Imagine you were going to die tonight, surrounded by family and friends. You know that this is your last opportunity to speak to them. What do you say? What are your final words? Are you imparting knowledge and wisdom? Are you recounting the regrets of your life? Your greatest adventures? Are you imploring your children to stop fighting and hold fast to one another? Are you crying? Laughing? Singing?
One of the most emotional arcs of the show How I Met Your Mother is the untimely and unexpected death of Marshall’s father, Marvin. The episode “Last Words” captures the impact that the final message we hear from a loved one has on us, as Marshall struggles through most of the episode thinking his father’s last words to him were that he should rent Crocodile Dundee 3 because “it totally holds up.” Of course, Marvin didn’t know he was going to die. He didn’t have an opportunity to think about what his last words should have been. Nevertheless, Marshall endeavors to glean meaning and comfort from his father’s final message.
Jesus, on the other hand, knew exactly when he was going to die. He knew it when he set on the path to Jerusalem. He knew it when he triumphantly entered the city. He knew it when he gathered his disciples together for the Passover seder. He knew those were going to be the last words he spoke directly to them, his final message. “We forget that this is a last will and testament meal, not just a Passover meal,” said Rev. Joel Hess on this week’s episode of Ringside. We don’t really talk about the Last Supper in terms of Jesus’ last will and testament, but perhaps that’s the best frame in which to understand the importance of his words. On the brink of fulfilling the purpose to which he ultimately came, he chooses to leave the men who will build his church with the words, “this is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me…Drink of it, all of you, this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
In remembrance. This is more than just thinking about Jesus as we approach the altar and hear his words each week. Rev. Ross Engel summarizes it as, “The remembrance of Jesus is a declaration of what he’s done. It’s a proclamation of his gift to us. You remember God not just by having a thought, but by declaring and receiving what is there, present for us.” “In this sacrament, I am actually receiving something in that remembrance,” adds Rev. Paul Koch, “I am actually receiving the benefits of that death and resurrection.” True to form, Jesus final message places us right back where we belong, confronted with his death and resurrection, and receivers of his gifts and mercy.
Marshall ends up watching Crocodile Dundee 3 in the end. While our Lord’s redemption of all mankind “totally holds up” against the far inferior Crocodile Dundee, his words should similarly galvanize us into action. “I’m doing this whole thing because he said so,” says Joel, “so I’m not doing it in order to remember him, I’m doing it because I remember him.” This Sunday, when you hear Jesus’ last will and testament read, and approach the altar in remembrance of him, you proclaim his death and resurrection for the salvation of the world, you bind yourself to and receive the benefits of that death and resurrection, and you do it all because in his final message, that is what Jesus told us to do.
This article is a brief examination of the “metaphorical and theological rugby match” that was this week’s episode of Ringside Preachers. Listen to Rev. Joel Hess, Rev. Paul Koch, and Rev. Ross Engel as they duke it out over rampant selfishness in our culture and the illusion of safety, pastors vs. bureaucracy, the weak vs. the strong, and more on the full Ringside Preachers episode, “COVID Shame and Jesus”
To keep up-to-date with Ringside, subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform, and follow us on social media.
Join us for the first RINGSIDE COMMUNITY COLLEGE in Ventura, CA!! Meet up with the Ringside Preachers for a LIVE event on May 5th…