Or, they can also appear as these extraordinary beasts, with eyes and wings all around, and with fire and flame. I have told you this before, but one thing angels never appear as, never, is men with wings, which is the main way we represent them. I don’t understand how we got that so wrong. They are never men with wings. They are either men with bizarre features, or they are men, but they are nothing in between. Keep in mind, though, they are spiritual beings and so they don’t have a physical form. But in saying this how else do we represent them but as a figure with wings. Just know there is so much more that we don’t know than we do.
So, there is much to this, and to be perfectly frank with you, I am intrigued by the idea of the resurrected body. The older I get, the more interested I am on that subject. I find it to be deeply mysterious. In fact, I also have a question. Are our resurrected bodies going to shine as bright as the sun? I explored the idea of what that would be like and realized that in one respect it is recognizably similar but in other ways, it is radically and completely different.
So, let’s move on with the text. Recall that Jesus asked the question, “Why are you weeping?” She answered, and then Jesus responded, ‘“Mary’. She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni’, which means teacher. Jesus said to her, ‘Stop clinging to Me for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God’. Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’, and that He had said these things to her.” I should point out something. The “stop clinging to me” does not mean that He could not be touched. If you recall, in verse 27, Jesus invited Thomas to reach with his finger and see His hands. What He is saying is not to cling to Him, because He is no longer going to be in the form He was in before. He is ascending to His Father, but will always be with them, just not in a localized sort of presence. That is what He saying.
In fact, I would invite you to see, in 2nd Corinthians chapter five, this very theme of how we no longer see Him as He was. In verse 16, “Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the Flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.” In other words, we once knew Him in the flesh, but we now no longer know Him in this way. We see Him now resurrected and sitting at the right hand of the Father. Paul goes on to say, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” By the way, one application of that is not to regard people as you normally would do; see them differently, as people who are going to be immortal beings. See them as God sees them and you will have a different attitude. Even the poorest person on this planet, even the most ignominious person, has a greater dignity than you imagine. Remember if you will the tale of the begger Lazarus sitting at the rich man’s gate so now you have the concept. Let’s continue.
My point here is that their sorrow is being transformed into joy and I want to say that the sorrow of a Christian must be different from the hopeless sorrow of this world. The verses I use for this are 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18, where he says, “We do not grieve as those who have no hope.” We may grieve, but we don’t lose hope. In fact, 1st Peter 1:3 says, “We have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” You now embrace a hope that is alive. It will never fade away and it will never die. All of us, I think, have embraced false hopes, have we not? Hopes that finally died on us shattered dreams; but here is a living hope that will never die, never be corrupted, and can not be taken away. That is a very powerful hope we have to contextualize life in this world. I think that we need the broader context, because, frankly, life is not easy. Most of you may have noticed this already. Life is not easy and there are many challenges and pitfalls but don’t just look at the story of life on earth as the whole story. This is preparatory for our eternal citizenship in heaven. This is as nothing in comparison for what God has planned for us.
So, I often quote that Romans 8:18 passage, where Paul says, “I consider the sufferings of the present time not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
So, the suffering is nothing. It is brief, but glory is eternal. Now, let’s move on with verse 19. We see that the disciples are moving from a sphere of great fear and now they are becoming more bold, more courageous. “So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said, ‘Peace be with you’. When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Let me stop here for just a moment. The news that Jesus had risen from the dead at first was spread with some hesitation, but then with greater enthusiasm.
There were five resurrection appearances of Christ on that very first day of the week if you put the Synoptic accounts together with the Gospel of John. He appeared to Mary Magdalene and we just read about that one in John 20. He also appeared to the other women and Matthew 28 tells us about that. He appeared to Peter, according to 1st Corinthians 15 and Luke 24. He appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus on that same day. Fifth, He appeared to the disciples, but without Thomas. On the next Sunday the disciples would meet again and this time Thomas would be in their midst. I want to point out something about this idea of the first day of the week. It has tremendous theological significance. My own view is that Sunday is not the Christian Sabbath. Many hold to that notion, but I don’t think it is right. The idea of Sunday being the Christian Sabbath is a theme that we see in Chariots of Fire when Eric Liddle said that he could not run on Sunday because it was God’s day. There is nothing that teaches this. As to the Sabbath, the Sabbath celebrates God’s finished work of Creation, as we see in Genesis chapter two.
So, He created the heavens and the earth and on the seventh day, what did He do? He rested. The seventh day is the Sabbath. But, the Lord’s day, the first day of the week. Commemorates Christ’s finished work of redemption.
So, everything is different. No longer do we just commemorate the Creation, now we commemorate the new Creation. So, the Lord’s day becomes very significant. God the Father worked for six days and then rested; God the Son suffered on the Cross for six hours and then rested.
Now, going back to the Sabbath in the Old Testament, the Sabbath was given, in the Hebrew Bible, as a day for physical rest and reflection and refreshment, both for men and for their animals. Guess what happened, though? The Jews, in their traditions, decided to turn it into a laborious day in which they had to assemble and worship and they turned it into a day of bondage rather than a day of blessing. Instead of being a day when they could have enjoyed one another, they turned it into a ritualistic system and it is not found in the Torah that this was required. The Sabbath was not repeated for the Church to obey. Nine out of the Ten Commandments are specifically repeated, but the fourth one is not repeated.
Now, there are people who hold different views on this, the Seventh Day Adventists hold very strongly that the practice of the Sabbath is required on Saturday. My own view is that it misses the theological implications of the resurrection and it is not something that I think can be demonstrated from Scripture. The early Church evidently met on the first day of the week. Turn with me to Acts 20:7, where it says, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them.” And if we look at 1st Corinthians 16:1-2, there is another hint about this. “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week, each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper so that no collections be made when I come.” This implies, again, that they would meet on that first day, just as the disciples met those two days.
So, in the earliest Church traditions, the Patristics (the branch of Christian theology that deals with the lives, writings, and doctrines of the early Christian theologians,) talk about how this was the case. You need to understand how radical this was for a Jew. For them, to no longer practice, the Saturday Sabbath is no minor thing. In fact, the only way I can account for it is the resurrection, because there is no way you could take a religious Jew and cause him to switch from the Sabbath to the first day of the week unless there was a clear warrant for it, namely the resurrection of Christ. Concerning the question about whether it is mandated in the New Testament, I don’t see any mandates, and furthermore, I see passages that indicate there are ways of understanding days and seasons that frankly give us latitude. Paul says in Romans 14:5, “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.” He is saying that some people will have scruples about a particular day and others will not. What he says is if you don’t have scruples, don’t judge those who do, and if you do have scruples, don’t judge those who don’t. See the idea there? This is a matter of freedom or liberty. Let’s look at another text as well. Turn to Colossians 2, and there is a similar theme. In verses 16 to 23, when Paul says:
“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.” Colossians 2:16-23 (KJV)
In other words, don’t let anyone judge you concerning those kinds of things, especially the difference of the Sabbath and the Lord’s day. And let me clear up one more misconception, no, the church meeting on Sunday is Not a new concept recently started, Jesus is the one who started it by His resurrection being on Sunday thereby making Sunday His day, or the Lord’s day!