But if we walk in the light, just as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

Maundy Thursday – 2024

Maundy Thursday – Luke 22:7-20

“Do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus gave this directive to his disciples on the occasion of his institution of the Sacrament of the Altar.

His giving of his body and blood to them, for the forgiveness of their sins, was not going to be a one-time occurrence. This giving and receiving was to continue.

The Sacred Supper that Jesus inaugurated on the night in which he was betrayed, would be an enduring mark and feature of his church throughout the ages. Jesus said “Do this” – that is, keep on doing this. Don’t stop doing this until the end of the world.

There is, however, a large segment of Christendom – in the tradition of Ulrich Zwingli and the Swiss Reformation – that emphasizes the second part of that phrase: “in remembrance of me.”

These are the churches that deny the miracle of the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the consecrated bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. They deny that the Sacrament of the Altar is a real means of grace, through which God bestows forgiveness, life, and salvation on those who participate.

The whole point and purpose of the Lord’s Supper, as they conceive of it, is this “remembrance.” We bring our remembrance of Jesus to this supper, and on the basis of this shared memory, we participate together in a memorial fellowship meal.

According to this viewpoint, the Lord’s Supper is chiefly an act of remembering Jesus with the mind, rather than an act of receiving Jesus with the mouth. In effect, the Lord’s words, “Do this in remembrance of me,” are emphasized and applied in such a way as to negate the Lord’s other words:

“Take, eat; this is my body; Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the New Testament in my blood.”

We do not agree with such teaching, which expels Jesus, according to his humanity, from his own Supper. And we believe that such teaching, which we would consider to be false teaching, completely misses the point of what Jesus was trying to impress upon his disciples, when he told them, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

In order to understand Jesus’ intended point, in telling his apostles – and us – to celebrate this sacrament in remembrance of him, we need to take into account the occasion of this institution. Jesus and his disciples were observing the Passover together.

The Passover, as a divinely-instituted annual observance of the Jewish people, recalled God’s miraculous deliverance of their ancestors from slavery in Egypt.

In particular, the Passover commemorated the night when the Angel of Death slew the firstborn of all the families of Egypt, but spared, or “passed over,” those Hebrew houses that had been marked with the blood of the lambs that the Lord commanded the Hebrews to slaughter and eat on that night.

The Book of Exodus reports that when God established this special commemoration, he said to the Hebrews:

“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.”

In other words, the Passover was to be celebrated in remembrance of the God of Israel; and in remembrance of his deliverance of the Israelites from slavery, and his establishing of the Israelites as a free nation.

This was all in keeping with the Lord’s ancient testamental promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that he would establish their posterity as a great and mighty people, and would someday bring them to their own land.

So, with this as the context, Jesus’ point was not that the Lord’s Supper is a remembrance of him rather than a receiving of him. Instead, the point was that this new Passover is a remembrance of Jesus’ deliverance of his people from their spiritual slavery to sin, death, and the devil, and was no longer simply a remembrance of God’s deliverance of his ancient people from their physical slavery to Pharaoh.

When Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me,” he wanted to emphasize that this sacrament is a remembrance of God’s work through him – the only-begotten Son of God – in establishing a New Testament, or new covenant, that pertains to all nations.

It is not simply a remembrance of God’s work through his servant Moses, in establishing the Old Testament, or old covenant, that was applicable only to the Hebrew nation.

And the “remembrance” of our Savior’s propitiatory death for us that is connected to Holy Communion, is not a remembrance that we bring to the Supper, but it is a remembrance that we take away from the Supper. A more literal translation of the Greek would reflect the idea that Jesus said, “Do this toward, into, or for, the remembrance of me.”

In this sacrament, by virtue of the power and promise of Christ’s Word and institution, we receive the true body of Jesus that was given for us, and the true blood of Jesus that was shed for us.

It is Christ’s own mystical presence in this Supper, in his body and blood, that renews our “remembrance” of him. We remember him, because he is actually there to remind us of who he is, of what he has done, and of what he as the risen Savior continues to do even now – as he graciously applies to us all the blessings of his sacrifice on the cross.

And, this remembrance of Christ that the Lord’s Supper instills in us and renews to us, includes a remembrance of God’s lack of remembrance of something – which is a crucial component of the new covenant that Jesus has established for us.

The Epistle to the Hebrews, as it quotes from the Book of Jeremiah, explains this:

“And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,’ then he adds, ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’ Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.”

In the blessing of forgiveness that we receive in the Lord’s Supper, as we meet Christ there with humility and repentance, we are remembering that God is not remembering our sins. In his Son’s death on the cross in our place and as our substitute, all of our transgressions against God’s will and God’s holiness have been paid for and punished.

As we are united to Christ by faith, and as Christ’s righteousness is credited to us, we can be certain that God will not punish these sins again, by punishing us for them.

These sins were removed from us, and placed upon Christ, who carried them to the cross. And these sins were absorbed into Christ’s death, so that when he said, “It is finished,” and died, they were extinguished.

In Christ, as we are in Christ by faith, these sins are no more. In Christ, as Christ is now in us – causing us to be a new creation in him – all those things that had come from the world, the flesh, and the devil, and that had formerly separated us from God and from the fellowship of his Spirit, are no more.

The Lord’s Supper makes all of this happen for us, because the Lord’s Supper brings Christ to us. We do not bring a mere memory of Christ to the Lord’s Supper.

Rather, through the earthly elements of bread and wine, by the power of his Word, Christ himself is presented to us, so that we can trust in him, and be filled with his life. When Jesus places into our mouths the body that was given for us, and the blood that was shed for us for the forgiveness of sins, we are at peace with God, and we are at peace within ourselves.

Our remembrance of his death – and of his resurrection – is thereby rekindled. Our remembrance of his covenant and promise is thereby revived and energized.

According to thy gracious word, in meek humility,
this will I do, my dying Lord, I will remember thee.

Thy body, broken for my sake, my bread from heaven shall be;
thy testamental cup I take, and thus remember thee.

When to the cross I turn mine eyes, and rest on Calvary,
O Lamb of God, my sacrifice, I must remember thee. Amen.