In the days of Mordecai and Queen Esther the people of Israel set themselves to remember an eventful time in their history. Mordecai sent letters throughout the provinces calling for the memorializing of the month that was turned “from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday.”(1) Near and far, the call was sent to annually remember the day the tables were turned and the Jews received relief from their enemies. And so it was determined: “These days of Purim should never cease to be celebrated by the Jews, nor should the memory of them die out among their descendants.” These days were weighted with enough hope to press upon them the need to remember forever. Moreover, and most significantly, they saw the certain possibility that they might forget.
There are moments in our lives when we realize that we are beholding the carving of a day into the great tree of history. On the night before my wedding I scribbled anxiously in my journal, “It
will never be this day again, but the seventeenth of every August will never be the same either.” I knew from that day forward it would be difficult (and detrimental) to forget that day on the calendar—it would carry the force of forgetting so much more.
Israel’s history is wrought with such commands to remember. God told the Israelites that they would remember the night of Passover before the night had even happened. “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.”(2) Moses and Aaron were told to instruct the whole community of Israel to choose a lamb without defect and slaughter it at twilight. They were then to take some of the blood and put it on the doorposts of their houses. “The blood will be a sign,” the LORD declared. “And when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike the firstborns of Egypt.”
From that day onward,
celebrating the Passover was nonnegotiable, and with good reason. God had spared his people by the blood of a lamb. From that day onward, the command was passed down from generation to generation: “You shall remember this day as a statute forever.” And so they remembered the Passover each year.
But just as we recall more than the wedding itself on an anniversary, the act of birth on a child’s birthday, or the grave events of a tragic day in history, the Israelites were remembering far more than the act of Israel’s exodus from Egypt; they were remembering the God of that Exodus—the faithful hand that moved and moves among them, the mighty acts which indeed shout of God’s timely remembering of God’s people. They were remembering God among them.
Centuries later, the disciples sat around the table celebrating their third Passover meal with Jesus, an observance they kept long before they could walk. Everything perhaps looked ceremoniously familiar. The smell of lamb
filled the upper room; the unleavened bread was prepared and waiting to be broken. Remembering again the acts of God in Egypt, the blood on the doorposts, the lives spared and brought out of slavery, they looked at their teacher as he lifted the bread from the table and gave thanks to God. Then Jesus broke the bread, and gave it to them, saying something entirely new: “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).
I have always wished that Luke would have described a little more of the scene that followed. Did a hush immediate fall over the room? Were the disciples once again confused at his words? Or did their years of envisioning the blood-marked doorposts cry out at the new and faultless Lamb before them?
They had spent their entire lives remembering the power and mercy of God in the events of the Passover, and on this day, Jesus tells them that there was yet even more to see: In this Passover lamb, in this the broken bread is the
reflection of me. As you remember God in history, so remember me. For on this day, God is engraving across all of time the promise of Passover: “I still remember you.”
I imagine from that day forward the disciples knew it would be difficult to forget that day on the calendar. And for us today there is no doubt something that still weights that day with hope. Forgetting what was witnessed in the upper room on that Passover carries the force of forgetting so much more.
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) Esther 9:22.
(2) Exodus 12:14.