In this meal, our Lord and Savior brings together the past, the present, the future, and eternity. They all exist together in this moment; in this meal.
From the ancient past of the Jews, the Passover meal was instituted by God, through Moses. The people of Israel were called to sacrifice a lamb and the blood of the lamb would protect the people from the death that was coming to Egypt. This blood of the sacrificed lamb saved the people of Israel from the power of death. But more than this, the people of Israel were called to repeat this Passover meal each year in order to remember how God had delivered them from death and in remembering, it would be made new for them.
In the present of Jesus and His disciples, they celebrated this Passover feast together and in doing so, they remembered what God had done for them in the past and by remembering through the sharing of this same meal, this same salvation from death was made real for them. But more than this, our Lord took this meal and redefined it. As God first instituted it, so God the Son institutes it afresh. “He took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’” Jesus has instituted a new meal of remembrance, and through His blood poured out He has made a new covenant. Just as the blood of the sacrificed Passover lamb saved the people from the power of death, so the Blood of the Lamb of God saves us from the power of sin and death. Jesus institutes a meal of remembrance, but we too easily misunderstand what He means and in doing so rob this meal of its true significance.
When He speaks of remembrance, He is not simply speaking of recalling to mind some events. If that were so, then only those who had seen Him face to face could partake of this meal for only they could recall to mind the one they had known. The term used here in an important term with a much deeper significance. The word here – anamnesiß – does not just mean memory it refers to an important concept in Platonic philosophy. Anamnesiß is the Platonic notion of recalling knowledge from eternity in the quest toward spiritual perfection. That which was lost in time and eternity is recalled and made real in the present. So in this meal, instituted in remembrance of Jesus, Jesus Himself is recalled and made present with those who partake in the meal. As we – millennia after Jesus first instituted this meal – eat the bread and drink the wine, Jesus is re-membered; He is made present and whole in the bread and the wine and in His Body joined together here to celebrate it. Jesus in the past has brought Himself to the future in our presence.
In eternity, Jesus will again partake of this meal with us. We will be joined together with all those who have shared this meal from its institution in that upper room among His first disciples, throughout the history of the Church to us and beyond to those who will follow until our Lord’s return. He will be with us and we shall all see Him face to face and we shall all be joined together (past, present, and future) as one as we all celebrate together this blessed feast in joy and celebration. And likewise we are in truth today all joined together (past, present, future, and eternity) as we partake of this meal this day, just as we are all covered by this same covenant. Saved from the power of sin and death by the same blood of the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.
In this Lenten season we have heard our Lord’s call to intensify our struggle against sin, death, and the devil—all that keeps us from loving God and each other. This is the struggle to which we were committed at Baptism; God’s forgiveness and the power of his Spirit to amend our lives continue with us because of his love for us in Jesus, our Savior.
Within the community of his Church, God never wearies of giving peace and new life. In the words of absolution we receive forgiveness as from God himself. This absolution we should not doubt, but firmly believe that thereby our sins are forgiven before God in heaven, for it comes to us in the name and by the command of our Lord.
We who receive God’s love in Jesus Christ are called to love one another, to be servants to each other as Jesus became our servant.
It is, however, in the Holy Communion that the members of Christ’s body participate most intimately in his love. Remembering our Lord’s last supper with his disciples, we eat the bread and share the cup of this meal. Together we receive the Lord’s gift of himself and participate in that new covenant which makes us one in him. The Eucharist is the promise of the great banquet we will share with all the faithful when our Lord returns, the culmination of our reconciliation with God and each other.