What did Jesus want us to remember?
I’ve watched a number of people die over my lifetime. Some died quickly, some were tortured by disease and suffering for months, even years. I’ve watched family members fight cancer and other diseases, and I’ve seen bodies shrivel from the effects of disease. I’ve lost six siblings, my parents, most of my aunts and uncles, a few cousins and all my grandparents. And I remember each one.
I remember many great conversations, some fantastic adventures, numerous laughs, some tears, incredible stories. I love telling stories to anyone willing to listen—the stories help me remember. I don’t share the suffering, the pain, the anguish and the final moments before death. I remember, but those aren’t the memories I want to focus on. I want to focus on good memories—the things that make me miss those beloved family members. Sometimes on a birthday or anniversary, a special memory comes to mind that brings a smile, and sometimes a tear. I love to remember.
Jesus told us to remember him and he gave us two amazing everyday items that help us remember him—bread and wine (fruit of the vine). He gave us the sacrament of communion as a means of remembering him—yesterday, today and forever. In other words, for who he was before his birth, who he was during his physical life, and who he is for eternity. “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). What exactly does he want us to remember?
For many years I’ve heard communion messages that focused on remembering the broken body and shed blood of Jesus. I’ve heard well-meaning people share details of Roman torture, floggings, prison and the pain Jesus went through. I’ve participated in more somber communion services than I can count. And I submit, we are missing the point. We are missing what Jesus did first.
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. (Luke 22:19)
Jesus took a piece of bread and he gave thanks for it. He praised the Father for the blessing. Then he took that piece (loaf) of bread and broke it up to share it and pointed out that the bread was symbolic of his body. When the disciples took the bread, they were all eating part of one loaf. They weren’t examining the crusts of the bread to see how it was broken, for they had no idea Jesus’ body would soon be broken. They realized Jesus was saying you are a part of me, and I am a part of you. (John tells us they didn’t understand a lot of things until after he was glorified.) Earlier Jesus had told them he was the bread of life. So in giving them a part of that bread, he is reminding them of their communion with him and his communion with them. This is what he wants them to remember.
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. (Luke 22:20)
Jesus is sharing something new—a new covenant. “My blood is poured out for you.” Now, they obviously didn’t understand the implications of this. As far as we know, Jesus was not bleeding at the time. They saw this as symbolic of his love for them. A few minutes later Jesus emphasized this love when he said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Again, they did not fully comprehend until he was glorified.
Jesus wants us to remember his life and his love—all given to us. The bread emphasizes that Jesus gave us life—all his life. He became human for us, he was baptized for us, he was obedient for us, he died for us, he rose for us and he lives for us today. It’s all for us. The cup represents his love for us. He was willing to shed his blood for us. He proved his love by becoming human, being baptized, being obedient, dying on a cross, rising from the grave and ascending to the Father. All because he loves us. He is love.
Jesus wants us to remember who he is – the Son of the Father, the mediator, the rescuer, the Messiah, the Savior, the friend, the older brother, the advocate, the bridegroom, the deliverer, the good shepherd, the door, the way, the life, the resurrection, the great high priest, Emmanuel, the I AM. He wants us to know how much he loves us. He is our Rock, the prince of peace, our hope, the truth, the true vine, the wonderful counselor, the victorious one.
Communion should first and foremost be a time of celebrating our life in Christ. We remember that it is only in him that we are forgiven, adopted, made righteous, made holy, included and loved unconditionally. We remember what he taught us; we remember what he did for us; we remember what he is doing for us. In communion we see the comprehensive, intentional work of Jesus to sacrificially connect to humanity for our redemption, salvation, sanctification and glorification—all so we can be in relationship with him for eternity. All because of his great love for us.
We remember him by sharing the stories of his life, death, resurrection and ascension. We remember him by sharing our testimonies of how he has changed us. We remember him by sharing his love and his life with others.
Remembering his love and life,
PS. During this time of “Shelter in Place” many want to take communion. Here is an article on taking Communion at Home.