Living in the Eighth Day

It is clear from the earliest accounts that Christians worshiped on the first day of the week, the day of resurrection (Matt. 28:1, Mk. 16:2,9, Lk. 24:1, Jn. 20:1, Acts 20:7, I Cor. 16:2). However, we have to understand how great a shift this was for the first generation Christians who were, for the most part, Jewish. The seventh day was absolutely sacred by law; it was, like their dietary laws, what defined them as Jews. How is it that they could make this shift when it is clear in the Old Testament that they must keep the Sabbath Day (i.e. the 7th day) forever?

The secret to this riddle lies hidden in the Gospel of John. The apostle structures his Gospel loosely around the seven days of creation. I chapter one we have the first 6 days. Day one: John the witness of light (1:6-13) and preparer of the way to Christ, the New Creation (1:19-28). Day Two: Jesus’ baptism where passing through the waters parallels the second day of creation and the separation of the waters above and below (1:29-34). Day Three: Calling of disciples is a separation of men from the world like day three of creation where God separates the fertile land from the watery deep (1:35-42). Day Four: Climax of Chapter One which concludes with Jacob’s ladder that reaches up into the heavens, uniting heaven and earth (1:43-51). This corresponds to day four of creation where God creates the sun, moon and stars.

The difficult verse is verse one of chapter 2 where it begins “On the third day.” We already have a third day in 1:35-42. The most natural interpretation is that the apostle is not slavishly following the days of creation out, but counts the “third day” here as the third day from the fourth day just before it in 1:43-51. This would make this third day of the wedding feast in 2:1-12 actually the seventh day. Indeed, since the next reference to a day like this doesn’t come until chapter 20:1, John would have us understand that the whole mid-section of the Gospel, from Chapter 2 through 19, happens on the seventh day where Jesus performs seven signs. The last great sign of the seventh day is the glorification of Jesus exalted on the Cross. The imagery and symbolism takes us back to the first seventh day in the Garden of Eden when glory was lost.

This takes us to the “first day of the week” in chapter 20:1. Here we have a new garden where Mary Magdalene, who symbolizes here a new Eve, meets her Lord, mistaking Him for a simple Gardener (20:15). She, like Eve, had a sinful background, but is now the first to see Jesus. Adam was the first gardener, but Jesus is the new Adam fulfilling what the old Adam should have been, speaking life into Mary (v. 16). Jesus is God breathing life into His apostles as He did as YHWH at creation breathing life into Adam (20:22). Thomas symbolizes the redemption of fallen Adam who, despondent and disbelieving, confesses Jesus as His Lord and God after seeing and touching His wounds (20:24-31).

What is going on here is something completely different from the old order of creation dominated by the fall of humanity and the old days of reckoning. Indeed, the ancient fathers understood this “first day of the week” of John 20:1 as not just another day of another week, but the “Eighth day,” the day of a completely new order. The power of the resurrection is so profound that time can never be thought of the same way as before. Therefore, the first day of the week, Sunday, the day of worship, is really not the first day of the week, but a reminder that we live our whole lives in a complete new world order called the “Eighth Day.” The old Sabbath belongs to the old order. As the last day of the week to which the ancient Hebrews looked forward to, it was, in fact, fulfilled in the creation of the Eighth Day, the day of resurrection.

The question for us, then, is, do we live in the exciting new order of the Eighth Day by the power of the Holy Spirit that raised Christ from death, or by the old order dominated by the dull deathly slumbers of Adam? Let us enter into the joys and the glories of the Eighth day we celebrate on Sundays!

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