Monday, May 27, 2013

The Bible's Greatest Memorial

As I'm writing this, it's Memorial Day here in the US. It's a federal holiday which occurs every year on the final Monday of May. Memorial Day is set aside to remember the men and women who died while serving in the Armed Forces. It's because of such men and women that we have the freedom to speak freely, live freely, and worship freely. 

What I've realized is that there are a lot of hurting people on this day. Hundreds, even thousands over the years, have lost loved ones because of war. Even my family has been affected. My uncle was killed on the beach of Normandy in World War II. On Memorial Day, there are many observances across the country. Many are visiting cemeteries on this day. Flags are flown at half mast. 

So, this is not just a day to get off work. It's not just a day to have a barbecue. Or to celebrate the beginning of summer. It's a day to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for our sake - so that we can have a country based on freedom and liberty.

God is a God who thinks memorials are important. The Bible is filled with memorials. Some are in the form of songs, like the Song of Moses which he wrote just after God parted the Red Sea. Or the Song of Mary, which she wrote after receiving the news that she was to be miraculously pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Or all of the Psalms that memorialize so many of David's life events.

Many times, in the Old Testament, different types of memorials were instituted. For example, when Joshua was taking the ark of the covenant across the Jordan river, and the waters were parted and they crossed on dry ground, he instituted a memorial. To commemorate the event, Joshua had twelve men, one from each tribe, pick up a stone from the middle of the Jordan, and carry it to the other side to make a memorial.  

"In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’, tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:6-7)

Many times the names of places were established as memorials. Remember when God provided a ram at the last second in order to spare Abraham sacrificing his own son, Isaac? Later, Abraham named the mountain to memorialize the event.

"So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, 'On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.'” (Genesis 22:14)

All the Jewish feasts were essentially memorials. Perhaps the most famous one is the Feast of the Passover. For centuries, the Jews remembered the time when Moses freed the Israelites from the bondage of Egyptian slavery by invoking miraculous plagues from God on the Pharaoh and the Egyptians. The last plague happened when the angel of death was sent to kill the firstborn sons of all the Egyptians, including Pharaoh's first born son. The Israelites were told to spread the blood of a lamb over their doorpost, and their first born sons would be spared. That's exactly what happened, and that's when Pharaoh gave in and freed the Israelites. 

For centuries, the Jews observed that event by participating in the Passover Feast. It's at one of these Feasts, just after Jesus and His disciples ate the Passover meal, that Jesus instituted the greatest memorial of all time, what we now call the Lord's Supper. The Apostle Paul puts it this way.....

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night 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, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

So remember, every time you take the Lord's Supper, it's a memorial - the most important and meaningful memorial that there is. And it's been going on for nearly two thousand years, observed by Christians throughout the entire world. It's an event to honor the one who sacrificed His life for your sake. Because of His death on the cross, you can live a life of freedom and liberty - a life free from the slavery of sin through the forgiveness that Jesus offers. 

And just as we should never forget what Memorial Day is all about, namely those who sacrificed their lives for us, we should never forget the One who's death gives us eternal life. The next time you take the Lord's Supper, take it with a sincere and grateful heart, and remember the One who set you free.

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