Memorials are important to all of us. Their purpose is to commemorate people, places, and events that deserve to be remembered. When observed, a memorial either stirs the memories of those who have had direct experience with the object of the memorial or else it teaches those who have not had such experience. For those who do not already know, a memorial provokes them to ask questions: Why is this memorial here? Who was this? What happened? Why should we remember? These questions are answered by those who have learned by their own experiences or by the records they left for our learning. Regardless of its form, whether a monument, an event, or some other token, a memorial maintains our awareness of the past.
Throughout history, God has established many memorials for the benefit of His people. He has seen the goodness of provoking man's memory and teaching His people of His mighty works from the past through memorials. Consider the nation of Israel, which was given many memorials for the people's edification through laws, sacrifices, and feasts. For example, the Law of Moses commanded Israel to remember the Sabbath day as a memorial of their deliverance from Egypt (Deut. 5:15). For the same reason, they were to keep the Passover Feast as a perpetual memorial (Ex. 12:14). The Feast of Booths was a memorial of Israel's wanderings in the wilderness (Lev. 23:42-43). A jar of manna was kept in the ark of the covenant as a memorial of God's provisions for Israel during their wanderings (Ex. 16:31-34). A memorial built of stones was erected at the Jordan River to commemorate their miraculous crossing into the promised land under Joshua (Josh. 4:1-7). These examples demonstrate how God has used memorials to keep His people in mind of their past and His works among them.
Memorials are an effective way to keep memories alive across generations. From generation to generation, parents are to teach their children of the past, and memorials give them that opportunity. For example, consider the directions given to Israel for the Passover Feast in Exodus 12:24-27:
24"And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever. 25When you enter the land which the LORD will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite. 26And when your children say to you, 'What does this rite mean to you?' 27you shall say, 'It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.'"
Likewise, when Joshua gave the memorial for the crossing of the Jordan, he gave these instructions in Joshua 4:6-7:
6"Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, 'What do these stones mean to you?' 7then you shall say to them, 'Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.' So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever."
Of course, the memorials given to Israel are not for us today, but we do have a memorial that is greater than any received by Israel. The Lord's Supper is a memorial of Christ's death on the cross according to the Lord's own words given in 1Corinthians 11:23-26:
23For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 25In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.
The Lord's Supper is a perpetual memorial of the most important events in our history. It can be observed anywhere in the world, for it consists simply of unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine. We observe this memorial on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), and Christians will continue to do so until the Lord comes.
Therefore, as we observe the memorial of the Lord's Supper, let us do so with all the fullness of meaning that God intended. Let us remember the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord. Let us examine ourselves so that we observe this memorial in a worthy manner (1Cor. 11:27-29). Let us use the Lord's Supper as an opportunity to teach our children and the succeeding generations of the great sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. When they ask us, "What does this mean to you?" let us answer that it means salvation has come to believers in Christ through His sacrifice. Let us anticipate the Lord's return, and let us continue to proclaim His death until He comes again. Let this be our perpetual memorial to the Lord, just as He commanded.
Stacey E. Durham
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