This weekend Americans celebrate a special national holiday, Memorial Day. Although the name has changed from the original Decoration Day, Memorial Day celebrates and remembers all the servicemen and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the many wars our country has fought. Monday will see a variety of ceremonies marking the day. Flags will fly at half-staff until noon to honor the fallen. We owe a great debt to our military people who have fought across the globe to secure our freedom and our way of life
Christians celebrate Memorial Day weekly, although not for the same reason. We call it the Lord’s Supper or Communion (1 Corinthians 11:20; 1 Corinthians 10:16) and in it we remember a greater sacrifice made for all men everywhere.
This ancient feast finds its origin in the Jewish Passover meal first eaten just prior to the exodus from Egypt (Exodus 12:1 ff). On that night, the deliverer passed over the obedient homes of the Hebrews and did not bring judgment upon them. All other homes faced the death of the first born as a judgment from God. The Hebrews commemorated that feast annually until the first century. Today, some Jews continue to celebrate the Passover.
Just before his crucifixion, Jesus gave us the Lord’s Supper. Using the elements of the Passover meal, Jesus crafted a new meal which we celebrate today. Its purpose was to cause his followers to remember and memorialize his death. Two items present on the Passover table were used as a sort of object lesson to aid our memories. Unleavened bread was used by Jesus to remind us of his body which was so horrible beaten. The cup, filled with the fruit of the vine or grape juice, symbolized his blood which was shed for many ( Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20, 1 Corinthians 11:23-34).
When the synoptic writers recorded the event they offered little explanation except to say that the emblems of bread and the cup represented the body and blood of Jesus. But the inspired apostle, born out of season, Paul, expands our understanding of the purpose of the Lord’s Supper. He reminds us that we take Communion “in remembrance of “ Jesus and thereby “proclaim” his death (1 Corinthians 11:25).
Herein is the great memorial: A remembrance of Jesus and his death! Communion is the great Memorial Day. Jesus, who left heaven, lived among men, was mocked, mistreated, tortured and killed for people who had rebelled against him, paid the real ultimate sacrifice.
Paul warns that the solemn nature of the Lord’s Supper can be destroyed by hearts that are not in tune with the intent and purpose of the Lord’s Supper.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29).
We also know that this memorial feast was not an annual, semi-annual or quarterly event. In Acts 20:7 Paul mentions the assembly on the first day of the week. He notes that their meeting on the first day was “to break bread,” a term used to describe the Lord’s Supper. That the Christians met every first day is clear from Paul’s statements about contributions into the church treasury. He instructed that such collections be made upon “the first day of every week” (1 Corinthians 16:2 NASB). If the church assembled for the purpose of eating the memorial meal and if that meeting was on every first day of the week, we see both a command and an example of every week Lord’s Supper participation.
Our service people deserve our thanks and our heartfelt appreciation, especially those who died in service to our country. But Jesus deserves it even more. Today, as we gather around the Lord’s table, let us remember his sacrifice so that we might live.