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Observing the Sabbath – Saturday v. Sunday

Why do Christians worship on Sunday not on Saturday?

“One Sabbath when he went to dine at the house of a ruler who belonged to the Pharisees, they were watching him. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. And Jesus spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they were silent. Then he took him and healed him, and let him go. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well, will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?” And they could not reply to this.” (Luke 14: 1-6)

Introduction:

  1. The place: The house of the ruler of the Pharisees.
  2. Time: Saturday (Sabbath day)
  3. Purpose: Jesus was invited to dine at the Pharisee’s house.
  4. Characters:
  5. The ruler of the Pharisees.
  6. A man who had dropsy:
    1. The Pharisees brought this sick man and have him sit him before the Lord not to because they wanted Jesus to have pity on him and heal him but rather they wanted to trap Jesus. To see if He will break the Law of observing the Sabbath or not. If the Lord would heal him He would be condemned of breaking the Law of the observance of Sabbath. If He does not heal him He will be considered as a man having no mercy on the suffering man.
  7. Lawyers and Pharisees:
    1. These were hypocrites. Religion for the Pharisees was observing the law literally. Thus for the Pharisees life and death depended on observing the Law and the rituals. To observe the Law and rituals was life and to break the law and rituals was death.

Healing a sick man on the Sabbath day was deadly sin for Pharisees. It was okay according to their faith for a sick to suffer and die than to be healed on the Sabbath day. Observing the law was more important than the Salvation of a suffering man. They had no mercy for the suffering man.

So the goal of the Pharisees was to capture the Lord and condemn Him of breaking the Law.  The goal of the Lord was to release the sick man form his sufferings.

  1. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:

Our Lord Jesus Christ even though knew the inner thoughts of the Pharisees, yet without fear he approached the man who had dropsy and healed him. Jesus knew well that there is now divine Law that can stop Him from showing mercy to suffering people. For Jesus religion was, Showing love, kindness to people and releasing them from the bondage of suffering. For Jesus a man can show love to his brother man and release him from his suffering any time possible including on Saturday.

Jesus reminded the Pharisees that the Law of Moses doesn’t prevent man from doing good on the Sabbath day. It is written:

“Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they were silent. Then he took him and healed him, and let him go. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well, will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?” And they could not reply to this.” (Luke 14: 1-6)

Jesus is asking the Pharisees saying how is it not against the Law to save an ox that is fallen into a well on the Sabbath day but it is not allowed to save a human being on the Sabbath day? They were speechless and could not respond to the Lord.

  • The Lord have always accepted the invitation of those who have invited Him, even that of His enemies:

We are learning from the Sacred Scriptures that the Lord never rejected the invitation of those who have invited Him to enter their houses. He never extinguished the hope of people. Jesus as a matter of fact He never let these opportunities to pass bay uselessly. Because Jesus perfectly knew that without sitting at the table with his enemies, He can not touch their hearts and make them His own friends.

Jesus tried by means of being closer convert His enemies into His friends. Jesus by healing the man with dropsy changed his life and the life of many who have witnessed the miracle.

  • The Law of the observing the Sabbath:

The Jewish people worship God on Saturday because they believe that God created the whole world in six days and rested from His work of Creation on the seventh day.  It is written:

“So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it because on it God rested from all the work that He had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:3)

According to the Jewish interpretation of the Ten Commandments, God has commanded people of the world to remember the Sabbath, the day He rested from all the work of creation that he had done.

It is written:

 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11)

Again it is written:

 “‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’” (Exodus 31:14-17)

  • Should Christians keep worshiping God on Saturday, the seventh day of the week or on Sunday the first day of the week?

Some Christian denominations such as the Seventh-Day Adventists, up to this day have maintained the law of observing the Sabbath by gathering and worshiping God on Saturday. They severely condemn those Christians who worship God on Sunday instead of Saturday. They teach that God has ordained that we should worship Him on the seventh day of the week namely on Saturday, the day of rest and not on the first day of the week, Sunday.

  • Then why do Assyrian Church of the East, Catholics, Orthodox and majority of Protestants worship God on Sunday?

“The observance of the First day of the week is also an Apostolic Canon (Acts 3:1-2 and Acts 2:14, 42-43), for it is the great day on which our Savior rose (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1. John 20:1) from the dead, and by His Resurrection made all created beings to rejoice by giving them, in His own person, a most certain proof of the general resurrection and everlasting life. For as the firstborn of men rose on the first day of the week, so shall all the race of Adam arise on the first day, a day which marks the beginning of an endless world of that world which shall not begin with a beginning, but which shall be revealed.  Surely the day on which such great events transpired, it is only right we should honor appropriately and, seeing that at the resurrection all worldly labors shall cease, and all shall return to the worship of God, and be engaged in contemplation of His unutterable mysteries,” (His Beatitude Mar Odisho, Metropolitan of Suwa and Armenia). [1]

  • The obligation of the Law is to guide people towards the faith in the Lord:

According to the writings of Saint Paul the Apostle, it is the obligation of the Law to guide people towards faith in Jesus Christ. Thus as soon as people believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior they are no longer under a guardian namely the Law. It is written:

“Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.” (Galatians 3:24-25)

  • Jesus Christ did not observe strictly the Law of observing the Sabbath:

Jesus performed many of His Miracles on Saturdays. According to Saint John the Apostle Jesus did not just healed a man on the Sabbath day but He told the man to take up his mat and walk. It is written:

“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals.  Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.  Here a great number of disabled people used to lie the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”  At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”

So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.” (John 5:10-11)

  • The Holy Apostles did not maintain the Law of observing the Sabbath:

Saint John records: When the Pharisees observed that the disciples of the Lord are picking heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands and eating them, they complained to the Lord for doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath day, Jesus defended His disciples by reminding the Pharisees an incident took place at the time of King David. Jesus also reminded the Pharisees that He is the Lord of the Sabbath and He has absolute power to endorse the Law of observing the Sabbath or to loosen it. It is written:

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. 2 Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Luke 6:1-5)

  • Jesus Christ rose from the dead on Sunday:

Our Lord Jesus Christ rose from among the dead on Sunday not on Saturday. Jesus by His Resurrection on Sunday elevated Sunday as an important day among the rest of the days. Sunday automatically reminds Christian believers about the Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord from among the dead. Thus every Sunday becomes a little Easter celebration for Christians. It is written:

“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. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.” (Luke 24:1-8)

  • The resurrected Jesus appeared to His disciples on Sunday:

The risen Jesus made Sunday very special by appearing to His disciples who were gathering behind the closed doors from the fear of the Jews on consecutive Sundays.  It is written:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:19-23)

Next Sunday Jesus’ disciples were gathered in the upper room behind the closed doors and Thomas was with them, Jesus came and stood among them. It is written:

“Now Thomas (also known as Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20: 24-29)

  • The risen Jesus celebrated the first mass on Sunday:

The risen Jesus appeared to two of His disciple on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. He walked with them and spoke to them that He is the Messiah whom the prophets of the old have prophesied about His suffering, death and Resurrection. In the evening He stayed with them and when He was setting at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. It is written:

“13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.” (Luke 24:13-35)

  • Sunday became known as the Lord’s day:

Saint John the Evangelist says he was filled with the Holy Spirit in the Lord’s Day namely on Sunday the first day of the week. This is the reason Sunday was called the Lord’s day.

It is written:

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet” (Revelation 1:10)

  • The Holy Church during the time of the Holy Apostles gathered on Sunday to worship God.

It is written:

    “On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion with them: since he intended to leave the next day…” (Acts 20:7)

  • The Holy Apostles used to collect the collection on Sundays:

It is written:

 “Now concerning the collection for the saints: you should follow the directions I gave to the churches of Galatia. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come.” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2)

  • Pentecost took place on Sunday:

It was on the Sunday of Pentecost that the disciples of the Lord received the promise of God the father, the Holy Spirit in the form of the tongues of fire. The Holy Spirit chose to come to the Church on Sunday. It is written:

“2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:2-4)

  • What should we do on Sundays?

His Beatitude Mar Odisho, Metropolitan of Suwa and Armenia writes:  “Hence the Apostles ordained that on the first day of the week Christians should suspend all worldly occupations, and engage in prayer to God, in reading the Holy Scriptures, and in meditating on God’s dispensation. And they should first read the books of the prophets, which are, the foundation and the gateway to the truth of Christ’s dispensation, who came to fulfill these prophecies and not to destroy them.”[2]

It is written:

 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)

  • Observing Sabbath was a shadow but observing Sunday is a reality:

It is written:

“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17)

  • The church has authority to bind and to loosen:

The Holy church by the authority given to her can change the worship day from Saturday to Sunday. Our Lord Jesus Christ gave Saint Peter the authority to change the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday.

It is written:

Jesus said to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)

Regarding worship on Sunday it is written in the Book of Didache, the doctrine of the Holy Apostles:

“On the Lord’s Day, come together, break bread and give thanks, having first confessed your sins, so that your sacrifice may be pure. Anyone who has a dispute with another, must not join your assembly until they have been reconciled, so that your sacrifice may not be defiled, for this is the sacrifice spoken of by the Lord: ‘”In every place and at every time offer me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great king,” says the Lord, “and My name is wonderful among the nations.’” [3]

Rev. Fr. Cor-Bishop Dr. George Toma

Parish Priest of Saint Andrew – Glenview, Illinois, U.S.A.

The Great Fast, 2016.

[1]  Book of the Pearl on the Truth of Christianity (Marganita), Chapter III, page 69

[2] Book of the Pearl on the Truth of Christianity (Marganita), Chapter III, page 69.

[3] Didache, The Doctrine of the Holy Apostles, Chapter 14 , Christian Assembly on the Lord’s Day.

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