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Memorial Day

One of the national holidays celebrated in the United States is known as Memorial Day.  While viewed as the traditional start of the summer season, it is actually much more serious and significant than that.  It is a day set aside to remember and commemorate those men and women who have given their lives in the military service of our country.

A memorial is simply something designed to preserve the memory of a person, event, etc.  The Bible speaks of many of them.  For example, in Joshua 4, after the children of Israel had crossed on dry ground through the flooded Jordan River, we find in verses 1-8:

“And it came about when all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan, that the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, and command them, saying, Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you, and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.  So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe; and Joshua said to them, Cross again to the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel.  Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, What do these stones mean to you?  Then you shall say to them, Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off.  So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.  And thus the sons of Israel did, as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, just as the Lord spoke to Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel; and they carried them over with them to the lodging place, and put them down there.”

Thus the event that took place at the beginning of the Conquest of Canaan was commemorated.

Just as is the case in the United States, the Bible speaks of certain days being set apart as memorials for particular events.  For instance, the Passover was established as a memorial.  While I won’t take the time to examine the entire passage where the institution of the Passover is explained in Exodus 12, we will note verses 13-14:

“And the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.  Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.”

The greatest memorial ever established was instituted by the Lord on the night in which He was betrayed.  At the Last Supper, with the horror of the cross literally just hours away, Jesus called upon His followers to remember the events that were about to take place.  In Matthew 26:26-29 we find:

“And while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is My body.  And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them saying, Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

As Paul was describing the institution of this incredible memorial in 1 Corinthians 11, we find the additional words of Jesus, “do this in remembrance of Me” in verse 24.  In verse 25, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”  In verse 26, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”  Faithful children of God observe this memorial every first day of the week, Sunday, just as the early church did (Acts 20:7).

Memorial Day commemorates those who fought in wars for our country and gave their lives in so doing.  Jesus gave His life in battle against the most dangerous and insidious foe of all time, Satan and the evil he promotes.  It was a battle that began with Adam and Eve, and from that time forth the ultimate conclusion was inevitable.  In Genesis 3:14-15 we read:

“And the Lord God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life; and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel.”

When Jesus died on the cross, the death of this sinless, perfect man was the bruising of His heel.  But three days later, the crushing blow to the head was delivered when Jesus rose from the dead.  Because of that glorious resurrection, we will rise as well.  So, with humility and great gratitude, let us remember that every first day of the week is a “memorial day,” as we participate in the greatest and most significant memorial known to man – the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

Greg Litmer