His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him. Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!”
In the Gnostic salvation program, remembering plays a key role. Once trapped in the flesh and born of this world, the human spirit – the spark of divinity that had descended from above into this false, material world – becomes slovenly, forgetful, and ignorant of its origins. It needs an act of awakening at which time it remembers from whence it came and to where it must return.
Notice the remembering is all an internal action, as is the entire Gnostic program and all its heirs. What’s going on inside? What sort of psychological mechanisms are at work? Where’s your heart at? Where’s your will at? What sort of knowledge do you have?
As someone once commented about Puritanism, it took the soul off the treadmill of indulgences and put them on the iron couch of introspection. Such is the by-product of an overly Gnostic faith.
Significantly, in Gnosticism and its heirs, one’s act of remembering actually is the cause of salvation, even the salvation of the entire world. For Gnosticism in particular, one’s own remembering is the very act of God drawing his lost sparks back into himself. That’s quite a burden on the Self!
This week’s Palm Procession Gospel mentions the disciples “remembering” something. “His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.”
Notice the shift in focus. The remembering is directed toward something external, the written Word, the “things…written about Him.” Here, “remembering” is but another word for “witness,” which is actually far more in keeping with how a faith would work that rests on external, physical, objective truths, rather than internal, spiritual, subjective things.
That leads to the next verse, where we learn, “Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, ‘You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!’”
Notice, their action of “going after Jesus” is rooted in their witness of something outside of themselves, something external, the objective happening of Lazarus’ resurrection. That is where faith is most established, in the witness, or in a remembered witness (as in, “Oh yeah, Jesus says death is just sleeping. Cool!”).
Of course, setting up for Maundy Thursday, the central act of “remembering” is what happens at the Lord’s Supper, which is an ongoing testament to Christ’s death for the forgiveness of our sins, and the giving of His flesh for us to eat unto eternal life. “Do this in my remembrance.”
The fact that there is ambiguity about this statement – whether it’s the Lord’s memory or our memory referenced here – is due precisely to the sheer externality and objectiveness of the gift. Holy Communion is the Lord’s work, and if we take the remembering as the Lord’s, it would be in the same spirit of the Lord remembering His promise every time He sees a rainbow.
Understood that way, the comfort of Holy Communion is not that there we remember what the Lord has done, or perhaps better put, the focus is not on the quality of our remembering. The comfort rather is that our faith is confirmed in His remembering of His promises to us. Yes, that gets sort of fuzzy when contemplating the involvement of our hearts and minds. What, after all, is the difference between “remembering the Lord’s gift” and “being confirmed in faith that the Lord has remembered His promise”?
Perhaps it’s the question on what undoes the gift. Does our act of forgetting undo what the Lord has done? If the focus is on our act of remembering – the Gnostic way – then it would undo it. Many traditions actually run this way, and turn communion into an exercise of strained piety.
But if our little mental lapses – like the disciples had – don’t undo what the Lord has done, then that would be because the gift is doing its thing, outside of us, at an objective level, without regard to our mental input. But Jesus still finished the disciples’ salvation even though they forgot, and Lazarus still lived even if people forgot what they witnessed.
So also us. Communion is a weekly gift that we constantly have to be reminded of, but that doesn’t take away the fact that Jesus is 24/7 the One given and shed for us on the cross, for our forgiveness.
To remember or not? As far as we go, whatever. As far as the Lord goes, He doesn’t forget, and that’s what truly matters.