Sunday morning, December 7, 1941 dawned bright, clear, and beautiful over the island of Oahu in the U.S. territory of Hawaii. The ships of the U.S. Seventh Fleet lay at anchor in Pearl Harbor. Although there had been rumors of impending war with the empire of Japan, the United States was still at peace and many of our soldiers, sailors and marines were ashore on liberty that Sunday morning. A little before 8:00 a.m. local time, the peace and quiet of that Sunday morning was shattered as Japanese planes began to attack Pearl harbor and its surrounding bases. When the attack ended some 90 minutes later, over 2,400 Americans were dead and nearly 1,200 were wounded, and the U.S. Seventh Fleet and Army Air Corps bases were in shambles.
The next day President Franklin Roosevelt addressed a joint session of Congress to ask for a declaration of war against Japan. He called December 7, 1941 a date that would live in infamy. “Remember Pearl Harbor” became the rallying cry for the rest of the war, and for years thereafter school children were instructed about this terrible event so they would never forget it. The battleship U.S.S. Arizona, which was sunk with the loss of nearly 1,200 lives, was left in its resting place as a perpetual memorial to those who died that day. Each year on the anniversary of the sneak attack ceremonies are held to commemorate those who lost their lives.
The value of remembering important historical events is so that we may learn from them and, in the case of Pearl Harbor, never again be caught unprepared by an enemy. The necessity for remembering such events is seen in the fact that our collective memory is so short. The generation that experienced Pearl Harbor has no trouble remembering it, but now, some 73 years after the events of that day, most Americans have little awareness of it. As tragic as this is, there is a more important event that we must always remember.
That event took place nearly 2,000 years ago at a place just outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem. On that terrible day the one and only Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, was crucified by Roman soldiers at the instigation of the leaders of the Jews. This was according to God’s eternal purpose, of course, but it is no less a tragedy because God intended it to happen. It is a tragedy because the sinless Son of God died to pay a debt He did not owe. He willingly died in order to pay for our sins, so that we might have the opportunity to receive eternal life. Without His sacrifice, we would have no hope of reaching heaven.
Before He made this sacrifice, the Lord instructed His apostles to do something so that every generation of Christians would always remember what He had done for them. That memorial is the Lord’s Supper, which the early Christians observed every first day of the week (Acts 20:7). When Paul wrote to correct the abuses of this memorial that were then prevalent in the church in Corinth, he reminded them that the Lord commanded that this meal be eaten “in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:24, 25). When we eat the bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Cor. 11:26), and we keep in memory the terrible price that was paid to free us from our sins.
We often lament the fact that many today do not remember the sacrifices of those who died on December 7, 1941. How much more so should we lament those who do not keep in remembrance the sacrifice of Christ on the cross that sets us free from the consequences of our sins? May we always keep His sacrifice in remembrance by observing the Lord’s Supper each Lord’s Day. Let us never forget.