Memorial Day

“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” (Exodus 12:14).

The United States of America pauses on the last Monday in May to remember fallen soldiers who fought to obtain and preserve our freedoms, but when God first instituted his own memorial day, it was no less an occasion of sacrifice and duty.

His people were preparing to leave behind Egyptian slavery where they labored to build Pharaoh his pyramids by the sweat of their brows. In the night that a plague of death swept through Egypt, the massacre would pass over the marked houses of the Israelites so that they could survive and escape into the land of promise (see Exodus 12:29-51).

The Passover feast commemorated that great occasion until it was punctuated with a messianic exclamation point and superseded by a superior sacrifice. God’s son, Jesus of Nazareth, would cap three years of ministry by willingly going to the cross, becoming an atonement for human sin, but only after sharing a final passover meal with his friends. “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1).

He was arrested and beaten mercilessly by the ruling Romans, scourged with whips and chains, mocked by the lowest of humanity, affixed to a cross where he hung in agony for six hours, his flesh nailed to the torturous tree. He struggled not. He resisted not at all, though he could have summoned twelve legions of angels to set him free (Matthew 26:53). “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (First Peter 2:23-24).

In the night he was betrayed, Jesus fulfilled the Passover promise and lit the way for all men to approach the heavenly land of perfect promise. “For Christ our passover lamb has been sacrificed” (First Corinthians 5:7).

He created a new memorial day and feast when his thankful disciples could assemble each Sunday. “Do this in remembrance of me,” he said (First Corinthians 11:24). “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (26).

America’s Memorial Day comes but once a year and commemorates very noble sacrifices. Christ’s memorial day is weekly, and when observed consistently and solemnly, proclaims an even more special and enduring gift.