Christ’s Memorial - Maundy Thursday
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Exodus 12:14, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
April 01, 2021

As it is Thursday in Holy Week, we find Jesus and His disciples eating the Passover together. It is the last time they will do so, since it is the night on which Jesus was betrayed. As we know, the next day He will be put to death on a Roman cross. On the third day He will live again in His body in indestructible life. He will then ascend to the right hand of the Father, to be with His people in a different way, until the end of the age. At this Passover He instituted a special sign of His presence with us, understanding a sign to mean that in which He Himself is present according to His word; present in a special way, as His word teaches.

So while they were eating the Passover, Jesus took bread. And having given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24). Then He took the cup after supper and said: “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, for remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:25). The Apostle Paul then goes on to say, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

Let’s look into this remembrance a little.

The background and pattern for this is in the Passover. In Exodus 12, at verse 14, we read this about the Passover: “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast” (Exodus 12:14 ESV). Remembrance and memorial are referring to the same sort of thing.

So Passover, as a feast, was to be a way for remembering the day that the Lord brought the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. That was the day that the Lord passed over the houses of the children of Israel and did not put to death the firstborn in their houses, as He warned Pharaoh He was going to do the Egyptians. The Lord passed over when He saw the blood of the lamb on the door posts of the Israelite houses.

In the very midst of all that, the Lord commanded Moses that the children of Israel were to keep the Passover feast as a memorial of the day the Lord struck down the first born of the Egyptians and brought the children of Israel out of Egypt. In the midst of the events of Passover, God instituted the feast of Passover, as a memorial of the events. Now in the midst of the events of His passion, Christ institutes His own meal as a remembrance, a memorial, of Him.

There was a purpose in the memorial regarding Passover. Moses said to the people of Israel later in Exodus 12: “You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?,’ you shall say: ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses’” (Exodus 12:24-27 ESV).

Moses went on to explain, that when the people of Israel keep this feast, it means that “[y]ou shall tell your [children] on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt’” (Exodus 13:8-9 ESV).

Now this remembering of the day of Passover and Exodus is not like the people of future generations bringing up a memory of an event from their own memory banks, since they were not there that day. It was a ritual feast that taught them what happened then. The memorial is a physical action according to God’s word and filled with His word that teaches what the Lord did, so that future generations would hear and believe and learn from it.

And through such hearing and believing, the future generations would then regard themselves as one of the company whom the Lord redeemed on that day and have faith in the name of the Lord and in His faithfulness and grace and mercy in delivering them. And they were to then regard themselves by faith in the memorial feast as having been brought out of Egypt by the Lord with the congregation of Israel. So then they were to believe and confess and live in this reality: the Lord who brought their ancestors out of Egypt that day is my Lord and they are my people; and I am part of the great congregation.

And so let us think in these terms about the Lord’s Supper when Jesus says, “Do this for remembrance of me.” It is as the Apostle Paul explains that when you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).

The Lord’s Supper works like this for we see what Jesus is doing by His words; He is giving His body to eat in the bread. This is His body which was given for us on the cross and raised on the third day. He is giving His blood to drink in the wine. This is His blood that was shed for us on the cross, for the forgiveness of sins in atoning sacrifice.

This is the great deliverance; the greatest deliverance of all; the greatest hope from God. It is deliverance from sin before God; promise of deliverance from death, completed for us on the day of our resurrection, when Jesus shall appear again in glory. And so in His Supper, Jesus provides that we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. His Supper is the perpetual promise of this and calls all this to mind for us. And it encourages and sustains our faith.

It does this so that we see ourselves as recipients of the deliverance Christ has accomplished for us. And then we see ourselves as part of the great congregation of God’s people in Christ, both before He came in the flesh and since. And we own what He did for ourselves, and own and live in the reality of the redemption He has accomplished. He says you are my people. And we say you are my Lord and God.

And so when our sons and daughters ask, why do we do this? When anyone else may ask, “Why do you do this?” We can tell them about the Lord Jesus Christ. How He is God’s Son who became flesh for us, our true brother; to be the Lamb of God for us, who takes away the sin of the world. And we can speak of how He took into Himself our sin. As the Prophet says, “And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). As the Apostle Peter says: “He bore our sins in His body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). And then we can speak of how His shed blood redeems us, as the Apostle Paul says how we have been brought near to God by Christ’s blood (Ephesians 2:13), for in His blood we have the forgiveness of our trespasses (Ephesians 1:7). It is as Jesus Himself says, “This wine is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

And so then this redemption that Christ our Lord has won for all in His death, becomes a memorial between the eyes, and a sign in our hand, so that the teaching of the Lord’s salvation may be in our mouth, and also in our heart. In His meal, He strengthens our faith and comes to us as our Deliverer, just as He says.

What a great blessing Christ’s memorial feast is for us then.

For this feast, as well as for His great sacrifice for us, we give Him thanks and praise. Amen.


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