First Mennonite Church
March 25, 2018
Do This in Remembrance of Me
Text: Luke 22:14-23
In the manner of every Jewish household, Jesus took the role of head of the household when he celebrated his last Passover with his disciples. He took his place at the table and expressed his eagerness to eat the Passover before his suffering. When Jesus had finished the Passover meal with the “cup of blessing,” he introduced to his disciples another meal, which would rather become known as the Lord’s Supper. Verse 19 reads: Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the context of the Jewish Passover, every Jew knew that the bread represented two important realities in Israel’s historic mind. In Deuteronomy 16, verse three, Israel was exhorted not to forget the meaning of the bread. It was “the ‘bread of affliction’ because you came out of the land of Egypt.” The bread, prepared in haste and unleavened was a reminder of Israel’s afflictions in Egypt. But the bread was also a reminder of God’s blessings and faithfulness. Once in the Promised Land, bread became the sign of God’s fulfilled promise of giving a land to his people.
In the case of Jesus’ Last Supper, he took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you.” The bread is Jesus’ body, afflicted and broken on our behalf. Our eating of the bread is our remembrance of his body being broken in order to give us life. “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you,” Jesus said. (John 6:53). In a way the bread in the Lord’s Supper has three important symbolisms as well. The bread is a reminder of something that happened long ago. Jesus died on the cross. The bread is also a reminder of our present and continuing participation in the gift of life through Jesus’ death. We would not be here, we would not be celebrating God’s saving act if Jesus had not and does not continue to nurture us with the spiritual bread. His words, the gift of faith, his faithfulness to be with us through the Holy Spirit continues to sustain us in his family. Still, the bread of the Communion Table is testimony to our blessedness of having been invited to the “marriage supper of the Lamb.” Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb! (Rev. 19:9). This looking back and looking forward is what Paul envisioned when he said that every time we eat the bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1Corinthians 11:26).
Jesus commanded his disciples and by extension his followers of all times that every time they would eat the bread and drink the cup they were to do so in remembrance of him. To remember in the biblical language goes back to the acts of God and his command to his people. God “remembered” Noah, Abraham, Rachael, his covenant made with Abraham, and his people. But God’s remembering of these people was not simply the act of having a mental recollection of them. God’s way of remembering was demonstrated by the actions he took every time he remembered someone or something. God’s remembering moved him to affirm his graceful commitment to act on their behalf. When God remembered Rachael, he caused her to conceive and give birth to a child because she had been barren. When God remembered his covenant, he acted to fulfill his promise. When God remembered Noah, he made Noah find grace before his eyes and delivered him from the sinfulness of his surroundings. When God remembered his people, he delivered them from slavery.
God also commanded Israel to “remember.” God exhorted Israel to remember the day they were led out of Egypt. God called Israel to remember the Day of Rest—the Sabbath. God urged Israel to remember the covenant. And again what God was asking was not only that Israel should do a mental recollection of those things God asked her to remember. What God was asking Israel was to act according to the covenant, to reenact the Exodus story, to sanctify the Sabbath Day, by resting and trusting in God’s providence.
Therefore when Jesus urged his disciples to remember him when eating the bread and drinking the cup, Jesus was urging them to remain committed to him as Lord who laid down his life for them. When Jesus asked his disciples to remember him when eating the bread and drinking the cup, he was asking them to imitate his actions, to abide by his words, to suffer for his sake, and to follow him even to death if necessary.
In our journey with the Lord, we all go through moments of great intimacy with the Lord. Sometimes these moments come in the midst of joy in which we experience the beauty and mystery of God’s faithfulness and love for us. A moment as such might be of getting well after a long period of illness, or seeing the completion of a major project, or for receiving the answer to a prayer, or the joy of God’s forgiveness.
Sometimes these moments of intimacy come in the midst of pain, loss, or difficult situations. And while praying we feel the closeness of God, we experience God’s special touch in our life in which he affirms to us his love and care.
It is in these moments of intimacy that either we promise the Lord something or we seem to hear the Lord asking us something, but either way we might offer something to God. Maybe we promise God that we will always be content with the daily bread, or that we will always remember to count our blessings instead of our wants. Maybe we promise the Lord we will be more considerate to those around us. Maybe we offer God that we will take time to commune with him more often. You remember what happened to Peter. After the Last Supper, Jesus announced that his disciples would abandon him at his worst hour. Peter said, “Lord, I will never abandon you, even if I have to die for you.” But Jesus told him, “Peter, before the rooster crows you will deny me three times.” And as Peter watched, Jesus being stripped of his clothes and whipped, the rooster crowed. Peter remembered the words of Jesus and Peter wanted to undo his denial. He wept bitterly.
Today, as we anticipate eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord’s Supper, what is it that you remember the Lord has told you? What has the Lord told you that still echoes in your heart, but that you have struggled to fulfill?
The Lord is inviting us to come around his table. He ate with his disciples, including the one who would later betray the Lord. Jesus also ate with those at the margin of society and of the religious establishment. Jesus, our Lord, is inviting us, not because we are better off morally, spiritually, or otherwise, but simply because the love of God is extended to everyone willing to receive it.
In the name of the Lord I want to invite you to come. The Lord says to us, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. In our eating and drinking, we participate in God’s saving grace given to us through Christ. Through our participation in the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim his death until he comes again. By eating and drinking these elements, we anticipate the day when God will gather his people from all nations, languages, and races to celebrate the wedding supper of the Lamb. Participate in the Lord’s Supper. Amen!