(Prepared for a sermon on Hebrews 3:1-6)
Just before He was arrested and crucified, Jesus gave His disciples some unleavened bread and asked them to eat it. He also passed around a cup of wine and told them to drink from it. He instructed them to keep on eating bread and drinking wine in His memory. For the last 2,000 years, the followers of Christ have been doing what Jesus asked. Every Sunday we gather to eat the bread and drink the wine in memory of Jesus.
This may seem like a silly or self-evident question, but why did Jesus ask us to do this in His memory? What is the purpose for remembering?
Stupid question, right? I’m sure that any Christian could rattle off a number of reasons why we take Communion to remember Jesus. The bread and cup remind us of how Jesus suffered for us. The bread and cup remind us that we are in a covenant relationship with Christ. The bread and cup remind us that Jesus is coming back again. The bread and cup remind us that it is Jesus’ sacrifice which paid for our sin. The bread and cup remind us that we are part of Christ’s body. And so on. And, it is very good for us to be reminded of these things so we don’t become complacent. Participating in Communion helps us keep our perspective.
Yet, there is something else about remembering Jesus which we probably don’t give much thought to. There is a very practical benefit to it. Hebrews chapter two tells us that there is a sequence in our spiritual experience. Before we can be crowned with glory and honor, we first must die. When we become discouraged or frustrated with life because it seems that everything is going wrong, even though we’ve done our best to do what is right and good, we can be encouraged by remembering Jesus. God exalted Him, but He had to die first. When we remember that, we can be encouraged that God hasn’t abandoned us, either. Our suffering will lead to glory just as Jesus’ suffering led to Him being glorified.
In that same passage, the writer of Hebrews also assures us that Jesus is able to help us when we are being tempted. There are probably many aspects of this, but I’ll just mention one. You’ve probably all heard the term, ‘multi-tasking.’ It refers to the ability to do many different things at the same time. And, it’s true that there are some people who are able to metaphorically keep a lot of balls in the air at once. However, what researchers have discovered is that, in reality, the human mind can only entertain one thought at a time. Those people who seem to be able to multi-task are not really concentrating on a lot of different things simultaneously, they are merely switching between tasks rapidly. They can only think about one thing at a time, just like the rest of us.
Now this insight can really help us when it comes to temptation. We are tempted when our minds are directed to a wrong desire. But since our minds can only hold one thing at a time, if we are able to think of something else, we will no longer be tempted. This is why it’s so important to remember Jesus. If our minds are filled with Him, there is no room for the temptation, whatever it is. This is why after telling us that Jesus can help us when we are being tempted, the writer of Hebrews tells us in the very next verse “fix your thoughts on Jesus” (Hebrews 3:1 NIV). Your translation may say, “consider Jesus”. Later on in the same book we’re instructed to “fix our eyes on Jesus” and to “consider him” (Hebrews 12:2-3).
As long as we are looking at Jesus, as long as we have our minds fixed on Him, as long as we are considering Him, as long as we remember Him, temptation will have no hold on us.
After talking about death and how our physical bodies are wasting away, Paul writes in 2nd Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV)
We’re here to remember Jesus and the eternal. The bread and the juice we’re about to eat help us fill our minds with what is important. The act of remembering Jesus and what He’s done for us will take our minds off the troubles, struggles and temptations which we face. As the old hymn says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face; And the things of earth with grow strangely dim In the light of His glory and grace.” (Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, Helen H. Lemmel)