All opinions expressed are those of the writer.
“Do this in remembrance of me,” Christ commanded at the historic Passover meal that birthed Communion.
Remembering God doesn’t sound like an insurmountable task, but our memories are painfully short, and painfully shallow.
While we may have felt particularly in harmony with God and with our religious communities when we gathered around the table for Seder services and Easter dinners in the past few weeks, these feelings can fade almost as quickly as holiday dishes and decorations are packed away. Just as the witnesses of the Exodus and of Jesus’ miracles had extraordinary encounters with God only to forget His presence in their hours of need, we too are predisposed to forgetfulness.
In spite of the human inclination to forget, God consistently demands that His people must be a remembering people.
The discipline of remembrance is so important to God that before Israel was delivered at the Exodus, God was concerned with developing the memory of his people. In conjunction with God announcing His plans for the first Passover to Moses and Aaron, he also proclaimed three times that the Israelites and their offspring must continually remember the Passover (Ex. 12:14, 17, 24-27). Similarly, on the night before his death, Jesus urged his followers to routinely engage in remembrance of the deliverance that his sacrificial death would soon provide.
Just before the Exodus and the crucifixion of Jesus—two of the most climactic, saving acts of God—a divine command was given to continually remember these events. Why is remembering God’s deliverance of such crucial concern to God, and therefore, to his followers? Both the story of the Exodus and the story of the crucifixion are a type of birth narrative, explaining how God’s people came to be His people. They proclaim that God’s people are those who are delivered from sin, evil, and injustice by His free and abundant grace. These events speak to the identity of God’s children and provide us with the type of purpose, hope, and unity that has allowed the people of God to outlast all nations that have risen and fallen since the Exodus.
“Do this in remembrance of me,” Christ commanded on the evening of Passover, as he broke bread and passed it to his followers.
Remembrance is essential, but it’s hard. Knowing this, Christ didn’t just give his disciples a command to follow. He also gave them the gift of bread and wine to help them achieve the remembrance that he demanded. Hundreds of years before Jesus instituted communion, God used the same method to help His people remember how he freed them from their bondage under Pharoah. On the first Passover, God gave the Israelites the gift of a symbolic ceremony designed to engage all of the senses of all of the Israelites. God did not abandon his people to wrestle with remembrance on their own; he provided them with perfect object lessons enabling them to succeed in preserving remembrance of God’s deliverance.
“Do this in remembrance of me,” Christ said, on one of the most highly anticipated holidays of the Jewish year.
While there are times such as Passover and Easter when we do feel like we remember God, He didn’t just institute holidays and religious traditions so that we would remember him in a season. God gave us ceremonies of remembrance as exercises for us to remember our status as slaves freed by divine grace on the many days that stretch between these holidays. The book of Deuteronomy makes it clear that the rituals of remembrance which the Israelites were supposed to practice on the Passover were not meant to be confined to the Passover; He commanded them never to let the Exodus story fade from their hearts, so that they would know that the Lord is God (Deut. 4:9, 32-35). The Passover celebration called the Israelites to meditate on the Passover and the Exodus, and to ask questions about their origin in order to build the muscles which would allow the Israelites to constantly remember God. Similarly, communion–though it marked extraordinary deliverance–was not meant to be an extraordinary event. Remembering Jesus’ deliverance of his people is supposed to be a habit; Paul says that God’s people should remember Jesus’ sacrifice whenever they eat bread and wine (1 Cor. 11:25).
As prone to forgetfulness as we may be, it is important to realize that forgetfulness is unacceptable to God. Nothing but God’s deliverance can sustain us, and for this reason God called his people to be a remembering people and gifted them with sensory traditions that would allow for the successful fulfillment of this calling. While holidays such as Passover take place at certain times, the call to remembrance is not bound by time. God expects his people to use the principles of Passover and communion to remember him in all places and in all seasons.
Learn more about the significance of the communion and Passover meals:
Glatzer, Nahum N. (Ed.). (1979). The Passover Haggadah. Schocken Books Inc.
Rosen, Ceil and Moishe. (1978). Christ in the Passover. Moody Press.