Do This In Memory of Me
Each Sunday that we come to Church we hear the same words over and over again. “Do this in memory of Me”. The image that I fear this instills in us is a passive picture of Jesus breaking bread with his disciples telling them that after he is gone they should do likewise, break bread in remembrance. Of course that’s what took place, at least on the surface. But what the disciples were supposed to remember was not just how Jesus broke bread but about how Jesus’ whole life was devoted to overcoming injustice in the world, to freeing prisoners, restoring sight to the blind and healing the lame. This is why John’s Gospel is so important in understanding the meaning of the Lord’s Supper.
In his story John doesn’t even get to the breaking of the bread. Instead he spends his time describing the period before the meal. The disciples having come from all directions through the dusty streets of Jerusalem have arrived at the upper room. At a rich person’s house there would be servants available to take care of the menial tasks such as washing the dirt off the guests feet but this ragtag mob is poor and they must fend for themselves. There is probably an awkward silence as each disciple hopes the next will look after the task of fetching water so that the meal can commence. None is willing to lose face in the group, as there is already appearing to be an unspoken competition as to who in the group deserves to be ranked above the others. In the midst of this social chess match Jesus quietly and unassumingly goes about giving them something to remember.
That an person would wash the feet of an equal was something to be avoided at all cost. That a master should wash the feet of his followers was a scandal and Peter reacted accordingly. Yet that was the way with Jesus, upsetting the status quo to make his point about what it really means to love. Jesus took on the role of a servant to show to his disciples that to truly love another meant more than using words to express nice sentiments. To love someone takes action, and quite often action that is very difficult. It takes sacrifice. The ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, of course, was in his giving up his life on the cross for the redemption of all people. It was this notion of personal sacrifice out of love for one’s neighbor that Jesus wanted his disciples to remember as they came together and broke bread.
John’s version of the Lord’s Supper is at once a call to be humble enough to accept the love that Jesus showed for us in his self-sacrifice; in the same way that Peter was chastised for refusing to let the Lord wash his feet. At the same time it is a call to mission, to proceed to spread the love that we have received to all those who will accept it in return. The Lord’s Supper is anything but a passive ritual. It begins with God’s love for each and every one of us and demands from us a response in which we either freely receive or reject that love. If we receive than we are bound in turn to pass that love and good news on to others.
In what ways have you “shown” love in your life?
Are you willing to let others show that they love you?