"Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot." That's how a traditional British rhyme recalls what happened on 5th November 1605 when a plot was foiled to blow up Parliament and kill the King. Still today on 5th November many people celebrate Bonfire Night by enjoying a large outdoor blaze and impressive fireworks.
However, when you think about it, it is surprising that of all the events of British history, this is the only one that is widely celebrated today. It is strange that a failed plot 400 years ago is still something we remember today - perhaps everyone just enjoys the fireworks!
The event that Christian believers most remember and celebrate is the death of Jesus on a Roman cross 2000 years ago. To many people this must seem like a strange choice - why celebrate the unjust execution of Jesus? Why not focus on Jesus' life, his miracles or his teaching instead?
However, it was Jesus himself who would begin the focus on his death:
"The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." (1 Corinthians 11:23-25 NIV)
As Jesus broke the bread, he taught his followers to remember how his body was to be broken for them. As they drank the cups of wine he told them to remember his blood - symbolising his life - given for them. Jesus instituted a symbolic meal, which we call the Lord's Supper, so that his followers could remember him. This meal is centred on Jesus' death. As a church family, we celebrate this symbolic meal most weeks, remembering Jesus' saving death.
Jesus' death is worth remembering 2000 years later because he died, "for you". In God's plan, Jesus' death was not an accident or a mistake, but rather the means by which God would save his people.
Naturally we are all separated from God and we think, act and speak in ways that do not honour him as God. Our behaviour towards our good and holy God means that we deserve to be rejected by him now and after we die. Yet God, in his great mercy and love, made a way for us to be forgiven and accepted by him. Jesus' death is that way.
When Jesus died he carried on himself all the wrongdoing of everyone who would trust in him. Jesus on the cross experienced the separation, rejection and punishment we deserve before God, so that we can be forgiven and accepted. Jesus did this willingly in order to rescue us.
Jesus' death is at the very centre of history. It is the means by which God rescues those who trust in Jesus and makes us his people. It is truly an event that is worth remembering and celebrating!
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.
(1 Peter 3:18 NIV)