Memorial Day is an important holiday in the United States. It memorializes the men and women who have laid down their lives to defend our nation and its freedoms. It started shortly after the American Civil War in an attempt to bring healing to the land. Across our nation, both Union and Confederate dead were remembered for the sacrifices they made. More Americans died in the Civil War than in all other American wars combined. Since then, Memorial Day has included honoring the dead from all American wars. Every Memorial Day, parades are held throughout many cities to remind us of those that made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we hold so dearly.
I was born at approximately 11:45 PM on May 29th. Back in those days, Memorial Day was always celebrated on May 30th. My father, the jokester that he was, tried to bribe the maternity ward nurse to fix my time of birth to 12:01 AM on May 30th (I never asked him why being born on Memorial Day would have such significance, but it must have been important to him for some strange reason). Regardless of his efforts, the nurse – apparently a woman of integrity – did not comply and my official and accurate date of birth remains May 29th.
It's good to remember good things, especially those things that others have done for us. Throughout the Bible, God instructs His people to remember something He had done for them. He admonishes them to remember some miracle, provision, deliverance, or blessing that He bestowed on His people. In some cases, He instructed them to set up a memorial so that future generations would remember as well. He wants us to remember it so that, in the future – when times are hard – we will remember how He took care of us so we would put our faith in Him.
Some notable examples of this is when Joshua commanded the Israelites to pick up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan River – one for each tribe – and make a pillar with them to commemorate forever how God brought the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt and across the Jordan to the Promised Land. In Numbers 15, God commanded the Israelites to make tassels on the corners of their garments to remind them of the commands of the Lord. There are at least 60 more references to God commanding us to “remember” Him and what He has done for us.
But perhaps the most notable, and probably the most important, took place when Jesus met with His disciples the evening that he was to be arrested. It was the Passover feast and it would be celebrated very differently that year, and every year after that, by Christians. In Luke chapter 22, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks to the Father, and explained to the disciples that “this is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus is admonishing his disciples to remember what he was about to do. In saying “do this” – with the “this” referring to the Passover meal – he was now switching the annual Passover celebration from remembering how God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt to how Jesus delivered us from sin.
The original Passover was a foreshadowing of the new Passover. In the original, God instructed the Israelites to put lamb’s blood around their door posts so that the avenging angel would not strike them dead. In the new Passover, Jesus – the Lamb of God – would pour out His blood for our sin. When God sees the blood of Jesus covering us, He withholds His judgment from us. The price has been paid and we no longer stand before Him guilty of sin. This was so important to the early church that they decided to memorialize this not just once a year but every time they gathered together. Thus the “communion” we celebrate at church is the remembering the new “Passover” – Jesus’ victory over death and His delivering us from our “Egypt” (sin).
It is important for us to remind ourselves, daily, of what Jesus did on that cross. Not only defeating sin and death for the Christian, but also the sacrifice He had to make in order to accomplish this incredible act. By keeping this on the forefront of our minds, it will remind us of God’s love, dedication, sacrifice, and the good plans He has for us. He told the Israelites in Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
It's good that we celebrate days like Memorial Day to remind ourselves of the sacrifices of these dedicated soldiers. But how more important it is to remember the sacrifice Jesus made! Remembering reassures us, strengthens us, encourages us, and motivates us. It was important to Jesus that we remember what He accomplished by going to the cross; we should make it a daily goal to thank Him for the wonderful victory He has given us.