It is startling to consider the amount of information we carry about in our heads. Think simply of all of the numbers you have by memory: phone numbers, birthdays, ID numbers, zip codes, appointment times and dates. Among these many numbers are some so inscribed in your mind with permanent marker that you could not forget the number anymore than you could forget the person or thing they represent. The significance moves well beyond the boldfaced digits themselves—the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, the street number of the house you grew up in, the number of times you failed before you finally passed the test.
In the days of Mordecai and Queen Esther the people set themselves to remember the days when they received relief from their enemies, the month that had been turned “from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday.”(1) And so it was determined: “These days of Purim should never cease to be celebrated by the Jews, nor should the memory of them die out among their descendants.” The days were weighted with enough hope to press upon them the need to remember them forever. More importantly, they saw the very certain possibility that they might forget.
I suppose there are moments in our lives when we realize that we are beholding the carving of a day into the great tree of history. On my way to the hospital on the day my son was born I thought about the date and how it was about to be something more. Like any bride or groom or parent I knew from that day forward it would be difficult (and detrimental) to forget this day on the calendar; it would carry the force of forgetting so much more. Like the number itself, my remembering is more than a recollection of detail; it is the recollection of a person.
With a similar sense of anticipation, God told the Israelites that they would remember the night of Passover before the night even happened. “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). Moses and Aaron were given instructions to tell the whole community of Israel to choose a lamb without defect, slaughtering it at twilight. Then they were to take some of the blood and put it on the doorposts of the houses. “The blood will be a sign,” the LORD declared. “And when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike the firstborns of Egypt.”
The significance of remembering is a theme carried throughout all of Scripture. It is not about static facts or rules or figures, but the mystery of a place, the significance of a person, the marking of lives. Celebrating the Passover was nonnegotiable. The command to remember was passed down from generation to generation. But they were remembering more than the mere events of Israel’s exodus from Egypt; they were remembering God as God showed up and changed them—the faithful hand that moved among them, the mighty acts which exclaim a Father’s untiring remembering of his people.
As the disciples sat around the table celebrating their third Passover meal with Jesus, an observance they kept before they could walk, everything probably looked ceremoniously familiar. The smell of lamb filled the upper room; the unleavened bread was prepared and waiting to be broken. Remembering again the acts of God in Egypt, the blood on the doorposts, the lives spared and brought out of slavery, they looked at their teacher as he lifted the bread from the table and gave thanks to God. Then Jesus broke the bread, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
I have always wished that Luke would have described a little more of the scene that followed. Were the disciples hushed and confused? Did their years of envisioning the blood-marked doorposts cry out at the Lamb of God before them? They had spent their entire lives remembering the sovereignty of God in the events of the Passover, and then Jesus tells them that there is yet more to see in this day on the calendar: In this broken bread is the reflection of me. On this day, God is engraving across history the promise of Passover: I still remember you. I still seek you.
I imagine from that day forward the disciples knew it would be difficult to forget that day on the calendar. It is not that different for us today either. Forgetting what was witnessed in the upper room on that Passover carries the force of forgetting so much more.
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.