I attended a funeral lately. Did you? Perhaps a memorial service? What does “Do this in remembrance of me” mean?
Earlier this year, I was at a memorial service for my sister. I also attended a funeral the other day. Our CIO had complications from a heart attack he had last year, and his body finally succumbed to the stress and strain of it all. All in all, he was what many would consider a good man, and I thought very highly of him. He was not only our CIO, but he was a veteran, a volunteer fire fighter, a small-time rancher who looked out for his neighbors and was featured as a “Channel 7 Everyday Hero“. The fact that I did not even know about the last item until after his death is a testimony to his humility.
One person I know remarked how many funerals he has attended this year. I have attended far too many funerals lately. Have you attended any lately?
Technically, perhaps you have not attended any funerals, but as baptized members of the Church of God, you should have attended a memorial service lately. In fact, “memorial” is an important way to look at it. Memorial Day in the US is coming up next month, and its celebration is very indicative of just how often and when the bread and wine ceremony Jesus instituted should be done.
19 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
~ Lk 22:19
Many translations say “Do this as your memorial of me” or words to that effect, and Ellicot’s commentary states it in just those words. So, when is a memorial traditionally done? When is Memorial Day usually done? How often is 9/11 commemorated? How often are other historical events celebrated and/or observed? That’s right: Once per year.
In fact, the Benson Commentary (also at above link) on the above verse states that Jesus “did not appoint any new rite, but appropriated an old one to a new purpose.” Which rite? “As our Lord had just now celebrated the paschal supper, which was called the passover….”
It should be clear, then, that the bread and wine ceremony are intended to be done once per year at Passover. So, then, why do some worldly churches take “communion” once a week? It is a misunderstanding of Scripture, to be sure. However, first let’s discuss what “communion” really means.
The word “communion” is only found three times in Scripture. Only one of those is any reference to partaking of the bread and wine, and that is in 1Co 10:16:
16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.
It should be obvious then that “communion” means something other than a ceremony, although obviously communion can be part of a ceremony. It comes from the Greek word koinōnia, Strong’s G2842, and it means fellowship, association, community, joint participation and similar synonyms including communion. In fact, the very first online definition of “communion” is “the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.”
So, in reality, communion is just fellowship. It is participating together in worship and the exchanging of spiritual ideas. Obviously, this is what is done once per week, and not the bread and wine ceremony. However, by confusing the Christian Passover symbols with weekly worship and fellowship, some have errantly believed the bread and wine are to be done once per week.
Another thing that confuses some is the passage in 1Co 11:25-26:
25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.
“As oft ye drink it” and “often ye eat this bread” have led some to think it should be done for every service. They totally ignore the “in remembrance of me”. Notice how this echos Luke’s words? The Complete Jewish Bible states it “as a memorial to me.” Again, we are coming up on Memorial Day soon in the States, so how often do we observe it? Once a year!
The Hebrew word for “remembrance” is zikrown, and it is often translated “memorial”. It is the root for Yom Zikaron, or Israel’s Memorial Day. Again, observed once a year. The Orthodox Jewish Bible chooses to use this word zikaron in this passage.
The Greek word, Strong’s G364, is anamnēsis, and it is a bit looser in meaning. It means remembrance or recollection. However, this does not take away from the fact that Jesus was talking to His disciples, who were Jewish, and their understanding would have been a once per year observance, that is, a memorial.
This is brought home by another passage, and there are only 4 in total, where this word is used:
3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
~ Heb 10:3
The New American Standard Bible translates this as “year by year”. Obviously, this is quite different from doing it week by week. The New English Translation states it the same way. The New Century Version translates this as “every year”, as does the New King James Version. The NIV puts it as “annual reminder”.
No matter what, you keep coming back to the idea of an annual, not weekly, reminder. That is, it is a memorial day.
Jim Wall will be missed. He was an all-round good guy. He was a veteran, and I will remember him on Memorial Day as well as the other vets I have known who have come and gone. We remember especially those who died in service to their country on an annual basis.
Jesus instituted a means of observing a memorial service for His death as well, and it is observed on Passover every year. To do otherwise hides the meaning behind God’s holy days.