God's Special Memorial
23 Aug 2008, Dr Barry Wright
(Barry is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)
GOD'S SPECIAL MEMORIAL
If you were to take the time to visit any large city in the world today you would find rituals taking place or memorials that have been built to commemorate some special event or extraordinary person of history. These rituals, statues, holidays or monuments have been put in place so that we may never lose sight of the circumstances or incidences that were associated with them.
For those that know anything about European history you will find one of the world's most famous monuments sculptured from natural rock on site in the city of Lucerne in Switzerland. 'The dying lion' or lion monument of Luzern was created to commemorate the death of 786 Swiss mercenaries (Swiss guards) in 1792 as they defended Louis XVI and Mary Antoinette against the French revolutionaries. This memorial was described by the famous author, Samuel L. Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, as 'the saddest and most compassionate piece of rock on earth'. As such, this event will never be forgotten by the Swiss people.
In the German city of Worms we find the Luther Denkmal or Luther Monument that was unveiled in 1868. This is one of the largest of the Reformation monuments commemorating those larger than life figures that were seen as responsible for paving the way for the Protestant Reformation. In the centre, holding a Bible, is Martin Luther. Seated around him are four other significant personalities. John Wycliffe (the Morning Star of the Reformation), Peter Waldo (the forerunner of the Waldensian people), John Hus of Bohemia and Girolama Savonarola of Florence in Italy. Some of those names you may not know, but the very fact they are there should motivate us to find out more about them and remember the role they played in bringing forth the truths of Scripture as we have today.
Situated in the beautiful city of Constance in Germany we find the Hussenstein stone found in an area called the Alter Graben. It was here that Johannes Hus was burnt at the stake on July 6, 1415. His counterpart, Jerome, was burnt at this same spot about a year later. Martin Luther in his commentary on Isaiah makes very clear that the Gospel we now have was fought for us with the blood of Huss and Jerome. We are never to forget the contribution these men were to make for the preservation of the Holy Scriptures.
Right from the beginning of time the Bible has had its own memorials, the most important of which has been the Sabbath memorial designed to remind us of the special relationship between our Creator God and those loyal to His plan and purpose (Ex 20: 8-10; 31: 13; Eze 31: 16, 17). (Horn, 1960: 704) This holy day was to be kept for all eternity.
The feast of the Passover was to be a memorial of God's sparing the firstborn of the Israelites in Egypt and of Israel's deliverance from Egyptian bondage (Ex 12: 14). This was never to be forgotten by the Jewish nation.
When Israel crossed the Jordan River and occupied the Promised Land, the miracle that took place here was not to be forgotten. To make sure that the people would never forget this marvellous miracle, Joshua in Joshua 4: 8, 9 instructs twelve men, one from each tribe, to carry twelve large rocks out of the midst of the Jordan. They were then to pile them into a heap as a memorial of this great event. Joshua in Joshua 4: 21-24 then says: 'When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, 'What mean these stones?' then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the Lord your God dried up the waters of Jordan before you…that all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever.
These stones were to be '…a memorial to the children of Israel forever' (Joshua 4: 7).
Sadly this heap of stones disappeared with the years. So did the memory of what God had done.
When Jesus was in the house of Simon the Leper, a woman named Mary anointed His head with oil. This act of devotion, which was to reflect the very same spirit that had prompted Jesus to come to this earth, was to serve as a perpetual memorial to her. Jesus says in Matt 26: 13: Wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.'
However, it was to be on the eve of His crucifixion that Jesus was to institute a ceremony that was to become the crowning act of all Christian worship (Luke 22: 19). Luke in Luke 22: 17-19 (Moffatt) was to describe the scene in that upper room by saying 'He took the cup…gave thanks to God and said, 'Take this and distribute it among yourselves'. 'He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave it unto them saying, This is my body, which is given for you'.
The importance of this memorial service was seen in the fact that Jesus himself was the one who instituted it. He left it as a recurring reminder of love even unto death. His disciples were to come together and observe it often. That fact alone shows the importance that He attached to it (Campbell, 1972: 8).
Our observance of the Lord's Supper, as it is known, has become an ongoing Christian memorial that helps the believer remember the sacrifice of Jesus on his behalf (1 Cor 5: 7; 11: 25-26; Lockyer, 1986: 695). We must never forget it.
Author, Ellen White in Desire of Ages p. 656 suggests that: 'When believers assemble to celebrate the ordinances, there are present, messengers unseen by human eyes…Heavenly angels…are present. These unseen visitants are present on every such occasion…There are witnesses present who were present when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples…More than human eyes beheld the scene' (White, 1940: 656).
When we take the emblems of the Lord's house we show forth His death. He died rather than accept selfishness and worldly honour and lived for all that is right.
This ceremony will eventually be culminated with the redeemed seated at the long silver table celebrating this ordinance with Jesus in His Father's Kingdom (Matt 26: 29).
Jesus never stops being a servant. He serves the universe and all heaven. He served the disciples in the upper room, and we will enjoy His serving us throughout eternity if we have learned to serve one another while here on earth.
One cannot be aloof from people and their needs and this is found in the preparatory service of foot washing. Only when we see in the Lord's Supper a symbol of service for us and in the preliminary ceremony of foot washing a symbol of service by us will we begin to understand the depth of spirituality in these ceremonies of service.
The Lord's Supper is God's special memorial that reminds us of Jesus' great sacrifice for you and me. Jesus never stops being a servant. He serves the universe and all of heaven. He served His disciples in the upper room, and we will enjoy His serving us throughout eternity only if we have learned to serve one another while here on planet earth. What a concept of greatness and service there is in His example.
Let us remember today that Jesus gave these ordinances to the Church to assist us in entering into communion with Him and to point the way to His Kingdom. Therefore, it is my prayer this morning that we will recognise the depth and meaning behind these ceremonies so that our relationship with Him will continue to grow until that day He comes to take us home.
Campbell, P. O. (1972) The Water and the Spirit. Washington DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association.
Horn, S. H. (1960) Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary. Washington DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association.
Lockyer, (Sr.) H. L. (1986) Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
White, E. G. (1940) The Desire of Ages. Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association.
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