesus to see if He would heal (and thus bring real joy) to anyone on the sabbath. So when a man with dropsy came before Him, Jesus asked them: "It is lawful to heal a man on the sabbath?" And when they held their peace, He healed him and said: "Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen in a pit, and will not straightway (!) pull him out on the sabbath day?" But again the Pharisees, convicted in their stony hearts, could give Him no answer88.
In February of the year 30 AD.89, two months before His death and resurrection, the Lord of the Sabbath, Who is Himself the Resurrection and the Life, resurrected Lazarus from the dead at Bethany, just outside of and to the east of Jerusalem (John 11:25, 43-44). Sojourning in the city of Ephraim from February to April90, on His way back to Jerusalem, He advocated Godís moral law as the rule of life to the rich young ruler who desired to inherit eternal life, explicitly enunciating the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth of the Ten Commandments, and therefore, by implication, all of them, including the Fourth91.
Returning to Bethany (John 12:14), probably on a Friday afternoon92 towards the sabbath, He was anointed by Mary with a view to His later burial anointment before (John 19:39-42) and after (Luke 23:56f) the sabbath one week later. Then, resting in Bethany on the Saturday sabbath, He set out for Jerusalem on the next day, (Palm) Sunday, the first day of the new week93. Having procured an assís colt at Bethphage94, the Lord of the Sabbath rode into Jerusalem that Sunday in triumph, came in the Name of the Lord as the King of Israel and the Son of the Davidic covenant in partial fulfilment of the prophecy, and was acknowledged as such by the joyous and festive palm-wielding crowds. For this last Sunday before Calvary, like the first and all the subsequent Sundays after Calvary, was a day of joy and gladness, "the day that the Lord hath made" even as prophesied in the "Sunday Psalm"95.
The next day, Monday, the Messenger of the covenant suddenly came to His temple in Jerusalem and cleansed it96. For the temple, His Fatherís house, was to be a house of prayer for all nations which kept the sabbath97. When asked by what authority He cleansed the temple, and what credentials, what sign98 He could show for so doing, He, no doubt pointing to His body, replied: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19, cf. 22) ó referring, of course, to His bodily resurrection from the dead on the third day.
On Tuesday, the Lord was called upon to answer all kinds of cunning questions designed to trap Him, questions ranging from mala fide queries regarding the baptism of John and the resurrection, to those regarding the Son of David99. In answering another enquirer, however, He also expounded the Great Commandment of the moral law from Deut. 6:4-5, verses which were read every sabbath day in the synagogue100. And by enunciating this summary of the Ten Commandments, He once again advocated the Decalogue ó including its sabbath ó as the rule of life under the New covenant and in His Church.
About this time He also warned His followers that He had yet many things to teach them, things which they could not as then bear or understand; but that when He later sent His Spirit, He, the Holy Ghost, the Third Person of the Trinity, would teach them those things and lead them into all truth ó and doubtless the restitution of the supralapsarian Adamic "Sunday" sabbath after the Second Adamís entry as man into the eternal sabbath rest was one of those "things"101. Hence, in His eschatological prophecies, definitely referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and probably referring to the end of the world too, Christ, in the knowledge that His Own Spirit (Whom He Himself would send) would later guide His followers and make His Own meaning clear to them, could confidently enjoin His disciples to pray that their flight (during the destruction of Jerusalem) "be not in the winter or on the sabbath day" (Matt. 24:20).
What exactly did the Lord mean by this expression? Firstly, it should be noted that the emphasis falls on the "winter" rather than on the "sabbath", as the former word is also found in the parallel verse in Mark 13:18, whereas the latter is not. Then secondly, why should the disciples pray, that their flight be not in the winter? Surely, on account of the difficulties involved in escaping at that time of the year, as later recorded in the Talmud102, and certainly not because it was forbidden to escape during the winter!
The same applies (mutatis mutandis), in respect of a flight on the sabbath. Sabbath flights and other journeys when in mortal danger were neither forbidden nor unknown103, but they certainly were highly inconvenient. Consequently, the text cannot be cited as a prohibition against (urgent) sabbath travelling. The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath, and it was motivated by love not by prohibition that the Lord of the Sabbath had enjoined them to pray that their flight be not on the sabbath. The very idea that He, Who had walked through the cornfields and relieved so many sufferings on the sabbath, should prohibit the sabbath flight of suffering refugees is too preposterous to merit a momentís consideration.
Yet the text surely establishes that the Lord then expected sabbath observance to have occurred until at least 70 A.D. (if not ó like the occurrence of winter! ó to the very end of the world itself). But it is not so clear by whom and on which day of the week the Lord expected the sabbath then to be observed.
If, on the one hand, He expected it to be observed by the unconverted Jews alone, the text would mean that the Christian minority resident in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. might be hampered by the shut city gates (cf. Neh. 13:19) which the Saturday sabbath-keeping Jewish majority would keep shut on that day, as well as by the impossibility of the Christian refugees then purchasing food for the flight from the Jewish merchants, etc.
If, on the other hand, the Lord expected the sabbath to be observed by the Christians in A.D. 70 ó which seems more likely, as the text does not refer to "the Jewish sabbath" or even to "the Mosaic sabbath" or even to "the Noachic sabbath", but rather to "the sabbath day" ó it definitely establishes that He required the Christians to observe the sabbath certainly until at least 70 A.D. and almost certainly until the end of the age too. But as it will be shown below that Jesus re-instituted the supralapsarian "Sunday" as the day of rest on the day of His resurrection, and again authenticated it by the outpouring of His Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, a day of "holy convocation" on which "no servile work" was to be done in Old Testament times (Lev. 23:15-21), while His Apostle Paul (before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.!) condemned compulsory Saturday sabbath-keeping under inspiration of Christís Holy Spirit (Col. 2:16), the text Matt. 24:20 could then only mean that Sunday is not merely a day of rest, but is now in fact "the sabbath day" too. And this, it is claimed, is one of the "things" the disciples could not as then bear or understand before Calvary, "things" which Christís promised Spirit would come and teach the disciples after His outbreathing on Resurrection Sunday and His outpouring seven Sundays later on Pentecost Sunday, when He would lead His Church more and more into "all truth"; including the truth of "Sunday" sabbath observance104.
Betrayed by Judas on Wednesday105, on the next day Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Lordís Supper106 ó destined to mark the future "Lordís day" Sunday sabbath gatherings of His disciples, and to prophesy the coming of the "Day of the Lord" even further in the future. And He instituted the sacrament in the upper room ó probably the same room destined to become the regular meeting place of the post-resurrectional Church, particularly on Sundays107.
Arrested and tried, on Friday the Passover Lamb was crucified and gave up His life on Calvaryís cross108. Then His disciples went and "rested the sabbath day according to the commandment"109. For they had thus been instructed from the written Word by the Living Word, instructed during His earthly life by the precept and example of the Lord of the Sabbath Himself.
(b) The sabbath
and the death of Christ
It was there on Calvary that the Lord of the Sabbath uttered His seven words from the cross116. There His fourth word (to the thief, the seed of the fallen Adam); "To day shalt thou be with Me in paradise" (Luke 23:43), announced His entry as Second Adam (and in principle, of His seed with Him) into the eternal sabbath rest of God. There His fifth word: "I thirst" relived the wilderness hardships of His people before their entry into the sabbath land of Canaan117. There the created sun "sabbathed" in solar "death" for three hours at its noon-day prime118, in acknowledgement of that Creator Sun119 Who was about to "sabbath" in human death for three days at the prime of His earthly life120. There He triumphantly declared His fulfilment of the Adamic covenant of works in the words: "It is finished!"121, as dying He swallowed up death in victory ó the death of death in the death of Christ122.
"It is finished." This sixth word from the cross, this sixth word of re-creation, like the sixth day of creation, was "very good". For the Adamic covenant was finished and fulfilled123. And the Abrahamic covenant and its circumcision were also fulfilled in the "circumcision of Christ"124, in the circumcision of His body on the cross. But also ó particularly ó the Mosaic covenant was finished and fulfilled in His death, when He, "blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, . . . took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross"; blotting out the ordinances of the ceremonial sabbatical system of Israel too (yet not the moral and pre-Israelitic weekly sabbath), which ceremonial sabbaths and the other temporary ordinances were now no longer to obtain, so that it might henceforth be declared: "Let no man therefore judge you . . . in respect of a holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days, which are a shadow of things to come ó but the body is of Christ" (Col. 2:14-17). And Christ had now come. The shadows had now disappeared. It is finished. And the (Saturday) sabbaths were finished too: finished and perfected in the dying body of the Lord of the Sabbath Himself; finished when the veil of the temple and the whole Mosaic economy was rent from top to bottom, from God to man, rent when the Second Adam and Mediator of the Covenant Who had suddenly come to His temple was rent apart and breathed His last125.
His last breath: "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit"126. The seventh word from the cross. The seventh word of re-creation. The sabbath word. As God rested in the seventh day from all His finished creation works, so too did Christ now rest from all His finished re-creation works. He entered into a covenant with death and hell to break manís covenant with death and hell127. Yet in death, He passed through hell and entered into His rest in triumph. For: it is finished. Christ, The Temple, "rests" in God; and God henceforth "rests" in His Temple: Christ. God beheld His finished re-creation work, and was satisfied. Henceforth He rests in His Sabbath, in the Lord of the Sabbath; for the active wrath of God the Father rests in the finished work of the Second Adam Jesus Christ.
Christ had just died. Died for others. So others, for whom He had died, came back to life. When Life died, the dead lived: "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept, arose"127. Even at His death (and especially after His resurrection) they proclaimed the joy of Resurrection Sunday; proclaimed it then in advance, even as that joyless Saturday sabbath drew nigh128.
"ĎIt is finishedí. . . The Jews therefore, . . . that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, . . . besought Pilate . . . that they might be taken away" (John 19:30-31). So when evening came ó and with it, the last "dying" Saturday sabbath ó Joseph of Arimathea laid the dead Lord of the Sabbath in his own grave in the promised land of the sabbath129. And in death He thus sanctified death, grave and land and made all three "sabbath" from their terrors for His future seed130.
Throughout that night and throughout the next day, the Lord of the Sabbath "kept" the Saturday sabbath for the last time, sanctified death and grave as He rested from His re-creation work, even as His Father had sanctified the earth and its inhabitants, sanctified that first seventh day as He rested from His creation work131.
Christ rested on that last Saturday sabbath, and so did His disciples109. Not so, however, the restless devil and his restless disciples, who desecrated that day by themselves working and sealing the tomb of the Lord of the sabbath132 ó the "sabbath" of the sabbath in the sabbath of the Christless. For these devilish reactionaries clung tenaciously to their perversion of the seventh day sabbath, and desparately tried to prevent the advent of the Lord of the Sabbathís resurrection on and His sanctification of the eighth day sabbath133.
But their efforts were all in vain. Restless hell could not hold the Lord of Rest134, and "in the end of the sabbath", "when the [Saturday] sabbath was past"135 ópast forever! ó the Lord of the Sabbath rose from the dead on "the first day of the week"136, on "the first [day] of the [new] sabbaths"137, the Lordís day, Sunday. Hell was defeated. She and her restless inmates would henceforth be even more restless, would have no rest, night and day138. For the Lord of the Sabbath had conquered, and the day of the Lord had arrived.
As the third day139 after the death and burial of the Lord of the Sabbath approached, the powers of hell became more and more restless. And their doom was sealed when the Lord victoriously rose from the dead and thus (for Himself according to His humanity and on behalf of all His human seed) swallowed up death in victory140. It is important to note that He did not rise on the Saturday sabbath, turning that day into one of joy, but deliberately passed it by in death, and fulfilled the prophecy to rise on the third day by rising on Sunday, the day after the Saturday sabbath, thus turning Sunday, not Saturday, into the day of joy141.
Because Christ rose on "the third day" after being "in the heart of the earth", because He "was risen early the first day of the week"142, it is clear that, buried in the heart of the earth on Friday evening, He could not possibly have risen from the dead and neither could "the third day" (the first day of the week on which He rose "early") possibly have commenced until some time well after Saturday evening143; yet because He had already risen when the women arrived to anoint His body at daybreak on Sunday morn, it is clear that He must have risen from the dead well before then. Hence Christ, Who admittedly rose on Sunday the first day of the week, must have risen some time between Saturday at sunset and Sunday at sunrise. But having risen on Sunday, it is clear that Sunday must have started prior to or simultaneously with His resurrection, and thus at some point between Saturday at sunset and Sunday at sunrise, which point, as argued elsewhere above144, was probably midnight. And this is entirely in accordance with the rumour which the Jewish leaders spread, namely that "His disciples came by night and stole Him away" while the guards "slept" (Matt. 28:13). Henceforth ó if not indeed as previously too145 ó the "first day of the week" [and hence the subsequent weeks themselves] would be reckoned by a midnight to midnight demarcation.
So Christ rose on Sunday morn, "when the sabbath was past" yet before Mary Magdalene came to the tomb on "the first day of the week . . . when it was yet dark"146. In His resurrection on the eighth day of the week, He demonstrated the arrival in principle of the Eighth Day of Godís creation week, the First (never-ending) Day of Godís new creation (week). His resurrection on Sunday sanctified that day as the Lordís day, as the microscopic weekly symbol of the Day of the Lord. His rising as the Sun of righteousness before that of the created sun forecast the nightless Day of the new creation when He Himself shall illuminate the New Jerusalem which has no need of the created sun (Rev. 21:23) ó even as He illuminated the sunlightless world before the fourth creation day. His resurrection according to the flesh on the Lordís day is the seal and earnest, the guarantee of the resurrection of all flesh on the Day of the Lord; for in Christís resurrection "lost time" is engulfed by "eschatological time", death by life.
But Godís Eighth Day only began in principle with Christís resurrection on that eighth day of the week. In reality Godís Seventh Day, co-extensive with the duration of this present creation itself 147, will last until the Eighth Day of the Lord arrives in reality at the end of the world. But Godís Eighth Day has nevertheless arrived in principle, and Godís Seventh Day is now progressively dying out (as did that last weekly seventh-day sabbath when Christ lay dead in the tomb) while His Eighth Day is progressively growing stronger (as did that first weekly eighth-day sabbath after Christ had risen from the tomb). At the moment they still overlap one another, and whereas Godís Seventh Day is now overshadowed by His Eighth Day, so too is the weekly miniature symbol of His Seventh Day now overshadowed by the weekly miniature picture of His Eighth Day. Hence the seventh-day Saturday sabbath is now overshadowed by the eighth-day Sunday day of rest, the day of the Lordís resurrection, the Lordís day. Hence Sunday, the eighth day of the week (i.e., the first day of the new week, the New Testament week), has now become a weekly day of rest. The Sunday day of rest was born as the Saturday sabbath died.
Hence the Scriptures teach that Christ, the Sun of righteousness (Mal. 4:2) was resurrected on Sunday, on which day He appeared to His congregated Church; that eight days later, i.e. on the following Sunday [and after absenting Himself on the previous day, the now displaced and abolished Saturday sabbath], He again appeared to His congregated Church; that, after His ascension into heaven, He gave His Spirit to His congregated Church on Pentecost Sunday; that He caused His holy Supper to be celebrated in His congregated Church on Sunday; that He caused contributions for the saints to be made by His congregated Churchís members every Sunday; and that He Himself appeared on Sunday, the Lordís day, to His messenger the Apostle John in order to transmit His seven letters to His congregated Churches in Asia Minor148. In short, the weekly Sunday became the weekly sabbath day ó the day of the congregation of the Church in order to worship her God in a restful manner. For the very congregation of the Church implies her membersí laying aside of their secular work in order to be able to congregate149.
The change of the weekly sabbath day from Saturday to Sunday is rich in meaning. Previously the people of God expected their salvation after the fall at the end of the age; hence they expected their weekly sabbath day as the sign thereof at the end of the week. And indeed, God had so designated the infralapsarian sabbath (Gen. 4:3 margin; cf. 2:1-3). But now, after the arrival of that salvation with the advent of Christ and His resurrection at the beginning of the New Testament, the weekly sabbath as the sign thereof is henceforth to be celebrated at the beginning of the New Testament week(s).
But there is also continuity in the series of weeks. On the change of the day of rest from Saturday to Sunday, the relationship "six days of labour to one of rest" has been preserved. The weeks, previously demarcated since the fall by a holy termination day of the week, swung round the resurrection of Christ as the hinge of history as it were, and, never broken, the series of weeks are henceforth demarcated by a holy commencement day of the week. On the arrival of the last Saturday sabbath, Christ died ó and the Saturday sabbath died with Him. On the termination of that last Saturday sabbath, "in the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week", the Sun of righteousness made all things new on that first Sun-day of His righteousness. The risen Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath, then by His very resurrection sanctified Sunday as the day of the Lord, as the new miniature picture of His entry into the deepest phase of His rest as the Second Adam150. The deepest phase, for He entered the threshold of that rest when He sabbathed from this lifeís work on the last Saturday sabbath in the tomb. But He ushered in the very (re-)creative rest of God itself, Godís Eighth Day, when He sabbathed according to His humanity in His next lifeís work as His hard-earned reward [for His labours in this earthly life], and donated it as a free gift to His followers on that first Sunday sabbath. The Sunday sabbath, the Lordís day for "day of the Lord"151], henceforth proclaims that Godís "great" Sunday, Godís Eighth Day, the Day of the Lord, the Day of His (Second) Coming with the eternal rest for His children, has in principle already commenced with His Own resurrection on their behalf. Hence Sunday has now become a day of rest, because week by week it testifies that eternal rest has already in principle been obtained for man and by man, by the Son of man. For this very reason, Sunday became from the very beginning of the New Testament ó albeit with ever-increasing consciousness ó a dedicated day for the discussion of Biblical subjects, for the celebration of the Lordís Supper, for the holding of holy gatherings, as well as a day of spiritual refreshment148, which factors all clearly imply a laying aside of common labour. Nowhere in the New Testament is Sunday ever described as a day of common labour, but everywhere only as a day of exceptional fruitfulness in the things of the Lord. The inherent necessity of weekly physical rest is automatically transferred to Sunday152, and Sunday the first day of the week automatically links up with the Edenic day of rest ó the first day of the week(s) of Adamís life before the fall153.
It is true that Sunday, although a day of rest154, is nowhere called the "sabbath" as such, although, however, as "the first [day] of the week" it is literally called: "the first of the [New Testament!] sabbaths155, "mia tŰn sabbaton"156, which indeed it is. Yet the expression "the sabbath" as such, is only used in Scripture to describe the Mosaic and Jewish, and never the post-Mosaic sabbath, notwithstanding that the Sunday "sabbath" reaches back over the head of the Mosaic sabbath and links up with the Edenic "sabbath" [which, like the New Testament Sunday, is nowhere specifically called the "sabbath" either!157], the first day of the week(s) of Adamís life before the fall158.
As a compulsory ordinance for the New Testament Christian, the Saturday sabbath then falls away after its fulfilment on Calvary and in the tomb, Col. 2:16, Rom. 14:5-13, Gal. 4:10-1. But these texts do not, as Antinomians falsely maintain, refer to Sunday, for nowhere in Scripture is Sunday described as a "sabbath" (although it is a sabbath), and from Acts 20:6-7 and I Cor. 16:1-2 etc. it is clear from Scripture that Sunday observance has not fallen away, as has the Saturday sabbath. Sometimes the Christians evangelized the Jews at the latterís Saturday meetings159 ó just as present-day Seventh-day Adventists have no objection to addressing Sunday-keepers on Sunday ó but according to the New Testament, the Christians gathered for their regular weekly worship on Sunday, and on Sunday alone. For in the New Testament, Sunday ó and Sunday alone ó is the weekly day of the Lord and the day of the Church of the Lord, sanctified as such by the Lord of the Sabbath Himself when He rose from the dead on that day. And in Sunday the characteristic numbers of the Creator, creation and re-creation ó the numbers one, three and seven160 ó are all gloriously revealed in that the first Sunday sabbath was the first day of the new week of seven days and the third day after the Lordís perfect sacrifice. Truly, Resurrection Sunday was of "totalitarian", of cosmic significance, Col. 1:13-20. It was, in a very real sense, the (new) day which God would create, as prophesied by Malachi on the last page of the Old Testament161.
(c) The sabbath
and the resurrection of Christ
A great earthquake which rolled back the stone from Christís tomb had sent the terrified guards hurrying back to the city to report the matter to the Jews (Matt. 28:2-4, 11f). Meanwhile, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome (Mark 16:1) and certain other women162 came to the grave about sunrise on that first day of the week163 to anoint the body of Jesus. Mary Magdalene, seeing that the stone had been rolled away from the grave, turned round and ran to tell Peter and John (John 20:2), but the other women went inside the grave, where an angel told them not to fear, but to go and tell the disciples that Christ had risen from the dead (Matt. 28 :2, 7). Trembling and amazed, they ran to convey this epoch-making piece of information to the disciples with fear and great joy164.
Meanwhile, Peter and John, having heard from Mary Magdalene that the gravestone had been moved, came running to the grave, and, after seeing the linen grave clothes laid by themselves inside the sepulchre, departed home again, lull of wonder and believing165.
Mary Magdalene, returning to the grave, was weeping; weeping because the Lordís body, His corpse, had supposedly been stolen. But when she was met nearby by the risen Jesus Who revealed Himself to her and instructed her to go back to tell the disciples that He was to ascend to His Father (John 20:11-18), doubtless her weeping changed to joy. Then the Lord again revealed Himself to the other women who were on their way to tell the disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead, as they had been required to do by the angel inside the grave. But now Jesus Himself met them, revealing Himself to them with the friendly greeting: "All hail!". Hereupon the women held Him by the feet, and worshipped Him, and He instructed them to go and tell His brethren to go into Galilee, where they would see Him (Matt. 28:9-10). There had been both fear and great joy in the womenís hearts when the angel had told them Christ had risen; but now that they had seen and touched the risen Christ Himself, doubtless their fear vanished and their joy was even greater.
Yet when these joyful women and Mary Magdalene told all the disciples that they had seen the risen Christ, the disciples were anything but joyful. They sorrowed and mourned and wept, for they could not believe this astounding news, these "idle tales" of the women that Christ had really risen from the dead166. In fact, two of them, Cleopas and an unnamed friend, were apparently so discouraged that they went back to their own village of Emmaus discussing all those things.
When an unrecognized Stranger (Luke 24:18) drew near and walked with these disciples of Emmaus, and then asked them what they were discussing as they walked and why they were so sad, Cleopasí reply revealed his own keen disappointment and intense sorrow. For he related to the Stranger how Jesusí disciples had "trusted" that Jesus, in life "mighty in deed and word before God", might prove to be the Messiah Who "should have redeemed Israel"; but now Jesus had been crucified and was dead some three days, and had not redeemed Israel after all. The disciples had still hoped against hope that Jesusí prophecies made while He was still alive, that He would rise on the third day after His death, would somehow materialize, but three days had now passed since His death, and although some of the female disciples had reported that His body had vanished from the tomb and that they had seen a vision of angels who said He was alive, yet when some of the male disciples had gone to the empty tomb to check on the womenís story, they "found it even as the women had said: but Him they saw not"167. And so, as there was no point in remaining in Jerusalem any longer, they were returning home to Emmaus.
Thereupon the Stranger, the unrecognized risen Christ Himself, mildly rebuked Cleopas and his friend for their foolishness and slowness to believe. For the law of Moses and all the prophets had so clearly spoken of Messiahís substitutionary redemption of His people: "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?" So the Stranger, "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, expounded unto them [the disciples] in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself".
The Lord of the Sabbath preached the Lordís Word on the Lordís Day. He had suffered, fulfilled the Saturday sabbath of the old week in His rest of death; but now, on Sunday, the first day of the new week, He had started ó as man ó "to enter into His glory", to enter into His rest of life, to enter into eternal life and the eternal sabbath rest promised since Adamís time in all the law and the prophets. For Isaiah had prophesied that "the Spirit of the Lord would rest" upon the Messiah, and that "His rest shall be glorious". And now, this had come to pass when Christ had started "to enter into His glory" and started to rest from His humiliating labours, to rest in His state of exaltation which He had already started to enter into on that new day of rest, that first Sunday sabbath168. It was understandable that the disciples were sad the previous day, the Saturday sabbath when their Lord lay dead and lifeless in the tomb. But Sunday was a day of glory! Of joy and gladness! Christ had risen and was alive! Why then were the disciples sad?!169.
As the travellers drew nigh unto the village of Emmaus, they prevailed upon the still (half!-) unrecognized Stranger to stay with them, for it was almost evening and the day was far spent. But full recognition was accorded Him when the Stranger, their guest in their house, instead of meekly and politely eating the food set before Him, suddenly and rather abruptly "took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them". Only then were their eyes fully opened, and they knew Him, but then He immediately vanished out of their sight. Then they said to one another, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?" (Luke 24:30-32.)
It was Jesusí breaking of the bread on that first Sunday sabbath which had finally led to His full recognition170, for just before His death His disciples had seen Him do the same when He instituted the sacrament of the Lordís Supper. But on that occasion He had not only referred to His impending death which was thenceforth to be remembered by the celebration of the sacrament, but He had also referred to "that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom" (Matt. 26:29). And now, just over three days later, a day had arrived when Jesus ("I"), Who had in principle entered into His glory, His rest, His Fatherís kingdom, was breaking and eating the bread anew, anew with some of His disciples ("you"). Of course, "that day" of the Great Supper171 would only arrive in its fullest sense with the coming of the Day of the Lord. But in principle "that day", the Day of the Lord and the Great Supper of the Lord, had already commenced in principle on the first Lordís day ó and therefore the ("little") Lordís Supper is henceforth to be held on the ("little") Lordís day, Sunday172, as a prophecy of the Great Supper on the Great Day of the Lord. "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lordís death till He come" (I Cor. 11:26). Indeed, all the sacraments have always exhibited eschatologico-prophetic aspects173.
The Lord had disappeared, but Cleopas and his friend were no longer sad. With hearts burning within them, burning with new hope and joy and gladness174, they immediately rose up and returned to Jerusalem in the same hour to tell the Apostles. It was about an eight milesí journey back175, but this "sabbath journey" was no desecration, but rather the most dedicated observance of the Sunday sabbath. For their faith had been rekindled, and they gladly walked the eight miles to re-kindle the saddened faith of their brethren; travelled that distance for religious reasons ó as had the Lord of the Sabbath Himself previously on that very day, in order to rekindle their faith.
Arriving in Jerusalem, Cleopas and his friend found the eleven gathered together. It is not recorded that they "gathered together" on the previous day, the joyless day on which their Saviour lay dead in the grave ó although they may then have attended the synagogue services out of joyless duty, and they certainly then "rested on the sabbath day according to the commandment" (Luke 23:56). And neither were they all gathered together early on Sunday morning when Mary Magdalene came to tell Peter and John that the gravestone had been rolled away. But when Cleopas and his friend arrived back in Jerusalem, the disciples were already gathered together, probably in the upper room176.
Why? Not because the women had told them earlier that day that they had seen the risen Christ ó for the disciples had not believed them, and it was precisely their doubting this testimony which led Cleopas and his friend to leave the disciples in Jerusalem and go home to Emmaus. No, something else had happened after Cleopasí departure for Emmaus to cause the other disciples to gather together in Jerusalem. And from the record, that happening seems to have been the risen Christís appearance unto Peter. For when Cleopas joyfully informed the others that Sunday night in Jerusalem that he and his friend had seen the Lord and recognized Him when He brake the bread, it was their turn to be surprised when the Jerusalem disciples replied with equal joy: "The Lord is risen indeed. and hath appeared to Simon"177. They had not believed the testimony of the women that morning that they had seen the Lord, but they did believe the later testimony of Simon Peter to the same effect. And this resurgence of hope and joy in their Living Saviour was probably what caused them to be "gathered together" on that first Sunday. And yet, although the disciples at Jerusalem believed Peter that the Lord had manifested Himself unto him that day, they did not believe the similar testimony of the Emmaus disciples ó even though they had travelled eight miles after sunset just to come and tell them that!178 And they did not completely believe until Christ Himself appeared to them all a few moments later (Luke 24:35-36).
Yet this information regarding the journey back to Jerusalem of Cleopas and his friend after sunset on Sunday is of vital importance in calculating the present point of commencement and termination of the Sunday sabbath in this New Testament dispensation. If the Saturday sabbath had, at least immediately before Calvary, been demarcated from sunset to sunset, this was not to be the case of the future Sunday sabbath. For apart from the fact that Christ had risen from the dead on Sunday morning yet well before sunrise (Mark 16:1-2, 6, 9. See note 144 supra) [proving that that day had commenced before His resurrection and that His resurrection had preceded sunrise ó and thus also proving that that Sunday could not have terminated until the same time well before sunrise twenty-four hours later on Monday morning], Christ did not appear to all the disciples together until at least two hours after sunset on Sunday night.
That this is so is apparent when it is remembered that Cleopas and his friend, accompanied by the Lord, had not reached Emmaus that Sunday until it was "toward evening and the day . . . far spent". It was therefore nearly evening when the Lord was requested to "abide" with them (on account of the oncoming darkness) and when "He went in to tarry with them." More time passed while they were eating, and it must have been past sunset when He broke the bread and then disappeared. Whereupon, Cleopas and his friend "rose up the same hour and returned to Jerusalem", no doubt going back those eight miles as they had come ó by foot ó which eight miles journey could therefore not have taken them much less than nearly two hours. Arriving there, the Emmaus disciples spent time explaining what had happened on the way to Emmaus, then the Jerusalem disciples spent more time explaining what had happened in Jerusalem, so that it must have been at the very least two hours after sunset when, . . . the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the disciples were assembled . . . came Jesus and stood in their midst . . ."179. But if it was still Sunday more than two hours after sunset on Sunday, it could not have been Sunday before at least two hours after sunset on Saturday twenty-four hours previously. Whence it is seen that Sunday it to be demarcated from between well after sunset yet well before dawn to the corresponding point twenty-four hours later, thus from night to night, and probably from midnight to midnight (Luke 24:1, 13, 29, 36 cf. John 20:1, 19), and certainly not from evening [or sunset] to evening [or sunset]180.
When Jesus came to the disciples who were "gathered together" and "assembled"181 on "the same day at evening, being the first day of the week", He found that "the doors were shut . . . for fear of the Jews"182. Standing in their midst, His first act was to bring them comfort with the joyful assurance: "Peace be unto you"183. The Lord of the Sabbath, the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6), the Priest according to the order of Melchizedec, the King of "Peace" (Heb. 7:2, 21), gave them His peace, His sabbath peace184.
But His second act was to upbraid them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen (Mark 16:14). Yet they were terrified and frightened, thinking they had seen a spirit (Luke 24:37).
His third act was to assure them of His reality. He showed them His riven hands and His feet and His side, and from their new assurance their joy was restored185: at first they "believed not for joy", but "then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord"186.
Fourthly, the Lord of the Sabbath reassured them by supping together with them, even as He had done in the house of the Emmaus disciples (Luke 24:30f, 410, and also by again granting them His blessed peace186.
Fifthly, He expounded Godís Word unto them from all things written in the law and the prophets and the psalms concerning Himself ó tota Scriptura, sola Scriptura; explicatio, applicatio. Luke 24:44-7.
Sixthly, from the Scriptures He activated them to missionary outreach: "Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures, and said unto them, ĎThus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name amongst all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these thingsí". "As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you." "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature"187.
Seventhly, He equipped them with the power of His Almighty Spirit to enable them to execute this almost superhuman missionary task: "And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, ĎReceive ye the Holy Ghostí". "And behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you, but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high"188.
Summarizing, this then is the picture of that first and most important of all Sunday sabbaths. It was pre-eminently a day on which the risen Saviour REVEALED Himself to His disciples ó to Mary Magdalene, to the other women, to Cleopas and his friend, to Peter, and to the rest of the disciples that Sunday night in Jerusalem.
Not only did the risen Christ reveal His living body, but He also revealed His disciples the stern truths of Scripture by preaching. For after upbraiding them, He preached to Cleopas and his friend from Moses and all the prophets and all the Scriptures, and expounded the things therein concerning Himself ó especially that He had now started to enter into His glory, His eternal sabbath rest on their behalf. And after upbraiding them, He preached to the Jerusalem disciples that Sunday night, expounding all things concerning Himself which were written in the law, the prophets and the psalms.
Yet the risen Christ also revealed Himself as their Saviour by strengthening their faith on that first Lordís day. He comforted the weeping Mary Magdalene, the frightened women and the terrified Jerusalem disciples ó was it not the new day of rest, and were they not to rest from their sorrows? He pacified them with the repeated gift of His peace ó the sabbath peace of God. He revealed to them His glory ó the glory of His resurrection body, His power of appearing and disappearing at will, His entry into His glory after His sufferings, on His way back to His Fatherís house. He manifested His divine identity in the breaking of the bread, in the Lordís Supper on the Lordís day ó en toi kuriakoi deipnoi en tei kuriakei hemerai189, and He equipped them for their titanic missionary task by the gift of His Spirit ó a gift to be given in yet fuller measure on a later Lordís day: Pentecost Sunday.
But above all, the risen Saviour, resting in His finished work, made His disciples to rest in Him by turning their sadness into gladness, thereby stamping Resurrection Sunday as the deeper fulfilment of the prophesied day of joy and gladness of Ps. 118, even as the joyous Palm Sunday one week earlier had been its prior fulfilment190. Doubtless His disciples had all been mourning and weeping throughout the week-end191, ever since His crucifixion, and throughout the previous day, that last joyless Saturday sabbath. But on Resurrection Sunday He brought His peace and His sabbath rest, His joy192 to the weeping Mary Magdalene, turned Peterís sorrow to hopeful wonder, imbued the other women with great joy, made the Emmaus disciplesí sad hearts to burn within them with joyous excitement, made the terrified Jerusalem disciples to be glad when they saw the Lord. How could His disciples ever again celebrate the sorrowful horrors of the last old, joyless Saturday sabbath? How could they ever cease celebrating the joy and gladness of that first new Sunday sabbath? After all these glorious appearances of their risen Lord, no wonder the Church ó under the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord, called the day of the resurrection of the Lord and its weekly Sunday successors: "the Lordís day" (Rev. 1:10).
After Resurrection Sunday, no wonder there is no record of the disciples having "gathered together" on the next Saturday as they had done the previous Sunday; no wonder there is no trace of the risen Christ having appeared to them on that next Saturday as He had done in all His glory on the previous Sunday. The records are silent and dead as to such possibilities, for there is no evidence anywhere in Scripture that the post-resurrectional Christian Church ever celebrated the fulfilled and abolished Saturday sabbath. The old Saturday was now a dead letter. But not so Sunday! Throughout the week following the Lordís resurrection there is no record at all of their being "gathered together", and still less of the risen Christ being with them in their gathering. But on no other day than the next Sunday, precisely one week or eight days193 after Christís resurrection and His first appearance in the first Sunday meeting of His disciples, His disciples were again gathered together and the risen Christ again manifested Himself in the upper room. For "after eight days again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ĎPeace be unto youí"194.
Thomas was with them. He had not been with them at the previous Sunday meeting when Jesus came, and afterwards he had expressed his incredulity that Jesus had actually appeared at that time. The truly risen Lord was now to chastise Thomas at the next Sunday sabbath meeting one week later, but first the Lord of the Sabbath characteristically put His disciples (including the doubting Thomas!) at rest and at ease with the familiar and comforting words: "Peace be unto you!"
Then the Lord revealed His riven hands and side to the incredulous Thomas, whose every doubt He comprehended, and thereby confirmed Thomasí (and doubtless once again all the disciplesí) faith in Him as their Lord and their God (John 20:27f.).
That eighth day of the week, which testified to the absolute fulfilment of all the ceremonial "eighth days" of the Old Testament, was the second time that Jesus shewed Himself to almost all His disciples after His resurrection from the dead ó and both the first and the second manifestations had been on consecutive Sundays, on consecutive first days of the week.
Having been instructed by the angel at the grave and by Jesus on Resurrection Sunday through the women to go into Galilee where they would see Him (Matt. 28:7, 10), the disciples went to Galilee, to the sea of Tiberias, where Jesus manifested Himself the third time to most of His Apostles after His resurrection on that first Sunday sabbath. Was this third manifestation to these Apostles, like the first two had been, also on a Sunday sabbath?195. The record does not reveal this, but it may well be that all of Christís important manifestations between Resurrection or Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday took place on successive Sundays196 A possible list of such important manifestations of the risen Christ or "Christophanies" might appear as follows:
DIAG. XV ó CHRISTOPHANIES BETWEEN EASTER
AND SUNDAYS IN 30 A.D.
In the left-hand column of the above diagram, the Scripturally undatable Christophanies have been indicated by a question mark. But as all the other Christophanies in the series are clearly dated in Scripture, and as the questionable dates are easily accommodated in the series as indicated, it is not impossible and indeed quite probable that the events all took place in the order and on the dates as hypothesized above. Certainly one may almost expect a Christophany on the third Sunday after the Passover, considering that the Lord had appeared on the previous two Sundays. And certainly, the six above-enumerated Christophanies [which are the most important of all the Christophanies. the lesser ones198 not being listed above], if they indeed all did take place on successive Sundays, coupled with the Pneumatophany of Pentecost [the appearance of Christís Spirit199] which almost certainly took place on a Sunday200, giving a series of eight successive Sundays on which the Lord appeared to His congregated church or caused His Church to be then congregated by His very appearance, would offer an ideal psychological explanation as to how the Churchís celebration of weekly Sunday observance came to be so deeply imbedded as a conscious and unswerving practice, and why the clear Scriptural records of a quarter of a century later (Acts 20:6-7; I Cor. 16:1-2) merely mention regular Sunday observance without offering any explanation as to its origin.
Be that as it may, the Christophanies on
the first and the second [and possibly also on subsequent] Sundays
after the Passover had so deeply impressed se disciples with
the sanctity of the weekly Sunday, had awakened so much joy
and gladness in their hearts in beholding the manifestations
of the risen Christ, that even in the absence of their Saviour
after His ascension into heaven on the fortieth day after the
Passover, they met for worship [during their ten days of meetings
between Ascension day and the day of Pentecost201,
and therefore also] on the seventh Sunday (on which Matthias
may have been appointed an apostle, as a witness of Christís
resurrection ó Acts 1:15, 22) and on the eighth Sunday
after the Passover202, doubtless
to offer prayers and meditate on the Scriptures in the upper
room203, on which later Sunday,
the Sunday of Pentecost, the risen and ascended Christ sent
His promised Spirit to His Church to confirm her in the faith
and to lead her into even deeper light and into all truth204