You know the story of the Exodus, how God brought his people out of slavery in Egypt to a land all their own. You know how on that last night in Egypt he brought a final, terrible judgment on the Egyptians for defying him and oppressing his people, and he spared his people who obeyed his command. You know that for generation after generation, year after year, those people celebrated this event with a ceremony reflective of that night.
They did it to remember.
If you have never gone through a Passover ceremony or studied up on it, you might think it is mostly about eating flat bread and lamb and drinking wine. Maybe you know something about the eating of bitter herbs and fruity paste and so on. But if you ever have gone through one, you know how much time is spent talking. Reciting, to be more specific. Reciting the story of how God brought his people out of slavery, made them a people all his own, and gave them a new land of their own.
The ceremony is all about remembering. The ceremonial foods, the ceremonial washing, even the ceremonial cups of wine that are drank, all are used to remind the participants of God’s grace and favor in spite of mankind’s sinfulness. For the Jews of Jesus’ day – for his disciples, who had been doing the Passover for years – they would associate the Passover ceremony with a time to remember their deliverance.
So imagine the awe and wonder of the disciples that night, as they joined with their beloved teacher to remember deliverance, when he instituted a completely new element to the supper, and then said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus pointed them away from the deliverance of a nation from slavery to another nation. He pointed them instead to a deeper slavery, slavery to sin, and then pointed to himself as the deliverance from that slavery. “I am your deliverer. Remember me.”
“Remember your deliverance,” said the Passover ceremony.
“Deliverance is here,” said Jesus. “Remember me.”