|Volume 20 Number 4 April 2018||
Gary C. Hampton
Memorials—like statues, tombstones and plaques—are used all over the world in honor of men, especially the dead. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial service. “And He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; this do in remembrance of Me.’ Likewise, also the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you’” (Luke 22:19-20). Christ also said, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come” (1 Corinthians 11:23-34, especially 26). So, every time a Christian partakes of the Lord’s Supper, he is partaking of a memorial feast.
The Passover was a shadow of the Lord’s Supper. The Passover feast was eaten by the Israelites once a year to remind them of their release from Egyptian bondage (Exodus 11:1-8; 12:25-27, 46). Paul described the Lord by saying, “For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus’ sacrifice is the Christian’s means of release from the bondage of sin (Ephesians 1:7). Because He is our Passover, not one of His bones was broken (John 19:31-36).
The memorial feast has two elements, the bread and the fruit of the vine (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:23-25). The bread would have been unleavened since Jesus and the disciples had just finished the Passover meal (Exodus 12:15). In fact, we might notice that Matthew calls it “the first day of the feast of unleavened bread” (26:17). Jesus said, “This is my body.” This has led some to teach the doctrine of transubstantiation, which says the bread and fruit of the vine become the literal body and blood of Jesus. Since Jesus was present in His physical body when this feast was instituted, it seems obvious that He was using a metaphor. Some of us say, “I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse.” We do not mean we could literally eat a horse, but we are saying we have a large appetite. Similarly, Jesus was not saying we eat and drink the literal body and blood, but that the bread and fruit of the vine represent such to the Christian.
The Lord’s Supper should be taken upon the first day of every week. Luke wrote, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight” (Acts 20:7). Paul was in Troas seven days (vs. 6), yet the disciples came together for the Lord’s Day since Jesus was raised on that day (Mark 16:9; Acts 2; Leviticus 23:15-16). Now, when God said, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8), the Jews understood that He meant every sabbath. When Paul said, “Upon the first day of the week let everyone of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2), we have understood that to be every first day. If the boss said payday is on the first day of the week, we would understand every first day as his meaning. Why can we not understand that the church assembled upon every first day of the week to break bread? We should all partake of it as a weekly memorial of our Lord’s great sacrifice for sins.
It seems that no matter what the purpose may be for any of our national holidays, as time passes, the original intent of the event becomes less important to some, and the three-day weekend becomes more significant. Such is true with Memorial Day. The holiday was originally called Decoration Day because it’s a time for decorating the graves of those who died in service for our country with flowers and flags. Over time, the designation Memorial Day became more common. It began shortly after the end of the Civil War, around 1868, and after World War I observances were changed to honor the dead in all American wars, starting with the American Revolution.
There will be ceremonies and proclamations on each Memorial Day, the flag will be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon, “taps” will be played and families will recall the sacrifices made by their loved ones. Others, however, will have no memory of such things, and they will engage in work, cookouts, parties, shopping and a host of other activities, all made possible by those who have served our country.
Unfortunately, this same attitude can be present in the Lord’s church. Every Lord’s Day there is to be a remembrance of the death of our Savior, the sacrifice our Lord made on our behalf, so that we could have life in Him. What a sobering thought it is to remember how Jesus left the glory of Heaven to become flesh and blood (Philippians 2:7), to be tempted in all ways as we are, yet to remain without sin (Hebrews 4:15), and then to die a cruel and a humiliating death on the cross (Philippians 2:8). We partake of the Lord’s Supper to remember this and to be renewed in the life His death calls us to live. “For in that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in that He lives, He lives to God. So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:10-11).
Do we remember the death of Christ, what that death offers us and what we are to be in Him through His death? Or, is the Lord’s Day just another day? Does the sacrifice of Christ impact our lives, or do we just go through the motions? Is the Lord’s Day a day of remembrance and renewal, or is it just part of the weekend?
It’s sad when a nation forgets those who offered themselves for its freedom; it’s sadder still when Christians forget Jesus who offered His life for our spiritual freedom. We ought not to reflect sin but rather our Savior. Perhaps, we need to ask ourselves what Paul asked the church in Rome; “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1). We should remember the sacrifice of Christ so we can live for Christ and live like Christ. Do we? Do we think about it? Do we give conscious thought and attention to our Lord’s sacrifice for us? Or, after being immersed, do we feel that, in the end, no matter how we live, God will save us by His grace? Not according to the words of Scripture. We should live for God, not for ourselves (1 Peter 4:2). Christ is to be what life is all about (Colossians 3:4). We are to be imitators of God in Christ (Ephesians 5:1). Are we? Do you remember? “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead…” (2 Timothy 2:8).