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Why Did Jesus Say "Do This in Remembrance of Me"?

God places a great premium on remembrance. Maybe it is because our Good Shepherd knows that we are dumb sheep and are likely to forget Him. Thus the inhabitants of the Old and New Testaments were often called to remember what God and Jesus had done. With stories on their lips of mercy, compassion, and deliverance, God’s people were to commemorate, praise, and pass it on. They were sometimes called to set up memorial stones, as Jacob did after his wrestling match or his vision in Genesis. From Genesis to the prophets near the end of the Old Testament, we hear God reminding the people, “I brought you up out of Egypt.” In essence, remember who I am and remember who you are.

The passage in which Jesus says, “Do this in remembrance of me,” is found in Luke 22:19-20. The setting is the final meal Jesus and the disciples would celebrate together before He is handed over to be crucified. It was the time of the Passover when the Jews memorialized the very night that all the remembrances talk about–the night He brought His people out of slavery in Egypt over a thousand years before.

Why was the focus taken from remembering God’s actions to release the enslaved Israelites to remembering Jesus?

When Did Jesus Say “Do This in Remembrance of Me”?

While there was an order to the Passover meal celebrated yearly, the celebration during the “Last Supper” would be monumental. The typical meal was lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. At the meal with Jesus, we know that these items were there, but also wine. (Some theorize that the wine was added to Passover celebrations after the Jews returned from exile, a change the Pharisees may have officially instituted).

As they are retelling the story about the Exodus from Egypt, suddenly, the stories of old become new stories. The inanimate objects of lamb, bread, and wine nourishing the disciples would become animated in Jesus. Jesus would now be the Passover lamb, the spotless one slain for the sins of the people. His body would be the bread broken for them with the words, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

He goes on to say about the wine, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” At this point, did any of the disciples put these things together? That the lamb’s blood painted on the doorposts in Egypt was a precursor of Jesus’ blood that would cover sin and protect believers from eternal death?

Did any of the disciples understand that a new covenant was being launched that evening? That a new covenant was needed? It wasn’t that the old one didn’t work and God had failed, but that Jesus was the fulfillment of the law of sacrifice for sin. Soon they would learn that Jesus was the new covenant. He would be that sacrificial lamb as a “once and for all” sacrifice.

How could that be? How could the one they came to believe was the Messiah who was supposed to save them from the Romans and usher in peace as their King be the one who was now talking about dying for the world? Literally giving up His body and blood.

They didn’t know it at the time (before the crucifixion), but at the Last Supper, Jesus encouraged them to follow a pattern. He wanted them to remember His sacrifice for them every time they celebrated their salvation through the body and the blood. In many churches today, this happens every Sunday as people reenact the Last (or Lord’s) Supper.

How Can We Remember Jesus When Taking Communion?

Different churches have different ways to include the “do this in remembrace of me” passage in their communion services.

Congregants in a liturgical service hear this passage each week while preparing for the Eucharist (“Thanksgiving”). In the Book of Common Prayer used by Anglicans and Episcopalians, the rector is to hold the bread and say, “On the night He was handed over to suffering and death, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”

Non-denominational churches often do something similar—perhaps not quoting the full service, but a section of it—before Communion. They may also paraphrase the passage during Communion, saying “the body and blood broken for you” as congregants take the bread and wine.

Congregants can be encouraged to confess their sins and pray for one another before taking the bread and wine (or grape juice, depending on the church). Again, the Book of Common Prayer offers a great example with the words, “We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table. But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy.”

But it’s not enough to hear these words. We need to “feed” on these words as God calls us to do. In doing so, we remember that Jesus died for our sins and rose to new life, proving that He has authority over death. He truly is the “bread of life,” as He spoke of in John 6:35. Now, anyone could come to Him and never be hungry or thirsty.

How Can We Remember Jesus When Interacting with Fellow Believers?

“Do this in remembrance of me” reaches beyond communion to remembering Jesus in how we conduct our relationships with fellow believers.

First, we must realize that Jesus’ words have no effect in our lives if we don’t know Him as Savior. Once we come to faith in Him, we receive the promised Holy Spirit. Then if we “abide” in His word, the Holy Spirit will bring things to mind that help us in our interactions with others

The Holy Spirit is very good at reminding me to take the plank out of my own eye before trying to remove the speck from my brother’s eye (don’t criticize). He also reminds me that Jesus said He came to serve and not to be served, so we should always look to how we can serve one another.

The Lord’s Supper is a great place to find a level playing field with other Christians. It reminds us that we are all sinners saved by the grace of God, who sent His Son to be our Passover Lamb. If we remember that, we can be more gracious in our interactions.

How Can We Remember Jesus In Our Daily Lives?

In her “What Does It Mean to Remember Jesus in Everything We Do?” Vivian Bricker says remembering Jesus in the Lord’s Supper should lead us to remember Him in everything.

Her words remind me of Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth-century monk known for his devotion to doing everything for the glory of God, remembering Jesus continually throughout his day. In The Practice of the Presence of God, Lawrence says, “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God; those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it.

In my own life, I find I feel empty if I don’t keep a running dialogue with God, including thanksgivings, praises, prayers, and the mundane. It’s not enough to do a devotional or read a Bible passage. I need him every minute, lest I forget everything He is already doing and will do for me.

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/udra

Mary Oelerich-Meyer is a Chicago-area freelance writer and copy editor who prayed for years for a way to write about and for the Lord. She spent 20 years writing for area healthcare organizations, interviewing doctors and clinical professionals and writing more than 1,500 articles in addition to marketing collateral materials. Important work, but not what she felt called to do. She is grateful for any opportunity to share the Lord in her writing and editing, believing that life is too short to write about anything else. Previously she served as Marketing Communications Director for a large healthcare system. She holds a B.A. in International Business and Marketing from Cornell College (the original Cornell!) When not researching or writing, she loves to spend time with her writer daughter, granddaughter, rescue doggie and husband (not always in that order).  

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