Amos 8:7-14; 1 Cor. 11:23-32; John 6:25-35
The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1 Cor. 11)
The year I was born a very important film was released. “A Night to Remember” depicted very dramatically the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912, after it struck an iceberg. The movie helped to ingrain into the memories of millions of people throughout the world the events of that tragic night and ensure that they would never be forgotten.
Tonight is a night to remember for us followers of Jesus Christ; but, our remem-brance is of a far different sort. Oh, there are similarities with the story of the Titanic. We recall how Jesus and His closest disciples gathered together on this night to remember and celebrate the Passover, God’s deliverance of His people from their slavery in Egypt centuries before. (Passover was a joyous celebration, kind of like Christmas but without the focus upon presents.) But, their joyous night turned tragic, as it did for those on the Titanic. And, as with the Titanic, underlying the tragedy was sinful pride, pride that was evident from the beginning.
- None of Christ’s disciples were willing to humble themselves to wash the feet of the others as they arrived, so Jesus humbled Himself to do this.
- They didn’t learn from this, however, for shortly afterward they ended up getting into an argument about which of them was the greatest.
The disciples’ pride led to a great fall, for, when Jesus was arrested later that night, each of them ran away in fear, and Peter denied that he even knew Jesus. The night to remember God’s great deliverance became a night we remember for men’s great sin and the sorrow to which it led; just as it was with the Titanic.
But, here is where our night of remembrance is very different. Movies about the Titanic are interesting and moving – but, the lessons from its loss were learned long before any movie’s release. Remembrances of the Titanic’s sinking are of intellectual and emotional interest, but little more.
Jesus has involved us in His night of remembrance with His disciples; and, involved us not just on this night. He did so by changing this night from a focus upon God’s deliverance of the Jews through the Exodus to a focus upon God’s deliverance of all people through His own death and resurrection. Jesus did this by changing the focus of the Passover meal, the Seder. He took the unleavened bread which was a reminder of the manna with which God fed the people in the wilderness, and said of it: “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” He took the wine used in the meal, which was to be blessed with Scriptures promising God’s deliverance, and said of it: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” With His words of blessing Jesus took the past and made it present: “This is My body; this is My blood;” and, they are “for you.” What do these words mean?
They mean that this meal, this holy supper of our Lord, is far more than just something we do now and then – like a big dinner on Thanksgiving Day – to remember Him and His blessings. It’s far more than just a mental construct, a remembrance that only involves our minds. God is, you see, and always will be. There is no past or future with Him; all is present. When Jesus says, “This is My body; this is My blood;” He is saying that He is present. In this meal the Son of God who died and rose for our sins gives Himself and His eternal life to us. Even more than God came to the Jews in Egypt long ago, He comes to us in this Sacrament with salvation and saves us.
Jesus adds the words, “Do this” – literally, keep doing this – “in remembrance of me.” By these words He makes this much more than a night to remember, a night and meal for your mind. This is a night and a meal for our lives, to deliver and bless and guide and be the central focus of our lives.
A great meal involves your whole body, doesn’t it? You look forward to it eagerly. You smell it cooking and are filled with anticipation. You see it arranged on the table and your mouth begins watering. You eat it slowly to savor each bite. Afterward, you praise the cook as you describe the glorious feast.
This is how we should regard and receive the glorious feast of Holy Communion our Lord has given to us on this night to remember. The eternal body and blood of the Son of God Himself; the forgiveness He gave His life to win for us; what greater blessings could He give us? When God’s blessings are received with thanksgiving and praise, God is greatly pleased; as a cook is pleased who is praised for a wonderful meal. He remembers our sins no more! But, when His feast is ignored or regarded as insignificant; well, then God’s anger is great and His memory long. “Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.” God said this to the people of Israel in the days of Amos, for they had turned faith and worship into a mere recitation of words and an acting out of rituals. They didn’t do them because they were glad to do so, or with confidence in God’s blessing. Nor did they allow God’s words to direct and shape their lives. And so, even while being religious they sinned greatly! And, God remembered their sins. His judgment was to remove His words from them, “send a famine of hearing the words of God,” and so leave them in their sins. It is a fearful thing to have God remember forever what you have done! To have Him who is eternal remember your sins is to never be free from them and their judgment. It is to face God’s eternal punishment in hell.
God pours out His mercy and forgiveness upon us in His Son. In this meal of remembrance He forgives our sins and promises to never again remember them. “I am the bread of life,” Jesus says. “Whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Take to heart what Martin Luther wrote to the Councilmen of the cities in Germany:
- “Let us remember our former misery, and the darkness in which we dwelt. Germany, I am sure, has never before heard so much of God’s word as it is hearing today... If we let it just slip by without thanks and honor, I fear we shall suffer a still more dreadful darkness and plague. O my beloved Germans, buy while the market is at your door; gather in the harvest while there is sunshine and fair weather; make use of God’s grace and word while it is there! For you should know that God’s word and grace is like a passing shower of rain which does not return where it has once been. It has been with the Jews, but when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have nothing. Paul brought it to the Greeks; but again when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the Turk… And you Germans need not think that you will have it forever, for ingratitude and contempt will not make it stay. Therefore, seize it and hold it fast, whoever can; for lazy hands are bound to have a lean year.”
Thanks be to God for the abundance of His blessing in the feast of Christ’s body and blood. Let us remember it – remember Him – and give thanks to Him on this night to remember, and every day hereafter!