Memorializing Christ’s Death
THE passover of A. D. 33 was at hand. From a study of his Father’s Word Jesus knew that his death was near. As the antitypical passover Lamb he was to be sacrificed on the day the passover was to be observed, and that by being impaled on a tree. (Matt. 26:2; John 12:32, 33; 1 Cor. 5:7, NW) He knew his death would be in vindication of his Father’s name. As he was also to provide the ransom price for mankind, such integrity-keeping on his part was imperative, for only the sacrifice of a perfect man could buy back that which a perfect man (Adam) had lost for his offspring.—Deut. 19:21; Job, chapters 1 and 2; Matt. 20:28; John 17:4; 18:37; Heb. 7:26, NW.
Jesus made good use of this celebration with his apostles of the last valid passover by impressing many vital truths upon their minds in various ways. And to help them to better appreciate what his death was to accomplish and what would be required of them he instituted a memorial celebration that from then on was to replace the passover. It was most fitting that Christ Jesus should do so. Had not Jehovah commanded the memorializing of the first passover in view of what took place at that time in vindication of his supremacy and in the deliverance of his people, and were not now an even greater vindication of Jehovah’s name and an even greater deliverance about to take place? Assuredly.—Ex. 9:16; 13:1-10, AT.
“THE LORD’S EVENING MEAL”
Concerning the institution of the memorial of Christ’s death, before which, incidentally, Judas left the upper room to betray Jesus, an eyewitness, the apostle Matthew, recorded: “As they continued eating, Jesus took a loaf and, after saying a blessing, he broke it and, giving it to the disciples, he said: ‘Take, eat. This means my body.’ Also he took a cup and, having given thanks, he gave it to them, saying: ‘Drink out of it, all of you; for this means my “blood of the covenant” which is to be poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins.’”—Matt. 26:26-28, NW.
To what body was Jesus referring when he said, “this means my body”? The apostle Paul enlightens us, saying: “The loaf which we break, is it not a sharing in the body of the Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, although many, are one body, for we are all partaking of that one loaf.” (1 Cor. 10:16, 17, NW) Yes, time and again throughout the Christian Greek Scriptures the Christian congregation is referred to as the “body of Christ”.—See Romans 12:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 1:22, 23; Colossians 1:24, NW.
Regarding the drinking of the cup at the Lord’s evening meal the apostle Paul further wrote: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a sharing in the cup of the Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16, NW) But someone may ask: Since Jesus’ blood was shed to make firm the new covenant and to provide forgiveness of sins for many, how can it be said that his followers have a share in it? Because in a larger sense the cup represented God’s will for Jesus, which will meant suffering and death. Remember he told Peter in the garden of Gethsemane: “The cup that the Father has given me, should I not by all means drink it?” And that his body members would share in drinking that cup he made clear to two of the apostles, James and John, saying to them: “The cup I am drinking you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am being baptized you will be baptized.”—Mark 10:39; John 18:11, NW.
However, God’s will was not merely that Jesus suffer and die but also that he be raised from the dead and exalted to his right hand, and so that cup is also properly termed a “cup of salvation”. (Ps. 116:12-15) That this also applies to Christ’s body Paul makes clear: “For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall certainly also be united with him in the likeness of his resurrection.”—Rom. 6:5, NW.
WHO MAY PARTAKE?
Who may partake of the bread and the cup at the Lord’s evening meal? Anyone regardless of his understanding, regardless of his relationship with God and Christ and regardless of his course of action, just so long as he professes to be a Christian? Not by any means! Partaking is a serious matter and for one to partake when he is not worthy or not entitled to partake brings Jehovah’s judgment upon him. Note Paul’s words on this point: “Consequently, whoever eats the loaf and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty respecting the body and the blood of the Lord. First let a man approve himself after scrutiny, and thus let him eat of the loaf and drink of the cup. For he that eats and drinks eats and drinks judgment against himself if he does not discern the body. That is why many among you are weak and sickly and quite a few are sleeping in death. But if we would discern what we ourselves are, we would not be judged.”—1 Cor. 11:27-31, NW.
Today practically all those professing to be Christian observe some form of the Lord’s evening meal, either annually, quarterly, monthly, weekly or even daily, as in the mass. Yet in spite of all this observance we find Christendom spiritually sick, even as Paul foretold. (2 Tim. 3:2-5, NW) Surely such widespread spiritual sickness indicates that many are not properly observing the Lord’s evening meal. Then who may partake and under what conditions? Since partaking of the loaf and the cup not only means recognizing what God and Christ Jesus did toward the vindication of Jehovah’s name and the salvation of human creatures, but also means one’s sharing as a member of the body of Christ in his sufferings and death, only such could properly partake as are able to identify themselves as being members of Christ’s body.
Only such may partake who can say, as did Paul: “The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Yes, only those who have put faith in God and in Christ’s ransom sacrifice, and who have dedicated themselves to the doing of God’s will and who then have had awakened in them, upon the basis of their study of the Scriptures and God’s dealings with them, a hope of sharing heavenly glory with Christ Jesus, and regarding whom the apostle John wrote: “Beloved ones, now we are children of God, but as yet it has not been made manifest what we shall be. We do know that whenever he is made manifest we shall be like him, because we shall see him just as he is.”—Rom. 8:16; 1 John 3:2, NW.
However, even these must examine themselves so as to make sure that they are measuring up to what is required of them. There is no particular merit in the partaking of the emblems themselves, aside from an act of obedience, and therefore for one to partake of the loaf and the cup without living up to what these emblems represent would make him guilty of hypocrisy. While countless multitudes have professed to be sons of God with a hope of heaven at death, God’s Word tells us at Revelation, chapters 7 and 14, that the number that will share Christ’s throne in heaven is but 144,000.—Rev. 20:5, 6.
Because only those Christians who have this heavenly hope may properly partake of the Lord’s evening meal, of the 677,099 that attended its observance by Jehovah’s witnesses in 1952 only 20,221 partook of the loaf and the cup. Those not partaking recognized themselves as being of the great crowd that John saw standing before the throne with “palm branches in their hands”; the ones Jesus described as the “other sheep, which are not of this fold”, as the “sheep” who do good to Christ’s brothers and whose hope is not divine, immortal life in the heavens but eternal life in an earthly paradise where they will have the privilege of carrying out the original mandate given to Adam and Eve, namely, ‘fill the earth with a righteous race, subdue it and exercise dominion over the lower animals.’—Gen. 1:28; Matt. 25:31-46; John 10:16; 1 Cor. 15:53, 54; 2 Pet. 1:4; Rev. 7:9; 21:4, NW.
This year Jehovah’s anointed witnesses and their good-will companions will come together on March 30, after 6 p.m., to again celebrate the Lord’s evening meal or supper, to again memorialize Christ’s death. And you, dear reader, whether you profess to be a member of the body of Christ or to be one whose hopes are earthly, are invited to attend and receive a rich blessing.