Each year our nation sets aside a Memorial Day to remember those who fell in battle fighting in defense of our nation. Many people will have picnics or cookouts, or perhaps go fishing. But others still remember those who have gone before. In 1868, veterans of the Civil War began decorating the graves of those who died in that bloody conflict on what they called Decoration Day. Over time the name was changed and the scope broadened. Now, many take the day to honor those in their family who have passed, whether they were veterans or not.
Sadness at the death of a loved one is not inappropriate. Even Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus even though He knew Lazarus would not be long in the grave. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, however, that our grief should not be as others: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.” What should prevent that grief? “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus”(1 Thess 4:13-14). Those with loved ones who have died in Christ can look to the resurrection; our grief ought to be assuaged by that knowledge.
On the night prior to His death — the death with the power to remove our sins – Jesus anticipated it with instructions to His disciples: “He broke the bread and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In 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’” (1 Cor 11:24-25).
We’ve all been reminded of a loved one by an item of theirs, perhaps. Seeing it causes a flood of memories that leads to a full appreciation of what the person meant to us. When we partake of the Lord’s body we ought to think of Him. It is His memorial. Flooding our mind should be thoughts of His life, and also, of course, His death.
Have you ever wondered how those who have caused another’s death remember it? Did David think of Uriah every time he saw Bathsheba? His sin was ever before him. Remembering Jesus through the Lord’s Supper ought to keep our sin before us, making us realize that it was my actions that made His death necessary. But when I think of His death it is not simply the hopeless guilt of my sin that should enter my mind, but it is the power that death brings to that guilt, the power to take those sins away.
Another desire we often have when it comes to a loved one who has died is finding a way to let others know about them. We see scholarship funds established, wings of schools or hospitals dedicated. We want others to know how wonderful our loved one was! Through our weekly “Memorial Day” observance of the Lord’s Supper we have the perfect opportunity to tell others about our Savior: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” The world needs to know about the death of Jesus, and through the institution of the weekly Lord’s Supper Jesus gave us His approved method of proclaiming it. Every single first day of the week since Pentecost, there have been Christians who have kept that memorial. They have proclaimed His death to a lost world.
This Sunday I can continue that unbroken line of remembrances. I can think on the power of Jesus’ life, and the power of His death. I can think on how choices I have made led to His death, and on the spiritual condition I would be without it. And I can let the world know: Jesus Christ died for you! Maybe, just maybe, they will want to know why.
— Alan Cornett writes from Wilsonville, Alabama.