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“This do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).
by Tom Ruggirello
When we come together to observe the Memorial of our Lord’s death, it gives us an opportunity as a group of believers to express our deep appreciation for his loving sacrifice. Doing this as a body emphasizes the great things we have in common. It takes us back to the roots of our faith and the great truth of why and how we can stand before God as fully justified sons and daughters. As we remember him, we are also remembering the principles which drove him to offer such a sweet sacrifice.
Proverbs 8:31 provides the sentiments of our Lord in his pre-human experience: “My delight was with the sons of men.” He loved mankind from the beginning. When the heavenly Father asked him to become the Savior of our race, he undoubtedly accepted without reservation.
Thus when we remember him, we remember the great principle of love that motivated him. But there was also the love for his Father. In Proverbs 8:30, he said, “Then I was the craftsman at His side. I was filled with delight day after day” (NIV) (See Matthew 17:5). In this bond between Father and son there was a closeness and intimacy that brought each of them great joy as they worked together to bring God’s creative plans to life.
After the physical work of creation was finished, there was another work to be accomplished. The greater work of educating an intelligent creation in the knowledge of good and evil was, in many ways, a more difficult and complex part of creation. The process began with the first test. “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat of it” (Genesis 2:17). Failure to obey this simple command began the greatest learning experience the universe will likely ever see. It was love that moved our Lord to become the sacrificial Lamb of God. It was a principle ingrained in everything he did.
In remembering Jesus, we honor the principles of righteousness and justice. He came to live a righteous life for two reasons. First, his personal righteousness was required to qualify his life as the ransom price. Second, his virtue (moral excellence) demonstrated the standard of true godlike morality.
By remembering him, we memorialize these good and noble principles. Our yearly gatherings on one night of the year are important. However, a more meaningful memorial of that precious life occurs when our lives are profoundly changed to follow his example. The way we live the rest of the year proclaims that this special night is not just a formality, but that Jesus has taken deep root in our hearts.
It is most appropriate, then, that our lives become a living memorial to him, that our actions and attitudes imitate him, and that when others look at us, they see a reflection of him. In this way, we can be a daily memorial of his great life and death.
God’s instructions for keeping the Passover began with a simple command: “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you” (Exodus 12:2). Prior to the institution of the Passover, the Jewish year began in the fall, around September. With the first Passover, God instructed that the first month would begin in the spring. The Passover was to mark a new beginning. It is a wonderfully appropriate change. By offering himself as the ransom sacrifice, Jesus guaranteed that mankind would have a new beginning and showed that the first beginning in Eden was not our last hope.
The new beginning for the consecrated of this age starts when we come under the blood and become part of the first-born class. Then the springtime of new growth begins. We can now look back to our prior experiences and remember that we were once in bondage to sin and death. But the anti-typical Passover Lamb has set us free from these things, just as Israel was set free from the slavery of making mud bricks in Egypt. We have been “passed over” (Exodus 12:27) and are now free from condemnation. The New Creation can grow and prosper just as the new flowers and green grass of spring exhibit new life. Our new beginning brings rich spiritual growth.
Roasted in Fire
The Passover lamb was to be roasted in fire. This powerful picture depicted the intensity of Jesus’ experience on earth. Fully aware of this, the Apostle Paul says, “If you would escape becoming weary and faint-hearted, compare your own sufferings with those of him who endured such hostility directed against him by sinners” (Hebrews 12:3 Weymouth). Jesus endured great hostility.
As intense as the physical abuses were, his sufferings were not limited to the mistreatment before the Sanhedrin or even the scourging and crucifixion. He endured emotional suffering when, for a moment, the Father turned His face away.1 His heart suffered when he saw unbelief in so many. He was saddened when a man’s wealth meant more to him than becoming a disciple of the Savior. Seeing the greed and jealousy of the Jewish leadership created great conflict with them. These were all painful experiences for our Lord. Even the disciples could not relieve his anguish in Gethsemane. Betrayal by a friend was another burning flame that licked at Jesus’ heart. These were all part of our Lord’s cup of suffering. Being roasted with fire was an appropriate description of his experiences.
(1) Some editors hold that John 8:29, Psalms 22:24, and Psalms 23:4 indicate that God did not turn his face away from Jesus on the cross.
He Set His Face “Like a Flint”
“I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6).
It is difficult to think that one who deserved so much praise would be spit in the face and have his beard pulled out. Such unjust behavior was meant to demean and ridicule him. But in the next few verses of Isaiah 50, we see how Jesus dealt with such terrible mistreatment. He left a marked legacy of how to deal with unfair abuse.
“For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore, shall I not be confounded; therefore, have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. He is near that justifies me; who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord GOD will help me; who is he that shall condemn me?” (Isaiah 50:7-8). Throughout his mistreatment, Jesus turned his thoughts to God. Setting his face like a flint means he would not allow his resolute feelings to be swayed by his abusers. He thought, “I will not be shamed by these attempts to humiliate me.” When God judged his life, he knew the outcome would be vastly different than his experience before these fallen men. His confidence in God helped Jesus endure such tremendous opposition. He understood that in the end he would be vindicated and honored by the righteous judge.
This Psalm was on Jesus’ mind when he suddenly quoted verse one from the cross. “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” It is interesting to note that the Psalm ends with a phrase similar to his final words, when he said, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
“A seed shall serve him … They shall come and shall declare His righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that, He hath done this” (Psalms 22:30, 31). The Companion Bible suggests that the phrase “He hath done this” is equivalent to “It is finished.” He then prophetically looked ahead and saw the saints declaring his righteousness to future generations and that he finished the sacrifice so needful for our redemption.
It is likely that Jesus may have been reciting the entire Psalm as he hung from the cross. Filling his mind with prophetic words of his own experience would have been helpful in dealing with the raging pain of being on the cross for six hours. As we read portions of the Psalm, we imagine the demands of his body for prolonged pauses and moments of rest. Only selected verses are cited below.
“My God, my God, why hath thou forsaken me? … O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not … But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praise of Israel. Our fathers trusted thee: they trusted and thou didst deliver them … But I am a worm, and no man, a reproach of men and despised of the people … Be not far from me; for trouble is near and there is none to help … I am poured out like water and all my bones are out of joint: My heart is like wax, it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me, the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet … I may count all my bones; they look and stare upon me.
“They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture … O my Strength, haste thee to help me … I will declare thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee, Praise Him, all you descendants of Israel … For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him he heard … All the ends of the world will remember and turn unto the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the Lord’s: and he rules over the nations.
“All the rich of the earth will feast and worship. All they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul. A seed shall serve him; it shall be counted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come and declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this” (Psalms 22:1-4, 6, 11, 14, 16-19, 22-24, 27-31).
These words reveal not only great suffering but amid the suffering the strength of Jesus’ faith. Jesus took great comfort that even unborn generations would hear of God’s righteousness.
In this amazing prophetic Psalm Jesus left a legacy of how faith deals with adversity. In his own great struggle, he went to the Father. He asked for help and claimed the promises. He drew courage in knowing of the coming kingdom and that there would be a seed to proclaim God’s name. His prime concern was that God should be honored. With that perspective, he was focused on higher and nobler principles, well worth the physical sufferings he endured.
Since this Psalm reveals some of Jesus’ thoughts on the cross, the possibility also exists that he continued to Psalm 23, some of the most meaningful words ever written. How precious to think that our Lord likely took comfort in these words:
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
As Jesus struggled to breathe with his back lacerated, and hands and feet tearing at the nails, he could still say with confidence, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” And, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou are with me.” His faith is truly inspiring as we contemplate these prophetic words.
Not a Bone Broken
An intriguing aspect of the Passover is the fact that not a bone of the sacrificial lamb was to be broken (Exodus 12:46). This was fulfilled in John 19:33, 36. “But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs … For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken.’ “
Why was it so important that none of Jesus’ bones should be broken? The answer is found in the 34th Psalm. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken” (Psalms 34:19, 20, English Standard Version).
The Psalmist reveals that unbroken bones represent the hope of deliverance. Jesus’ hope of deliverance became a reality when he was raised from the dead. His hope of providing the ransom price was not in vain. When providence entered and his legs remained unbroken, God provided an indication that his hope was genuine and could not be destroyed by his enemies.
We, too, have unbroken bones. We are given great hope through our understanding of how the atonement process works. What a privilege and blessing to know these things. The Apostle describes the stability that hope provides when he said this hope is an anchor of the soul rooted in heaven. It is “both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19).
This Do in Remembrance
As we remember our Lord’s sacrifice, we honor the principles he stood for. His sacrifice was a great expression of love. His perfection brought a righteous offering to God and set an example of perfect obedience. While enduring the flames of oppression, he turned to God for help and would not be moved. He understood the tremendous benefit that would result from his sacrifice and how the Father would be honored. For these reasons, we are privileged to remember him.