A Close and Precious Relationship
1, 2. (a) In what way did Jesus become closely related to his “brothers”? (b) How is this tied in with the Lord’s evening meal?
ONE thing stands out very plainly in considering the fulfillment of the picture of Israel’s firstborn, and that is the extremely close relationship brought about by Jehovah between Jesus and the spiritual congregation of the firstborn, who share with him as part of Abraham’s seed. Looking again at Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, we note he stresses this at Hebrews 2:10-18, where he explains that “in bringing many sons to [heavenly] glory” it was fitting “to make the Chief Agent [Jesus Christ] of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” And since these many sons are “sharers of blood and flesh, he [Jesus] also similarly partook of the same things, that through his death he might bring to nothing the one having the means to cause death, that is, the Devil . . . for he is really not assisting angels at all, but he is assisting Abraham’s seed. Consequently he was obliged to become like his ‘brothers’ in all respects, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, in order to offer propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the people.”
2 Yes, these sons are closely related to Jesus as part of the promised seed, but now we wish to draw your attention to another close similarity mentioned, namely, that both Jesus and these “brothers” of his are “sharers of blood and flesh.” This at once makes a close link with the Lord’s evening meal and the truths then discussed by Jesus, which we promised to review.
3. How did Jesus approach the final passover with his disciples?
3 As a faithful Jew, Jesus had always observed the annual passover feast on Nisan 14; but, knowing full well that he would finish his ministry and complete his sacrificial course right on time as the real “passover victim,” he approached this final passover with his disciples as an occasion that would be marked with the utmost significance. Even the choosing of the house where it was to be held was marked by unusual circumstances, an interesting instance of detailed foreknowledge, as Peter and John found to be true, “just as he [Jesus] had said to them.” And then, “when the hour came” and he was reclining at the table with his disciples, he said to them: “I have greatly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.”—Luke 22:7-16.
4. As recorded by Paul, what did Jesus institute at the conclusion of his last passover, and giving what detail?
4 At the conclusion of the passover meal, after observing all its requirements, Jesus initiated something entirely new. Taking the record as given by Paul, given to him by direct revelation “from the Lord,” we read what happened, how 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.’”—1 Cor. 11:23-25.
5. (a) What is outstanding in Jesus’ final discourse to his disciples? (b) What must be guarded against respecting the Lord’s evening meal?
5 In considering this account, including also what Jesus told his disciples that night (recorded at John, chapters 13 to 17), together with related scriptures, it appears there are two main things that are emphasized, namely, benefits received and benefits shared by those who eat the loaf and drink the cup worthily. Those entitled to partake would surely not want to be guilty of eating and drinking “unworthily,” as the apostle warns, so right away we will briefly mention one or two common misunderstandings that give rise to unscriptural views and practices, though held and performed in all sincerity.—1 Cor. 11:27.
6. Is a frequent observance of the Lord’s evening meal justified?
6 First, Jesus’ words: “Keep doing this, as often as you drink it,” do not justify a frequent observance of the Lord’s evening meal. How often was the passover observed? Only once a year, of course, on the anniversary date, Nisan 14, and the Jews could not and would not dream of doing otherwise. On that date, within the same twenty-four hours in which he kept the passover, Jesus died in fulfillment of what was pictured thereby, and he died “once for all time.” Paul said that “as often as you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord.” Logically, therefore, this celebration that serves as a memorial of his death should be observed annually as an anniversary on Nisan 14, which, this year, commences at sundown April 17, 1962.—1 Cor. 11:25, 26; Heb. 9:26.
7. How is the doctrine of transubstantiation proved to be Scripturally untrue?
7 Secondly, Jesus’ words: “This means my body . . . my blood [or, as often translated, This is my body . . . my blood]” do not justify the doctrine of transubstantiation. The bread and wine did not literally become his flesh and blood at that time, as taught by such doctrine. Neither is such supposed miracle repeated by a man serving as a priest at every celebration of the Mass. In no sense whatever does the sacrifice of Christ need to be repeated. This is one of the strongest arguments in the letter to the Hebrews, where Paul says: “Neither is it in order that he [Christ] should offer himself often . . . But now he has manifested himself once for all time at the conclusion of the systems of things to put sin away through the sacrifice of himself.” By that one sacrifice “we [true Christians] have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.”—1 Cor. 11:24, 25; see Hebrews 9:25–10:10.
8. What manner of speech did Jesus often use, and why is this important?
8 Jesus was speaking in a vivid way, as he often did, when he said: “This means [is] my body . . . my blood.” It was in a similar way that he said on another occasion: “I am the door of the sheep.” But who believes for a moment that he literally became a door?—John 10:7.
9. Why is it wrong and harmful to view the Lord’s evening meal as a sacrament?
9 Finally, Jesus did not institute a sacrament, meaning an outward religious rite or ceremony imparting merit to those observing it. It is human nature to trust in outward observances, thinking that somehow a favorable standing in God’s sight is thereby maintained. The nation of Israel made that mistake, and the same thing is seen in Christendom today. Jesus gave only two things of a symbolic nature to his followers, baptism and the Lord’s evening meal, but their observance does more harm than good if the realities pictured thereby have not actually occurred and are not still being carried out in heart and mind and course of action.
10. A study of this subject leads to an appreciation of what good things?
10 But now let us examine the more positive and constructive aspects of this important subject, that we may the better understand and appreciate the grand benefits symbolized at the Lord’s evening meal and bestowed on the spiritual firstborn ones. Not only is pictured the receiving of these benefits, but, even more remarkable, the wonderful way in which they share certain benefits and privileges, not only with one another, but with Christ Jesus and primarily with Jehovah himself.
11. In saying, “This means my body,” what was Jesus referring to?
11 Consider first our Lord’s words when, taking the loaf, he said: “This means my body which is to be given in your behalf.” Upon looking at related scriptures, it is evident Jesus was referring to his own fleshly body. When he came to John to be baptized, Jesus applied to himself the words written long before by inspiration at Psalm 40:6-8, as shown by Paul’s reference to this, when he says: “When he [Jesus] comes into the world he says: ‘“Sacrifice and offering you did not want, but you prepared a body for me.” . . . Then I said, “Look! I am come . . . to do your will, O God.”’” So in carrying out his sacrificial course, “Christ suffered in the flesh,” this culminating in the actual provision of the ransom price when “he himself bore our sins in his own body upon the stake.”—Luke 22:19; Heb. 10:5-7; 1 Pet. 4:1; 2:24.
12. What importance does the Bible attach to the blood of a human creature, and how does this apply in the case of Jesus?
12 But the “man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom,” was, of course, not merely flesh, no more than the “first man Adam [who] became a living soul,” and with whom Jesus was a perfect correspondency. A human living soul is a creature of flesh and blood. In fact, it is the blood, rather than the flesh, that the Bible uses to represent the life or soul. “The blood is the soul,” and “it is the blood that makes atonement by the soul in it.” Hence “by means of him [Jesus] we have the release by ransom through the blood of that one, yes, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his undeserved kindness.” Appropriately, Paul mentions both blood and flesh when describing how Jesus gave up his human existence for his disciples, thus opening up the way to gain life in heaven, the “way of entry into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, which he inaugurated for us as a new and living way through the curtain, that is, his flesh.”—1 Tim. 2:5, 6; 1 Cor. 15:45; Deut. 12:23; Lev. 17:11; Eph. 1:7; Heb. 10:19, 20.
13. What kind of emancipation do Christ’s followers now enjoy?
13 As previously mentioned, not only is the certainty of the heavenly reward for these thus assured, but the fact that Jesus partook of blood and flesh has resulted in a present deliverance from “the authority of the darkness,” for he died that “he might emancipate all those who for fear of death were subject to slavery all through their lives.” What kind of emancipation? Speaking to those brought into the organization or household over which he, the Son, is the appointed head, Jesus said: “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. . . . Moreover, the slave does not remain in the household forever; the son remains forever. Therefore if the Son sets you free, you will be actually free.” What fine benefits are these!—Col. 1:13; Heb. 2:15; 3:6; John 8:31-36.
14, 15. (a) How is drinking given a symbolical significance in the Bible? (b) What is shown by the action of those entitled to eat the loaf and drink the cup, and how do Jesus’ words support this?
14 Ordinarily we eat and drink to sustain life. But this simple action is often given a symbolical significance in the Bible, as when Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, saying: “If you had known the free gift of God and who it is that says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water . . . a fountain of water bubbling up to impart everlasting life.” (John 4:10, 14) Similarly, those entitled to eat the loaf and drink the cup at the Lord’s evening meal are symbolically showing that they gratefully acknowledge the benefits, life benefits, received from Jesus’ sacrifice of his own flesh and blood given in their behalf. Thus it can be said that, figuratively through faith, they are eating his flesh and drinking his blood. If we fail to appreciate the true position, this may sound extreme and even objectionable. Remember, however, that Jesus himself expressed it that way, causing the Jews to murmur against him. Even many of his disciples were shocked and left off following him; though Peter, speaking for the twelve, said: “You have sayings of everlasting life; and we have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God.” The actual words Jesus used, causing such a strong reaction, were these: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread he will live forever; and, for a fact, the bread that I shall give is my flesh in behalf of the life of the world. . . . Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I shall resurrect him at the last day; for my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in union with me, and I in union with him.”—John 6:51, 53-56, 68, 69.
15 These last-quoted words of Jesus remind us of the other aspect of the subject in which we are interested, that is, the sharing of a close and precious relationship, in union with him.
BENEFITS SHARED IN THE NEW COVENANT
16. What was indicated by the setting of the Lord’s evening meal, and by the way Jesus spoke to his Father in prayer?
16 The very setting under which the words were spoken when Jesus invited his eleven faithful disciples to eat the loaf and drink the cup, all reclining at the same table, indicate a friendly and intimate relationship. To illustrate, if you wanted to ask a special favor from an influential man, who replied, ‘Come and see me about it in my office,’ well, you would expect the matter to be discussed in a businesslike way. But if he said, ‘Come home and have dinner with us and we will talk about it then,’ why, you would feel at once that the battle was more than half won. Some of the richest and deepest truths were spoken by Jesus when with his disciples that last night, and in the closing prayer to his heavenly Father, recorded at John, chapter 17. That prayer and even its introduction in themselves show the very close relationship that Jesus himself enjoyed with his Father. He had been speaking to his disciples, looking at them as he talked; then he needed only to ‘raise his eyes to heaven’ and continue talking, but now speaking to his Father. It was as simple as that.—John 17:1.
17. (a) Where do we learn about the new covenant, and what contrast is therein shown? (b) What are the terms of the new covenant?
17 When Jesus took the cup of wine to pass to his disciples, he said: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf.” (Luke 22:20) This reference to a new covenant is very important, both as regards benefits received and also shared. Turning again to the letter to the Hebrews, we find that which helps us to identify this covenant and appreciate its significance. A new covenant implies a contrast with a former, old covenant, and usually the need for something new implies the rejection of the old. On this point Paul says: “In his saying ‘a new covenant’ he has made the former one obsolete. Now that which is made obsolete and growing old is near to vanishing away.” The former one was the old law covenant made with fleshly Israel through Moses as mediator. But Jehovah ‘found fault with the people’ under that covenant, so as far back as the prophet Jeremiah’s day we read that a new covenant was promised, in these words: “‘This is the covenant that I shall conclude with the house of Israel after those days,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘I will put my law within them, and in their heart I shall write it. . . . I shall forgive their error, and their sin I shall remember no more.’”—Heb. 8:8, 13; Jer. 31:33, 34.
18. What two things were effected by Jesus’ shed blood with respect to the new covenant?
18 For a covenant to be made valid, also for iniquity to be forgiven, both require the shedding of blood. “For a covenant is valid over dead victims, . . . and unless blood is poured out no forgiveness takes place.” Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant, validated by his shed blood, which also provides the legal basis for real forgiveness of sins, even to ‘cleansing our consciences,’ whereas the old law covenant, based on animal sacrifices, only made such provision in an outward and typical way, “to the extent of cleanness of the flesh.”—Heb. 9:13, 14, 17, 22.
19. With whom is the new covenant made?
19 With whom is the new covenant made? With those Christians who make up the true church, the “little flock” who share with Jesus in the heavenly throne of his kingdom, beginning with those who shared in that first evening meal instituted by Jesus. He knew that others would be brought into the same relationship, as shown by his prayer: “I make request, not concerning these only, but also concerning those putting faith in me through their word.” (John 17:20) These make up spiritual Israel, in contrast with the nation of fleshly Israel under the law covenant, inaugurated at Mount Sinai. This dealing with spiritual Israel is a different picture, of course, as compared with the one previously discussed, when God dealt specially with the Jewish firstborn before their leaving Egypt. The law covenant was made through Moses with the entire nation, not just its firstborn ones.
20. What must be kept in mind respecting the Bible’s many illustrations?
20 In passing, we point out that the Bible is full of pictures and illustrations, given as “examples” for our benefit today. Each picture has its own meaning and, generally, we should not try to fit one picture in with another, any more than we should do with those many illustrations given in the Christian Greek Scriptures, trying to fit “sheep” in with “soldiers,” or with “living stones.”—1 Cor. 10:11; John 10:14; 2 Tim. 2:3; 1 Pet. 2:5.
21. What procedure governed the offering of communion sacrifices, and what was signified thereby?
21 Looking at the sacrifices that were offered at the old law covenant’s inauguration, we note they included “communion sacrifices.” Briefly, the blood of such sacrifices was sprinkled on Jehovah’s altar, also called a “table,” and the fat was burned thereon as Jehovah’s part of the sacrifice. The officiating priest had the breast and right leg as his portion, and the Israelites presenting this sacrifice ate the remainder of the flesh while at the tent of meeting. At the inauguration ceremony at Mount Sinai the latter feature was observed by “seventy of the older men of Israel,” who represented the people. On such an occasion the Israelites enjoyed special communion with Jehovah at his “table.” At the same time they were forbidden to offer sacrifices to demons at their table, as did the surrounding nations, who practiced false religion.—Lev. 7:11-37; 17:5-7; Ex. 24:9-11; Ezek. 44:16.
22. In what way did Paul link these sacrifices with the Lord’s evening meal?
22 Paul had these things in mind as one of the examples for our benefit when, linking it with the Lord’s evening meal, he wrote to the spiritual Israelites at Corinth: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of the Christ? 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. Look at that which is Israel in a fleshly way: Are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers with the altar? You cannot be drinking the cup of Jehovah and the cup of demons; you cannot be partaking of ‘the table of Jehovah’ and the table of demons.”—1 Cor. 10:16-18, 21.
23. What special fellowship is thereby indicated by the partakers, (a) with one another, (b) with Christ Jesus, and (c) with Jehovah?
23 Summarizing the position, we can see that the Lord’s evening meal is to be viewed as a sacrificial meal, and Christ’s sacrifice is likened to the communion sacrifice as already described. The Christians in the new covenant show by their drinking the cup and eating the loaf that they are sharing and enjoying close communion and precious fellowship: (1) With one another, in the ministry of the new covenant as the united congregation of spiritual Israelites, forming “one body” under their Head, Jesus Christ; also (2) with Christ Jesus, partaking of the benefit of forgiveness of sins through his blood-and-flesh sacrifice, also “sharing in his sufferings,” ‘submitting themselves to a death like his,’ with the hope of being “sharers in divine nature” in the “first resurrection”; and, most important of all, (3) sharing with Jehovah God as the Author of the whole arrangement.—2 Cor. 3:6; Phil. 3:10; 2 Pet. 1:4; Rev. 20:6.
24. On what grounds is the union with Jehovah of prior importance, and how did Jesus stress this in his prayer?
24 On this last point, keep in mind that it was Jehovah who made it possible for Jesus to offer such a sacrifice, hence Paul properly spoke of the “cup of Jehovah” and “table of Jehovah.” It was to Jehovah that Jesus offered the merit of his sacrifice, to be used according to the divine will, first for the benefit of spiritual Israel. It is Jehovah’s new covenant. Jesus laid great emphasis on this close and precious relationship with the heavenly Father in his prayer in behalf of his disciples on that last night with them, praying that “they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in union with me and I am in union with you, that they also may be in union with us, . . . in order that they may be perfected into one, that the world may have the knowledge that you sent me forth and that you loved them just as you loved me.”—John 17:20-26.
25. Where and how did Paul describe the ministry of the new covenant, and how did Peter confirm this?
25 In the summary just given, there are one or two points, not previously discussed, on which we wish to make a few comments. First, regarding the ministry of the new covenant, Paul enlarges on this at 2 Corinthians 3:4–4:6, showing that its glory far outstrips that of the law covenant. He says that “we [Christians] . . . reflect like mirrors the glory of Jehovah,” first ‘our own hearts being illuminated with the glorious knowledge of God by the face of Christ,’ and then, by preaching the good news, reflecting that light and “making the truth manifest” to others. True, the Lord’s “other sheep,” by reason of close association with the remnant of the little flock still on earth, share in this same ministry, but the prior onus or responsibility rests on those in the new covenant, spiritual Israel, described by Peter as “‘a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”—John 10:16; 1 Pet. 2:9.
26. (a) How is the merit of the ransom applied in a special way in behalf of spiritual Israel? (b) What distinction is thus shown regarding the “other sheep”?
26 Again, it is important to remember that the merit of Christ’s sacrifice, applied on behalf of those who become spiritual Israelites, resulting in their justification or being declared righteous by God while still in the flesh, is for a special purpose. It is the divine will that these should be sacrificed with Christ, which could not take place acceptably unless they were first justified. They are then begotten by God as his spiritual sons with a new hope of heavenly life. This is accomplished by the operation of God’s spirit, which also anoints them or gives them legal recognition as members of the body, or congregation, of which Christ is the Head. Here, too, we see a clear distinction as to the “other sheep.” They may suffer and even lay down their lives in taking their stand for God’s kingdom, but they do not sacrifice their hope of life on earth in the restored paradise. God’s spirit operates on their behalf to sustain and equip them in their share of Kingdom service and right conduct, but it does not quicken within them the hope of a heavenly resurrection.—Rom. 5:1, 2; 8:15-17; Col. 1:18.
27. (a) Why should all sheeplike ones attend the Lord’s evening meal? (b) What vital truths are then emphasized for the benefit of all?
27 Having briefly reviewed the marvelous benefits received and the benefits shared by those in the new covenant, also the close and precious relationship into which they enter, we can more fully appreciate what a wonderful privilege is theirs, besides a great responsibility. The “other sheep” should also learn about these important truths, forming a vital part of God’s purpose, even though they cannot enter into them in the sense of experiencing them for themselves. Truly, then, this yearly meeting incorporating the Lord’s evening meal is indeed unique. All sincerely interested people are welcome and should endeavor to attend. Such a meeting is an expression of true worship, for it can be said that all present are in attendance at the “table of Jehovah,” in a symbolic sense, though only those will partake of the emblems of unleavened bread and the wine who have the witness of God’s spirit that they are his spiritual sons, ‘heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.’ But by listening to what is said that evening all will realize afresh the importance of serving Jehovah in the interests of his kingdom in the spirit of undivided and exclusive worship, the importance of keeping clear from any course of action that would identify them as serving at the “table of demons,” and the importance of keeping in close unity with the New World society of Jehovah’s dedicated witnesses, for this is the time when Jehovah has gathered all the sheep “in unity . . . like a flock in the pen.”—Mic. 2:12; John 10:16.
28. What fulfillment did Psalm 116 have with respect to Jesus, and how does it apply to all in the new covenant?
28 Those, however, who know that the heavenly hope is theirs and who have the witness of the spirit as just mentioned, should partake of the emblems, but being careful to do so worthily, “after scrutiny.” These spiritual sons must keep well in mind all that is involved in order to maintain their precious and close unity with one another, with their Lord and Head and, above all, with Jehovah. Appreciating all that they have received at his hands, their prayer should be the same as Jesus prayed, as we know from a certain prophetic psalm: “What shall I repay to Jehovah for all his benefits to me?” Their steadfast determination must likewise be the same as was his, as expressed in that same psalm: “To you [Jehovah] I shall offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and on the name of Jehovah I shall call. My vows I shall pay to Jehovah.” Faithfully fulfilling their sacrificial course, ‘proving themselves faithful even to death,’ they are sustained by Jesus’ glorious promise: “I will give you the crown of life.” What comfort and what strong assurance it must have given to Jesus in his hour of need, likewise to those following the same sacrificial course, to read the word that Jehovah caused to be recorded so long ago for their benefit: “Precious in the eyes of Jehovah is the death of his loyal ones”!—1 Cor. 11:28; Rev. 2:10; Ps. 116:12-19.