The Anniversary That Must Be Kept by Christians
On April 10, 1960, after sundown, Christians in all parts of the earth will assemble to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ in the way that he commanded. Will you be among them?
EACH year there are many anniversaries celebrated in the name of the Christian religion. But there is only one that is incumbent upon each and every Christian; only one that is expressly commanded by Jesus Christ, the Leader, Teacher and Master of Christians. What is that anniversary? Christmas? No. Easter? No. All Saints’ Day? No. It is the anniversary of the death of Jesus Christ, known as the “Memorial,” the “Lord’s supper,” or the “Lord’s evening meal.” It and it alone is the anniversary that is a must for all Christians.—Luke 22:19.
The importance of the Memorial is indicated by our having received a fourfold record of it. Concerning it the apostle Paul, who received his information by direct inspiration, wrote: “For I received from the Lord that which I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was going to be handed over took a loaf and, after giving thanks, he broke it and said: ‘This means my body which is in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.’ He did likewise respecting the cup also, after he had the evening meal, saying: ‘This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood. Keep doing this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord.”—1 Cor. 11:23-26.
Because this anniversary must be kept by Christians, Jehovah’s witnesses have kept celebrating it even at the risk of their freedom and their lives. Among other places, they did so right in the midst of German concentration camps. Today they continue to do so in spite of bans on their assembling in lands behind the Iron Curtain and in countries such as Red China and Ethiopia.
This year Jehovah’s witnesses throughout the world, from east to west, after sundown, will assemble at their Kingdom Halls on April 10. This date, April 10, is the only red-letter date on their calendar. All persons of good will toward God are invited, yes, urged, to attend. The program, in brief, will consist of song, prayer, a discourse on the meaning of the occasion, the passing of the emblems, concluding remarks and a closing song and prayer.
Why do Jehovah’s witnesses celebrate the Lord’s supper only once each year and why on this particular date? Do not many professed Christians celebrate it several times a year, whereas the Roman Catholic Church, in the Mass, celebrates it every day in the year except on Good Friday? For what good reasons did Jesus command that we should commemorate his death?
To commemorate Jesus’ death annually on the day he died is fitting, logical and Scriptural. Anniversaries of important events are yearly occasions. Does not celebrating such an event more than once a year detract rather than add to it? Besides, Jesus instituted this anniversary on the night of the Jewish passover. It commemorated the passing over or sparing of the first-born and the freeing of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and was celebrated on the same date each year at God’s express command. In passing, it should also be noted that any Israelite who neglected that celebration was “cut off from his people.”—Ex. 13:3-13; 34:18; Num. 9:13.
Why is this celebration held on April 10? Did Jesus die on that day? No, but he died on Nisan 14, which falls on April 10 this year. Nisan 14? Yes, according to the lunar calendar that God gave the Israelites, the year began in the spring with the new moon nearest the spring equinox; the equinox usually falling on March 21, the first day of spring. Nisan or Abib, the first month, began with the visible new moon nearest that date. The celebration of the Passover took place on Nisan fourteenth, by which time the moon was full. With the Israelites, as with the Genesis account of creation, the day began in the evening instead of at midnight. That is why both Jesus’ institution of the Memorial after sundown on Thursday evening and his death the next afternoon took place on the same day.
WHY THE MEMORIAL?
Why did Jesus command his death to be memorialized? Because of its importance to all, from Jehovah down to the lowliest human. More than 4,000 years before, a perfect angelic creature had rebelled against God due to selfish ambition and had induced the first human pair to join him in that rebellion by appealing to their selfishness. He boasted that he could likewise turn all God’s creatures away from God. Thereby this one, Satan the Devil, raised the issue, Who is ruler of the universe? Related thereto was the question, Whose fault was it that Adam and Eve sinned? Had God created them incapable of keeping integrity and yet required it of them? So that the reproach upon Jehovah God that these questions implied might be removed once and for all, God permitted Satan and Adam and Eve to continue for a time; giving Satan full opportunity to prove his boast.—Job, chaps. 1, 2; Prov. 27:11.
Throughout the years faithful men such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Moses have kept integrity, thereby vindicating God and proving the Devil a liar. They did so in spite of all that the Devil could do in the way of temptation and persecution. But could a perfect man keep God’s law perfectly, which was what God had required of Adam and Eve? Jesus, by the time of his death, had done that very thing. His example of faithfulness therefore, above all others, had proved the Devil a lying braggart and cleared Jehovah’s name of reproach. More than that, as a perfect man he had the right to life. By his giving up his human life he could bestow that right upon all deserving humans who had lost it due to Adam’s transgression. So we can see that up to the time of Jesus’ death no more important event had taken place as regards both Jehovah God and all his creatures than Jesus’ vindicating his Father and providing the way to life for all deserving humans. Surely such an event deserves being memorialized if any event does.
The Lord’s evening meal is therefore a memorial to Jehovah’s sovereignty. It forcefully brings home to our minds that He is deserving of our worship and He alone. It magnifies his four marvelous attributes of wisdom, justice, love and power that made possible his vindication and our gaining everlasting life. So by our attending the Memorial of Jesus’ death our appreciation of Jehovah God increases and our gratitude for all he has done for us grows.
The same may also be said regarding Jesus Christ. In fact, it in particular highlights his course of action and what he did and will yet do for us. Although existing in God’s form, the Word—as he was known before coming to earth—was willing to humble himself and become a man and suffer all manner of abuse upon earth while faithfully carrying out his commission to be a witness to the truth. He kept integrity even to the shameful and painful death on the torture stake. Jesus did all this out of love for us as well as out of love for his heavenly Father, thereby making His heart glad. At the Memorial his body that he gave and his blood that he shed for us are pictured by unleavened bread and red wine. How much we are indebted to him! Surely to have these truths so graphically called to our attention is another powerful reason why attending this Christian anniversary is a must for us!—Phil. 2:5-8.
The Lord’s evening meal also causes us to grow in appreciation of what is required of us as Christians. We must imitate Jesus, as we read: “Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely.” His example of keeping integrity in spite of temptation and persecution is set forth for us to follow. And as shown by Jesus’ further remarks on that evening when he instituted the Memorial, as recorded at John, chapters 13 through 17, Christians must bear fruit and so prove themselves his disciples. They must abide in union with Christ, the Vine, and must love one another, even as Jesus loved them. By this fact alone, all men would recognize who truly were his followers. The Memorial, or Lord’s evening meal, therefore causes us to examine ourselves and serves to spur us on to greater efforts to imitate Jesus Christ in keeping integrity.—1 Pet. 2:21.
WHO MAY PARTAKE?
The Memorial’s unique feature is the passing of the unleavened bread and red wine to all in attendance. But do all in attendance partake of them? No; in fact, in many if not in most instances today no one will partake. Why is that? Because the Scriptures show that Jesus instituted the Memorial of his death with those with whom he had made a covenant for his heavenly kingdom, the members of which are limited to 144,000. (Luke 22:28-30; Rev. 7:1-4; 14:1, 3) Last year, of the one and a quarter million in attendance, a mere one in eighty-eight partook. Only those partook who had a firm conviction that God was individually dealing with them as spiritual sons and who therefore had a sure hope of a heavenly destiny.—Rom. 8:15-25.
What about the rest? These are the “other sheep,” the members of “a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations.” Their hope is that of enjoying everlasting life in an earthly Paradise, for someday this earth will be filled with righteous creatures, all worshiping Jehovah God. However, though not partaking of the emblems, they heed Jesus’ command to commemorate his death and are glad that they can be present to profit from the things said and done, for they also need to keep integrity to share in vindicating God’s name and to gain life everlasting.—John 10:16; Rev. 7:9; Isa. 11:9.
So let all men who are well disposed toward God, whether professing to be dedicated Christians or not, attend the anniversary celebration of Christ’s death with Jehovah’s witnesses at one of their Kingdom Halls and be greatly benefited thereby.