Here’s a good question: Why did Messiah rise from the grave on a Sunday? (Oh, how I TRIED to keep this answer brief!)
The answer, like every other answer related to the ministry of Messiah, is rooted in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). Specifically in Leviticus 23:11-12, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, when you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the morning after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.”
“…On the morning after the Sabbath, the priest shall wave it”.
That command needs a bit more explanation, but until I get there just take notice of how crucially important the TIMING is…”the morning after the Sabbath”. The rhythm of Bible-time (i.e. real time) is a steady count:
1,2,3,4,5,6, Sabbath– followed by 1,2,3,4,5,6, Sabbath (and so on).
This pattern is established in Genesis before any human utters a word, continues uninterrupted through the entire Bible–up to and through the Book of Revelation. What we now call “Sunday” used to simply be called DAY 1, or alternatively as here in Leviticus, Mocharat Shabbat— “The morning after The Sabbath”. So what exactly was being waived on this special “Sunday” and why?
Lets rewind a few verses to Leviticus 23:1-8 to get context:
“These are the appointed times of YHWH, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the YHWH’s Pesach (Passover). And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the YHWH; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. But you shall present a food offering to the YHWH for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.”
That sounds confusing, and perhaps even irrelevant to many, but here’s the Cliff’s notes: The Feast of Unleavened Bread is 7 days long. However, the start of that seven day celebration is NOT based on the 1,2,3,4,5,6, Sabbath count. Instead, it’s based on the position of the “Pascal Moon”, and the Feast starts on whatever day of the week lines up with that phase of the moon–don’t get me started. However, in close proximity (usually within) that 7-day Feast, there will naturally occur a regularly-scheduled 7th day weekly Sabbath.
The “Mocharat Shabbat” is the day after that weekly Sabbath.
Here’s how things went down during The Feast of Unleavened Bread during Messiah’s day:
* Wednesday (aka day 4 of the weekly count) was Pesach (Passover). Messiah was crucified Wednesday night.
* Thursday was therefore day 5 of the weekly count, but at the same time it was day 1 of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
* Friday was day 6 of the weekly count, but day 2 of the Feast.
* Sabbath, as always, is day 7 of the week–even as it also was day 4 of the Feast.
* Sunday (as it always is) is Mocharat Shabbat. The day after the Sabbath.
(Although this isn’t my exactly point, I can’t resist pointing out this also fulfills the prophecy that Messiah would be in the grave for 3 days and 3 nights.)
So, back to the question…what exactly was Leviticus 23:12 talking about? What was happening “The Day after The Sabbath”? The same thing that had been scheduled on that very day, RIGHT ON TIME, for thousands of years:
The waiving of the First Fruit’s offering before YHWH!
The High Priest would take an acceptable sheaf of barley, and waive it like the starting flag of the Indianapolis 500. It was the signal to all Israelites that the annual harvest could begin. It was NOT a day of rest–quite the opposite. It is the ultimate WORK day, like day 1 of every weekly count always is–but even more so.
When Mary met Messiah outside the tomb, he said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17) Messiah had WORK to do, so did Mary, and so do we.
1 Corinthians 15:20-23, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”
Why was he ascending to his Father? To be obedient to Leviticus 23:12–It was Mocharat Shabbat–he was presenting himself as the worthiest First Fruits offering ever, in his case as both as an offering AND the High-Priest.
The day of Messiah’s resurrection was never timed to indicate a day off for anyone. Every year that very day has been scheduled as a starting point. It signals the beginning of the harvest of “fruit”, both physical and spiritual. It’s meant to re-ignite our vigor for righteous living as we enter back into a fallen world, ready for work, after resting on the Sabbath as He did. Most importantly, this pre-scheduled “day after the Sabbath” is also the starting point of another crucial period of Holy time–The Feast of Weeks.
More counting ahead.
Leviticus 23:15, “You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD.”
So…starting with the day Messiah rose and presented himself to YHWH (again, ALWAYS on a Sunday according to the Torah), we are to count 50 days, and the corresponding 7 Sabbaths to “the day after the seventh Sabbath”.
1,2,3,4,5,6, Sabbath (do that seven times).
Every one of those 50 days is part of the Feast known in Hebrew as “Shavuot” (The Feast of Weeks). In Greek, the language of the New Testament, this same holy period is called “Pentecost” (50 days).
So, to answer the original question (way up there somewhere), Messiah rose on Sunday, because the starting day of Pentecost has ALWAYS been on a Sunday, which then results in Pentecost ALWAYS falling on a Sunday.
Every year, every time.
Messiah’s raising from the dead on a Sunday did NOT change anything about the eternal count of 1,2,3,4,5,6, Sabbath.
The events in Acts 2, as the Holy Spirit was poured out upon faithful Hebrews in Jerusalem, also occurred on a Sunday—why? Because Pentecost ALWAYS happens on Sunday. The count of 1,2,3,4,5,6, Sabbath, was unbroken for 7 sets of weeks, as it had been since creation, and as it will continue until heaven and earth pass away.
As Messiah said at the sermon on the mount:
Mathew 5:17-19, “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. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Messiah didn’t “relax” Sabbath–his death, his resurrection, and his sending of the Holy Spirit all happened right on time. His ministry underscored Sabbath in every possible way. He, after all, is Lord of the Sabbath! (Matthew 12:8)
So, this coming Sunday, we re-start the annual count of 7 Sabbaths, 50 days, as followers of YHWH have been doing since Joshua entered the Promised Land. We honor the miracle of Messiah’s resurrection not as an ending point, but as a starting point. Because the fields are ripe in the world, and the workers are few.