Do You Appreciate What Jesus Did for You?
What did Jesus do for you? How can you show that you appreciate it?
CENTURIES ago some used strange ways to show that they appreciated what Jesus did for them—such as persecuting to death those who disagreed with them. Yes, because of lack of knowledge and understanding there has been much confusion as to how to show appreciation for what Jesus did for mankind; and there still is. In fact, there is much misunderstanding also as to who he was and what he did. Who was this Jesus? What did he do for you? How would he have you express your appreciation for what he did for you?
For our answers we need to go to the Bible. From its fourfold record of his life, in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we learn that Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem, that as a young man his trade was that of carpenter and that at the age of thirty he began his career as God’s chief minister on earth, preaching and performing miracles. After but three and a half years his activity was cut short by his being executed on a torture stake on the false charges of being a blasphemer and a seditionist. He himself acknowledged being the Son of God in a unique sense and the long-promised Messiah.—Matt. 16:16, 17; John 5:18.
WHAT DID JESUS DO FOR YOU?
What did Jesus do for you? Even before he was born as a human he did something for you. And what was that? He surrendered his prehuman existence to be born as a human of the virgin Mary. Thus we are told at Philippians 2:5-8 that, although he was existing in God’s form, he was not ambitious to be equal with God but emptied himself of his glory as a spirit to become a human. Though many professed Christians deny his prehuman existence, he himself repeatedly referred to it, as when he stated: “No man has ascended into heaven but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man.” That is why on the night of his betrayal he could pray: “Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you before the world was.”—John 3:13; 17:5.
Because God was his Father and not any human, Jesus was free from sin. Not once did he transgress in thought, word or deed. In spite of the sinful conditions all around him and the opposition he had to face, he could say to his opposers: “Who of you convicts me of sin?” Not one could! As his apostle Peter expressed it: “He committed no sin, nor was deception found in his mouth.”—John 8:46; 1 Pet. 2:22.
And then, as a human, Jesus voluntarily gave up that existence for the benefit of mankind. Being perfect he had the right to life, and this he sacrificed to give humans an opportunity for everlasting life. As he himself stated: “The Son of man came . . . to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” His apostles gave like testimony regarding this: “We behold Jesus, who has been made a little lower than angels, . . . that he by God’s undeserved kindness might taste death for every man.” Jesus’ laying down his human life for mankind not only was the greatest possible expression of love anyone could make, but by it he provided the greatest gift imperfect human creatures could possibly receive, namely, an opportunity for everlasting life.—Matt. 20:28; Heb. 2:9; John 3:16; 15:13.
In addition to giving up his heavenly glory to become a man and then laying down his earthly life as mankind’s redeemer, Jesus did humankind incalculable service by his teaching. As has well been noted, no person ever on earth so powerfully affected humankind for good as did Jesus Christ. He was the Teacher above all teachers. He taught men regarding God’s name, God’s personality and God’s purposes and will for human creatures. Among the outstanding examples of his teaching is his Sermon on the Mount with its “golden rule”: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them; this, in fact, is what the Law and the Prophets mean.” (Matt. 7:12) He also showed what were the two greatest commandments of the Law: to love Jehovah God with all one’s heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself. Nor to be overlooked are his prophecies, the fulfillment of which so clearly shows where we are on God’s timetable.—Mark 12:29-31; Matthew, chapters 24 and 25.
Jesus backed up his teaching by his course of action, giving us the ideal, the perfect example, to follow. He began his career by dedicating himself to do his Father’s will and then being baptized in water. God sent him to earth, primarily to bear witness to the truth, and just before he died he could say to his Father: “I have glorified you on the earth, having finished the work you have given me to do.” (John 17:4) That he intended others to imitate him is apparent from both his own words and those of others: “Come after me.” “Be my follower.” “Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely.” And said the apostle Paul: “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ.”—Matt. 4:19; 19:21; 1 Pet. 2:21; 1 Cor. 11:1.
So what did Jesus do for you? He left heavenly glory and came to earth as a human and laid down that life so that you might gain life, and he left behind much instruction for you to learn and to heed and a perfect example for you to imitate.
SHOWING APPRECIATION FOR WHAT JESUS DID
Today there are more than 900 million persons claiming to be Christian or claimed by religious organizations professedly Christian, between one-third and one-fourth of earth’s population. But how little do the vast majority of these show they appreciate what Jesus did for them! Apparently many feel they are doing quite well if they go to church twice a year, on the big holidays, and keep the Ten Commandments; and many do not even keep these.
If you appreciate what Jesus did for you in coming to earth and dying for your sins, you will exercise faith in him as your Savior. In fact, it is only by doing so that you can hope to benefit from Jesus’ sacrifice, even as Jesus told the Jewish ruler Nicodemus, who came to Jesus under the cover of night: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16.
Note the expression, “exercise faith.” If you appreciate what Jesus did for you in dying for your sins, not only will you believe, agree and give mental assent to the fact that he died for you, but you will act upon that belief, heeding the instructions Peter gave shortly after Pentecost to his Jewish listeners: “Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out.” (Acts 3:19) That implies, on the one hand, sincerely opposing the sinful tendencies in our minds and bodies and, on the other hand, pleading with God for forgiveness of our sins on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice.—1 John 2:1, 2.
And to show appreciation for what Jesus Christ did for you as the great Teacher and Exemplar, requires what of you? First of all, that you familiarize yourself with Jesus’ teachings. This requires studying God’s Word, especially the Christian Greek Scriptures, in which his teachings, are found. Since you will need help to understand and appreciate what you read, you will want to avail yourself of printed Bible study helps and congregational meetings provided for that very purpose. Secondly, that you then make a conscientious effort to apply what you learn in your everyday life. For, as Jesus said: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.” Foremost among the instructions Jesus gave his followers is this: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and [God’s] righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”—Matt. 7:21; 6:33.
COMMEMORATING JESUS’ DEATH
So that we may ever remember and appreciate what Jesus did for us, particularly in his dying for us, Jesus gave a command to commemorate his death. Known in Christendom as the “Lord’s Supper,” it is variously celebrated: daily, weekly, quarterly and yearly. When and how often should it be commemorated? In view of the fact that all important events are commemorated annually and that God himself followed this principle in dealing with his people, the nation of Israel, is it not reasonable that the death of Jesus Christ should also be commemorated annually? Besides, Jesus died on the most noteworthy day in the Hebrew calendar, on which day he also instituted the memorial of his death. So it would seem logical that only annually, and that on Nisan 14, the Passover date, this memorial should be observed. This command has special pertinency at this time, for Nisan 14 this year falls on Friday, April 16, after sundown, or after six p.m., Standard Time.
How should Jesus’ death be memorialized? In the way Jesus indicated when he first instituted it. As we read: “Jesus took a loaf and, after saying a blessing, he broke it and, giving it to his 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.
The bread was unleavened, as that was the only kind the Israelites could have in their homes during the Passover season. This would well represent Jesus’ sinless human body; leaven in the Bible being used at times to represent sin. It was his own human body that Jesus here referred to, not the congregation of his followers, which at times is also referred to as Christ’s body. The wine, being red, was a fit symbol of Jesus’ lifeblood poured out on behalf of his followers and the rest of humankind.—1 Cor. 5:6-8; 1 John 2:2.
At the memorial of Jesus’ death, who may partake of the bread and the wine? All in attendance? That all depends upon who attend. Why? Because it is clear from Jesus’ words at the time, that those with whom he instituted the memorial of his death, the eleven faithful apostles, were with him in a covenant for God’s kingdom: “You are the ones that have stuck with me in my trials; and 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 to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.” From other Scriptural testimony, such as that found at Revelation 14:1, 3 and Re 20:6, those to share such glory with Jesus Christ are limited to 144,000.—Luke 22:28-30.
How can one tell whether he is in line for that honor or not? By God’s dealings with him. It is to such that the apostle Paul’s words apply: “The spirit [of God] itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.” It is to such also that Peter’s words apply: “According to [God’s] great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Jesus spoke of all such as being “born again.” Since this number began to be selected from the time of Pentecost onward, and is limited to 144,000, we can expect that there would be comparatively few remaining to complete that number.—Rom. 8:16; 1 Pet. 1:3; John 3:3.
That is why last year in the observance of the memorial of Jesus’ death among Jehovah’s witnesses only 11,953 partook of the bread and wine although more than 1,809,476 were in attendance throughout the earth. Why should all these others attend the celebration of Jesus’ death when they do not partake of the bread and wine?
For more than one good reason. Thereby they show respect for Jesus’ command to memorialize his death: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” Further, on such occasions there is a Bible lecture for the purpose of increasing the appreciation of the listeners for what Jesus did for them. Also, attendance shows an interest in those who do partake. And from what the apostle John recorded at Joh chapters 13 through 17 of his Gospel, it is apparent that the occasion of the Lord’s evening meal should serve to unify Christ’s followers and increase their love for one another. In fact, it would be well if all who attend the celebration of the Lord’s evening meal would read those five chapters, either before attending or afterward, so as to realize more fully the spirit of the memorial of Jesus’ death.—1 Cor. 11:24.
The Christian witnesses of Jehovah extend a sincere welcome to all lovers of God and his Word, all who would increase their appreciation of what Jesus did for them, to meet with them on Nisan 14, which this year begins on Friday, April 16, after sundown. If you do not know the location of their nearest meeting place or Kingdom Hall, write the publishers of this journal, and they will gladly send you this information.