“The Greatest Memorial”
In Acts 20, we read about the Christians of the early church coming together upon the first day of the week to break bread. The text specifies that the days of unleavened bread had concluded, but Paul and those who traveled with him gathered with others in Troas upon the first day of the week before setting sail to break bread once more. This breaking of bread was not for the feast of the Passover as were the days of unleavened bread, but pertained to a memorial that Jesus instituted on the night that he was betrayed for his followers to observe in remembrance of his sacrifice made on mankind’s behalf. When we hear the word memorial, perhaps we begin to consider some mental image that brings to mind memories about something, or in regards to someone’s life. In fact, the word memorial is defined as something designed to preserve the memory of a person or event, as a monument or a holiday. When I think of grand memorials here on earth, a certain city comes to mind which is our nation’s capitol, Washington D.C. I had the privilege of touring this great city around five years ago or so, and everywhere I went throughout the municipal, a new monument or memorial would stand out to me that I had not seen. There were three memorials in particular that stood out to me. First, the John F. Kennedy memorial had a flame placed at the forefront of his grave known as the “eternal flame.” Appropriately described, this flame is never extinguished, representing how JFK’s influence will never cease to glow. Another memorial that impressed me was the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A widely heralded memorial, this mausoleum contains the remains of a soldier who was unable to be identified by name due to the bodily carnage suffered in battle. Nonetheless, this memorial represents any and every soldier who gave his life for this country’s freedom! When you stand at this memorial, there is a very solemn feeling in the air, as if you were witnessing a sacred ceremony. It’s taken so seriously that a sentinel marches 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turns, faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, then takes 21 steps down the mat and repeats the process.
A changing of the guard occurs every hour on the hour for six months out of the year, and every half hour for the other six months of the year. A sentinel marches at the rear of the tomb 24/7/365 come rain, sleet or snow. I’m told that the number twenty-one was chosen because it symbolizes the highest military honor that can be bestowed—the 21-gun salute. It’s really a sight to behold. All of the memorials were impressive, but the one that stood out most to me was the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. I had expected to see a statue of Dr. King the man but, like the other memorials, much thought had been implemented into the construction of the monument. It was not merely some statue of a man, but rather it looked as though MLK was breaking out of a mountain of rock. As it stands, there is a phrase etched across the side of the large tribute that reads “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” When I saw the memorial, I immediately thought of Dr. King’s famous speech “I Have Been to the Mountaintop,” recalling how he had helped America break away from the traditions of racism through the Civil Rights Act and other groundbreaking achievements, causing the racial barrier to crumble.
The purpose of all these memorials was to bring many people together in one place, simultaneously, & the symbolic aspects of these landmarks caused everyone assembled to think of the various aspects of that person’s life. In like manner, the memorial Jesus left causes his disciples to come together in one place on a certain day, the first day of the week, to remember the impossible feats that Jesus Christ accomplished on our behalf. The instructions for how his memorial was to be remembered are seen in I Corinthians 11:23-26, but the larger point of this article is to help us understand that there are two major differences between man’s memorials and Christ’s memorial: (1) the Savior’s is the divine memorial of a man who fulfilled things that no memorial made by the hands of mortals could hope to accurately capture. His impact could only be remembered through an eternal institution, the picture of selflessness, rendered in simple fashion. (2) The purpose of a memorial is to commemorate someone who has ceased to exist. But Christ’s memorial symbolizes the memory of a man who was raised from the dead and lives on even today, sitting at the right hand of God’s throne (Luke 22:69). For those reasons, the institution of Christ’s tribute on the night that he was betrayed (Matthew 26:26-30) makes it the greatest memorial!