This chapter is about remembering. Actually, the entire section that starts at Esther 9:20 is about remembering. It’s about things being recorded and written down and sent out in letters. “These days should be remembered,” the book says. The high honor of Mordecai was written about in the annals of the kings of Persia.
There’s something to be said for remembering – for not forgetting.
The Jews each year hold a Purim festival to remember the story of Esther and Mordecai and the salvation of Jews in Persia. They celebrate by feasting, by sending gifts and food to one another, and by reading the Book of Esther. Of course, the Jews are good at remembering. There’s Hanukkah and then Purim and then Passover. In successive seasons, they remember good things about their past.
When it comes to Purim, they remember the way in which they were delivered from the deadly edict of Haman. They were saved from certain death. And that’s something to celebrate.
Although God is not mentioned even once in the Book of Esther, we know his hand was at work in those events. If Esther didn’t work to save the people, salvation would come from somewhere else (by the power of God). Esther was put in her position (by God) for just such a time as that. And even the non-Jews knew there was something special about these people (who had been chosen by God).
God was quiet but not absent. And so this remembrance was of salvation and of God’s quiet movement. God saves.
For the Jews, their sorrow had been turned into gladness and their mourning had been turned into a holiday (Esther 9:22). They celebrated every year. The story was retold. And they savored God’s favor.
And of course Esther was part of that story. So was Mordecai. We also remember the people who did great things for us. We know this well. Our Memorial Day is our way of marking down the names of those people.
Yes, there is something to be said for remembering – for not forgetting.
As Christians, we are people who treasure the stories that were recorded and written down long ago – those stories that were sent out in letters across the land. We think back to first-century Palestine, and we remember. “These are written so that you may believe” (John 20:31). The glory of Jesus Christ has changed the world.
As Christians, we have our celebrations – our moments of remembrance. We recall Bethlehem and a flight to Egypt. We remember a cross and an empty tomb. In a few days, we will recall a special Pentecost in Jerusalem. We remember these stories of salvation and blessing, where God ushered anyone who would believe into his kingdom. As Christians, we must become good at remembering.
The center of our remembering is the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We also faced a deadly edict, cast down upon us by sin and death. We were saved from certain death. And that is something to celebrate.
And in our remembering, we don’t suffer from the quietness of God. No, unlike in the story of Esther, God was quite visible in first-century Israel – plainly so. Long ago, God spoke through prophets. But then he spoke by his Son (Hebrews 1:1-2). God took on flesh. Salvation came to the Jews and Gentiles by the power of Christ. Jesus of Nazareth was born of a virgin for just such a time as this. And there was something striking about the teaching of this rabbi. Everyone could see it (Matthew 7:28-29).
God was neither quiet nor absent in Christ. And so our remembrance of Jesus Christ recalls a saving act of God that all could see.
For Christians – like the Jews of Esther’s day – our sorrow has been turned into gladness and our mourning has been turned into a holiday. We celebrate every year. The story is retold again and again. And we savor God’s favor.
This made me think of Communion – the bread and the cup. Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25). We remember being freed from the decree of death. As we do, do we fully accept the fact that it was a real death sentence? Do we have a Purim-like lightness of heart as we celebrate the truth of Jesus’ work on the cross and the emptying of the tomb?
That’s worth a party.