A New Day
Sunday always feels like such an arrival day. Our orientation in America is that Sunday finishes off the week. It is the day to go to church, be together as a family, watch some football, and get ready for the first day of the week, Monday. You remember Mondays? We used to bring our kids to school and then go to work? That feels like both a distant memory, and a far off dream right now. I'd kill for a regular Monday.
For the Jewish followers surrounding Jesus, they had a rhythm oriented around the last day of the week, the Sabbath. Seventh day rest. The Sabbath has these archaic tones, embedded in the people, reminding them of their ancestral call to stop their work, trust in the provision of God, and enjoy Him. Even more deeply steeped in this tradition was a call to remember, that on that first, seventh day, God ceased from His work, in the holy temple of Eden, and communed with Adam and Eve.
But today is a new day.
This day changes history. You may call it Easter, or Resurrection Day, but Biblically this was known as the Feast of First Fruits, Yom HaBikkurim, and this was the command from Leviticus 23:
"Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.'" - Leviticus 23:9-11
God is essentially saying to Moses, “I am taking you, My people, into an exceptionally fertile land and I want you to acknowledge my provision over you. Each spring, when the first harvest of the year sprouts, bring some of your initial crops to the Temple so that the high priest can acknowledge them before Me. This must be done on the Sunday during the week of Unleavened Bread.” The King James Version says this must take place "on the morrow after the Sabbath." Gotta love King James!
It does not go unnoticed that so early in the Bible, in the book of Leviticus, God honors the Resurrection Day. On this day, the priest looks out over the crops of the land, and sees the first shoots breaking the ground spontaneously and miraculously after a long and dead winter. He pulls it up and acknowledges this is from God. Go outside for a moment, and look. Do it! Spring is breaking forth all around us, right now! My wife and I were on a drive yesterday, and while all I saw was cars and traffic lights, but she kept pointing out in amazement all of the many butterflies that were flying around. There is new life bursting forth.
So after three days in the tomb, is it any wonder that on the Feast of First Fruits, Jesus beats the winter of death and springs forth from the grave, alive? Of course not! Jesus is our firstfruits, the fulfillment of this ancient feast.
"But the fact is that the Messiah has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have died. For since death came through a man, also the resurrection of the dead has come through a man. For just as in connection with Adam all die, so in connection with the Messiah all will be made alive. But each in his own order: the Messiah is the firstfruits; then those who belong to the Messiah, at the time of his coming..." - 1 Corinthians 15:20-23
It was only three days earlier that Jesus, the Passover Lamb, was also killed on the 14 of Nisan, at the same time the Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the temple in Jerusalem. Nothing is by accident.
When Jesus sat in the upper room with His disciples He took the unleavened bread, the matzah, "and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.'" (Matthew 26:26). As Matthew is writing to his Jewish audience, every one of them knew what this blessing was. We've been praying it for the last 2,000 years.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱ‑לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם הַמּוֹצִיא לֶחֶם מִן הָאָרֶץ
"Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth."
We say this blessing over the bread EVERY Shabbat, and EVERY Passover. All Jewish people do. In this blessing over the bread lies the plan of God to "bring forth bread from the earth." And Jesus, the Bread of Life, born in Bethlehem (meaning "House of Bread") beat the power of death by overcoming it.
Today is a new day.
In the resurrection accounts, all four gospel writers point out something that needs our attention. Read:
"After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb." - Matthew 28:1
"Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, 'Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?'" - Mark 16:2-3
"On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus." - Luke 24:1-3
"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance." - John 20:1
There is no dissonance in the harmony of the gospels here. All four gospel writers point out that as light was breaking on earth, on the first day of the week, a new day was dawning. This is the dawn of a new creation. In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, in a single spoken phrase, God broke through the darkness and uttered the words, "Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3) and there was light. And there was evening and there was morning, and that was the first, first day of the week. Just as there was that new creation in Genesis, the resurrection of Jesus signifies a new, new creation. Today is a reminder for us every year that we are to be living in light of this new creation.
All that to say this. Jesus, the firstfruits of all mankind, wants new life and new creation in you. No matter how long and dark your winter may be, God can do something new. God can bring dead things back to life. Whether that is your career, your bank account, your addiction, your loneliness, your friendships, your marriage, your children, or your relationship with Him, there is a new day and there can be new life.