So today, be it weekly, monthly, or at other chosen intervals, we pass around a plate of wafers and tiny glasses of wine or juice, and we remember Jesus and the sacrifice He made to atone for our offenses. This is often a beautiful time of reflection and worship, and God seems to use those celebrations to draw people closer to Him.
But is that what Jesus intended with these instructions?: “Do this in remembrance of Me.”
Do what in remembrance?
It appears that for nearly two thousand years, most who read those words dutifully reach for a glass and a loaf to mimic the actions of Jesus and His followers as these words were being spoken. However, I think there’s a much bigger picture here. As seems to be the case more often than not, it appears that Jesus’s view and intent with this were far bigger than that which was understood by those with Him, and by those in subsequent generations.
When these words were spoken, Jesus and a small group of His followers were gathered together to celebrate the Passover. It was a time of celebration and storytelling, recounting the power and might God displayed as He rescued His people from oppression in Egypt.
“I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.”
“Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as He promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when He struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshiped.
Yet concurrently, it was also a time of looking ahead with hope for the ultimate deliverance, the coming of the promised Messiah. Traditionally, there is even an extra place-setting at the table that is reserved for Elijah, since it is believed that Elijah will return to usher in the coming Messiah. This open seat for Elijah is a demonstration of the people’s faith in God, that He will provide the promised deliverance.
Traditionally, there are three pieces of unleavened bread. The middle piece is taken out from between the other two, wrapped in a cloth, and hidden for the children to search out. This middle piece of bread now is called the afikomen, which in Greek means “that which is coming”. Yet instead of hiding the middle of this trio of bread, Jesus broke it and passed it around to His followers. “Take and eat; this is My body.”
Throughout the meal, four glasses of wine are passed, each with specific symbolic meaning. The third glass, toward the end of the meal, is the Cup of Redemption. “Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
There is definite value in meditating on the immense sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, including meditating on it over wafers and tiny glasses of wine or juice. But I do not believe this was to what Jesus was referring.
Those six simple words carried a depth of meaning: “Do this in remembrance of Me.” In celebrating the Passover, a time of remembering the deliverance of Israel from Egypt by the mighty hand of God and a time of looking ahead to the coming of the promised Messiah, it appears Jesus was actually saying:
“This all has been pointing to Me. The deliverance from Egypt was worthy of celebration and remembrance, but that pales in comparison to the deliverance I am bringing you. Tomorrow it will be completed. You no longer need to look for the coming of the promised Messiah. I have come. From this point on, do this, celebrate the Passover, in remembrance of Me. In remembrance of the ultimate deliverance I have provided for you.”