The Memorial of Christ’s Death and What It Means to You
THE Memorial of Christ’s death, or the “Lord’s Supper” as it also is called, means different things to different people. This no doubt is largely due to a difference in understanding as to its meaning. What is your understanding of it? What does it mean to you? To those who properly understand the Memorial of Christ’s death it means so much that they will leave no stone unturned to celebrate it.
For example, there was an elderly Christian lady in the United States who was bedfast but who had her heart set on celebrating the Memorial of Christ’s death with her Christian brothers. With the help of an ambulance she did attend, but on a stretcher. What a fine example of appreciation she set!
Then, again, there was a Christian witness of Jehovah isolated in a Chinese Communist prison. But even this fact did not keep him from celebrating the Memorial of Christ’s death, as he himself relates:
“Each year I arranged to celebrate the Memorial of Christ’s death in the best way I could. From my prison window I watched the moon grow full near the start of spring. I calculated as carefully as I could the date for the celebration. Of course, I had no way to obtain the emblems, the bread and the wine, and the warders refused to give such things to me. So the first two years I could only go through the motions, using imaginary emblems . . . Then the third year I found some tins of black currants in my Red Cross parcel, and from these I succeeded in making wine, while rice, which is unleavened, served for bread. This year  I had both my wine and some unleavened water biscuits from the Red Cross parcel.”
Going back a little farther, during World War II, many witnesses of Jehovah, particularly those confined to Nazi concentration camps, risked severe punishment, if not also death, to celebrate the Lord’s Memorial. A Christian sister in one of the concentration camps tells us about it:
“Everyone was told to be in the laundry at 11 p.m. Exactly at 11 p.m. we were assembled, 105 in number. We stood close together in a circle, in the midst [of which was] a footstool with a white cloth bearing the emblems. A candle lit the room, as electric light might have betrayed us. We felt like the primitive Christians in the catacombs. It was a solemn feast. We expressed anew our fervent vows to our Father to use all our strength for the vindication of His holy name, to stand faithfully for The Theocracy and to willingly present our bodies as living sacrifices acceptable unto God.”
Similar risks were taken by the Witnesses in Canada and in other lands during those years. In fact, like risks will be taken this very year wherever Jehovah’s witnesses are carrying on underground, as in lands behind the Iron Curtain. No question about it: these appreciate the privilege of celebrating the Memorial of Christ’s death.
OF WHAT IT CONSISTS
To appreciate what the Memorial of Christ’s death means to you, it is necessary for you to know, first of all, of what it consists. Concerning it the apostle Matthew, an eyewitness, wrote: “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” On that occasion Jesus also commanded, as reported by the apostle Paul: “Do this in remembrance of me.”—Matt. 26:26-28; 1 Cor. 11:24, RS.
It was most fitting that Jesus Christ should command that his death be commemorated. Certainly his dying to provide a way for mankind to get free from sin and death and become reinstated in God’s favor marked one of the most noteworthy if not the most noteworthy event to occur upon earth up to that time. Further, by means of his faithful course Jesus set a sterling example for all his followers. And, above all, by reason of Jesus’ continuing faithful until death in spite of all that the Devil and his agents could do to turn him aside, Jehovah God truly gained a notable victory over Satan the Devil, who had boasted that he could turn all men away from Jehovah God.—Job 2:4, 5; Matt. 20:28; 1 Pet. 2:21.
In instituting the Memorial of his death, what did Jesus mean when he said, “This is my body,” and, “This is my blood”? In the absence of any statement in the Scriptures to the contrary, we must conclude that Jesus simply meant the most obvious thing, namely, that the bread and wine stood for, represented or meant his body, his own flesh-and-blood body; not that these had actually become his flesh and blood. That is why some versions read, “This means my body,” or, “This represents my body.” Because the bread and wine are thus symbols, they are properly referred to as “emblems.”
WHEN AND HOW OFTEN?
When and how often should Christians celebrate the Memorial of Christ’s death? The Roman Catholic Church celebrates her version of it, the mass, every day in the year except Good Friday. Others, such as the Christadelphians, celebrate it weekly. Still others celebrate it three or four times a year.
While Jesus himself did not explicitly state just when and how often the Memorial of his death should be celebrated or observed, still reason, the time he chose to institute it and what the rest of the Scriptures bearing on this subject have to tell us, all help us to come to sound conclusions. In the first place, is it not reasonable or logical to commemorate Christ’s death annually? All other noteworthy events are memorialized annually. Celebrating it more frequently would not add anything to its importance but would seem, rather, to detract from it, making it common.
Besides, Jesus both instituted the Memorial of his death and died on what was the most significant date in Jewish history, the fourteenth day of the first month of their religious lunar year, Nisan. This was the night of the Passover, which commemorated the deliverance of the nation of Israel from Egyptian bondage and the sparing or passing over of the firstborn of the Israelites. It marked at once the birth of the nation of Israel and a phenomenal victory for Jehovah God over the Devil-dominated world power of Egypt. More than that, we read, “Christ our passover has been sacrificed.” Since Jesus Christ is here spoken of as a passover sacrifice and the Passover was commemorated annually on Nisan 14, is it not reasonable to conclude that he intended that the memorial of his death should take the place of the Jewish passover in the lives of his followers, all of whom at the time were Jews, accustomed to celebrating the Passover annually, and that on Nisan 14? In fact, early church history records that for some time many Christians celebrated our Lord’s Memorial on Nisan 14.—1 Cor. 5:7, 8.
In keeping with the foregoing the Christian witnesses of Jehovah celebrate the Memorial of Christ’s death but once a year, and that on Nisan 14, which this year begins on March 28, after sundown.
DO YOU PARTAKE?
The question, Do you partake? may seem strange to some of our readers, as it is a common practice in many parts of Christendom for all who attend the celebration of the “Lord’s Supper” to partake of the bread and wine. However, the Scriptures allow for no such indiscriminate observance of it. When Jesus instituted the Memorial he did so with his eleven faithful apostles, to whom he went on to say: “I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones.” It follows, therefore, that only if you are in this covenant with Christ for a kingdom may you partake of the emblems at the Memorial of Christ’s death. Those in this covenant Jesus termed a “little flock,” which they are, comparatively speaking, their number being limited to but 144,000.—Luke 22:29, 30; 12:32; Rev. 7:4-8; 14:1, 3.
Those who are in this covenant for a kingdom are persons who dedicated themselves to do God’s will, were accepted by Jehovah and were then brought forth by His spirit to be spirit sons of his, “born again,” and made members of Christ’s symbolic body. All such can say with the apostle Paul: “The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children. If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified together.”—Rom. 8:16, 17.
If you are among those eligible to partake of the emblems of our Lord’s Memorial, it has a special meaning for you, for it means you are having communion with Jehovah God and Jesus Christ in a sacrificial meal, as it were. (1 Cor. 10:20, 21) It serves as a reminder to you of your unique position as a spiritual son of God and as one of Christ’s brothers. It also reminds you of the fact that you must be faithful until death, even as Jesus was, and that yours is the hope of the “crown of life,” immortality, in the heavens, sharing a heavenly throne with your head, Jesus Christ. It is also for you a time of self-examination, to make certain that you are partaking with an appreciation of the emblems, so that you do not eat and drink condemnation to yourself.—1 Cor. 11:27-34; Rev. 2:10.
IF YOU DO NOT PARTAKE
Today the vast majority of those who are present at the Lord’s evening meal do not partake of the emblems. In fact, at the 1963 celebration of our Lord’s Memorial only some twelve thousand partook, although more than 1.69 million were present; on an average, only one in 138. But you may ask, Why should I attend when I do not partake of the emblems? Of what value is our Lord’s Memorial to me? Of much value! It is to your spiritual interest to show respect for Jesus’ commandment to his footstep followers. You stand to benefit from being present at this “table of Jehovah” even though you may not be a sharer in the symbolic communion sacrifice.
Your being present at the Memorial might be illustrated by your being present at another’s wedding. You yourself are not getting married, but out of love and respect for the bridal couple and the invitation they have extended, you honor them with your presence. So with the Memorial of Christ’s death; all who love the Lord Jesus Christ and his bride, the members of his body, will want to be present. The rehearsing of the victory Jehovah gained by Jesus’ integrity keeping, and of what Christ’s death will mean for all obedient ones of mankind, as well as calling to mind the fine example of faithfulness Jesus set, will greatly strengthen your faith and appreciation. You will be spiritually refreshed by what you see and hear.
But do not make the mistake of concluding that all you need to do is to attend the Memorial of Christ’s death once a year. Apparently this is an easy mistake to make, for that is the only time many are seen at a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s witnesses. Surely one turkey dinner with all the trimmings could not sustain you physically for a whole year, could it? So, too, Christians need to assemble regularly to be spiritually nourished, not only when there is a special spiritual feast, as at the Memorial of Christ’s death. That is why the Christian witnesses of Jehovah attend five meetings each week. They appreciate that “man must not live by bread alone,” and that in view of the rapidly approaching day of Jehovah it is more urgent than ever that they do not forsake the gathering of themselves together.—Luke 4:4; Heb. 10:24, 25.
Of course, even attending all these meetings regularly is not the sum total of what is required of Christians. At such meetings you take in knowledge, you receive; but Christianity consists of more than receiving, it also requires giving. Did not Jesus say, “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving”? Yes, that is why he commanded his followers: “Let your light shine before men.” More than that, he foretold that “this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” This prophecy is, in effect, a command to all his followers to preach that kingdom. Remember, too, that, while “with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness,” it is “with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.”—Acts 20:35; Matt. 5:16; 24:14; Rom. 10:10.
The Memorial of Christ’s death calls attention to the great victory Jehovah God gained over Satan the Devil and what Jesus Christ did for you. It also highlights the example Christ set for his followers. So by all means attend the celebration of the Memorial of Christ’s death on the evening of March 28. But do not let it go at that. Show your appreciation by continuing to associate with those following Christ’s example and share with them in preaching “this good news of the kingdom.”