Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
When we attend a football game or a baseball game, we remember far more than the score (if we even remember the score). The whole event comes back to mind; driving to the game, our parking spot, our seats, the noise of the crowd, peanuts in the shell, the $6 hot dogs, and so much more. We remember everything surrounding the event.
So did the disciples.
That last night with Jesus was indelibly imprinted on their minds. How could they forget?
They gathered for the Passover meal. Jesus washed their feet—much to their surprise! He announced his betrayal. They ate. He taught. They chatted and sang. Then they went out to the Garden of Gethsemane, where he asked them to wait, watch, and pray. And they heard him pray—earnestly, fervently, passionately, intensely.
Eating the bread and drinking the cup surely evoked memories of that entire evening, including the prayer.
Jesus’ prayer that night helped define the disciples. It transcended anything they had heard before. So much so that they recalled it word for word for decades to come. And at the heart of his prayer, he prayed that the Father would keep the disciples unified—“that they may be one.” And Jesus prayed that prayer several times (John 17:11, 21, 22, 23).
Who could forget? Every time the disciples took the bread and the cup again, that prayer of Jesus echoed quietly again—”that they may be one.”
Eating the bread and drinking the cup was not a personal matter. It was a declaration of their unity, and participation meant a recommitment to that unity. That’s why Paul was so shocked by the Christians at Corinth who turned it into a divisive issue. He wrote, “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?” (1 Corinthians 11:20-22).
The bread and the cup call us to unity. They confront our selfishness and snobbery, our pettiness and prejudice. Every time we eat, we ought to affirm again we are for each other precisely because we are for him.
David Timms serves as professor of New Testament and theology at Hope International University in Fullerton, California.