The Year’s Greatest Celebration—Will You Be There?
You Are Cordially Invited to the MEMORIAL of Jesus Christ’s Death Wednesday March 29, After 6 p.m.
At all Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s witnesses and Various other locations in more than 200 lands
Seats Free No Collection
ANY formal celebration that expects to draw an attendance of more than three and a half million persons certainly must be a very important event. And this it truly is! Now, you may say that you have never attended such a celebration. In that case you no doubt would like to know more about the event. Who sponsors it? Of what significance is it? Why is it so important to attend?
As a matter of history: In the spring of the year 33 of our Common Era (it being Thursday evening or Nisan 14 on the Jewish calendar), the Lord Jesus Christ celebrated the Passover with his twelve apostles. Thereafter, and while they were still reclining around that Passover table, Jesus instituted something new, something that has since then been observed by his faithful followers down to this day. It is called the “Memorial” or the “Lord’s Evening Meal,” and it is celebrated annually “in remembrance” of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice.—Mark 14:22-26; 1 Cor. 11:23-26.
Some of the details of that historic night 1,939 years ago are of special interest. The eyewitness apostle Matthew describes for us what happened. “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. But I tell you, I will by no means drink henceforth any of this product of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in the kingdom of my Father.’ Finally, after singing praises, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”—Matt. 26:26-30.
THE EMBLEMS—WHAT DO THEY MEAN?
What did Jesus mean when he handed the bread and wine to his disciples, saying, according to the Authorized Version, “this is my body . . . this is my blood”? (Matt. 26:26, 28) In relating what Jesus here said, Matthew uses the Greek word es·tinʹ, commonly translated “is,” but he uses it in the sense of “signifies,” “stands for,” “imports,” “represents,” or “means.” Hence the New World Translation, in agreement with Moffatt, reads, “this means my body . . . this means my ‘blood.”’ The Charles B. Williams translation says this “represents my body . . . this represents my blood.”*
Was the loaf of bread a fitting emblem or symbol of Jesus’ literal fleshly body? Yes, for it was unleavened Passover bread. It was free of leaven or yeast, which at times pictures sin and hypocrisy. (Matt. 16:6, 11, 12; Luke 12:1; 1 Cor. 5:7-11) The unleavened loaf fittingly represented the holy and perfect one, Jesus, who was “guileless, undefiled, separated from the sinners” and free of all hypocrisy.—Heb. 7:26; Luke 1:35; 1 Pet. 2:22.
When Jesus’ faithful apostles partook of the bread, they were deriving some nourishment from it. And nourishment is associated with life and existence. Accordingly, acceptance of what the bread represents is comparable to partaking of life-sustaining food. Hence, with reference to the benefits that the sacrifice of his fleshly body would bring, Jesus said of himself: “I am the bread of life. . . . This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that anyone may eat of it and not die. 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.”—John 6:48-51; Heb. 10:10.
There was, however, more to be remembered at this annual observance than the body of Jesus. Therefore, Jesus next passed his disciples a cup of wine, saying, “this means my ‘blood of the covenant,’ which is to be poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins.” (Matt. 26:27, 28) As with the old Mosaic Law covenant, so also the “new covenant” mediated by Christ Jesus would become operative only with the shedding of blood. Also, and in connection with that new covenant, without the pouring out of that precious blood of Jesus, mankind could have no forgiveness of sins. (Heb. 9:17-20, 22; Ex. 24:7, 8) The memorial cup of wine represents and calls to mind this wonderful provision that Jehovah has made for the salvation of mankind, by and through the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ.—Heb. 9:12, 14, 15; 10:28, 29.
If you accept the invitation and come to the annual Memorial celebration you will observe that not many, if any in attendance, will partake of the emblematic bread and wine. Last year, for example, throughout the whole world there were on the average only three partakers in every one thousand in attendance. Who, then, is entitled to partake? First of all, a person would not qualify if he is not a baptized worshiper of Jehovah and actively serving as one of his witnesses, in imitation of Christ Jesus, “the Faithful Witness,” and his apostles. Does this mean that all of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses partake? No. Only a very small percentage of such ones partake of the emblems.—Rev. 1:5; 3:14; John 18:37.
This is understandable in view of what took place when the Memorial was first instituted in 33 C.E. On that occasion there were present only eleven faithful apostles whom Jesus invited to enter into a Kingdom covenant with him. “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.” Jesus also told them “I am going my way to prepare a place for you . . . that where I am you also may be.” (Luke 22:28-30; John 14:1-3; Matt. 19:28) Eventually, those making up this “little flock” of joint heirs and fellow associates of Christ Jesus in the heavens total but 144,000.—Luke 12:32; Rev. 14:1-3.
Today there are only a few thousand of this heaven-bound class remaining on earth, a mere remnant, and these are the only ones entitled to partake of the emblems. In contrast, there is associated with this remnant “a great crowd” of about one and a half million whose hopes are to live on earth forever to be subjects of the Kingdom with its 144,001 rulers. (Rev. 7:9, 10) These many persons with earthly hopes are most happy to attend this annual Memorial observance, for they are interested in the government that will see to it that God’s will is done on earth. But, knowing that they are not in the Kingdom covenant, they do not partake of the emblems. In this way they show an enlightened understanding of matters along with due respect for the occasion.
MAKE SURE YOU ARE THERE
Think of it, in less time than one turn of the earth on its axis, people in more than 200 lands, and speaking more than 160 languages, will commemorate this grand observance. Why, in many countries where Jehovah’s worship is banned, tens of thousands of persons will keep the feast secretly, doing so at the risk of their freedom and perhaps at the cost of their very lives!
Now, do you think that these people would take such risks for a meal of physical food of which the majority will not even partake? Of course not! The spiritual aspects of this important celebration prompt them to attend. The whole attention of those present will be focused on the Source of life, Jehovah himself, and his grand provision for everlasting life through the ransom sacrifice of his beloved Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The death of that one on a torture stake will be remembered, not only because it provided the ransom for mankind, but also because it demonstrated Jesus’ love, devotion and obedience to Jehovah. In this way Jesus proved the Devil a liar in vindication of Jehovah’s Word and name.
Therefore, anyone deliberately staying away from this celebration, on March 29, does well to consider this question: If willful disregard of the ancient Passover was punishable by death, would not a more severe punishment be meted out to one who spurns the Lord’s Evening Meal, trampling on the provision represented by the bread and wine? Surely you will want to accept the invitation to be present for this celebration and, in faith, accept the provision of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice.—Num. 9:13; Heb. 10:26-31.
A footnote on Matthew 26:26 in The New Testament by Geo. W. Clark and J. M. Pendleton, first published in 1884 and reprinted in 1947 by The Judson Press, says: “26. This is my body: not literally, for Christ was present in his body, and the broken bread was visibly not a part of it. The meaning is, This represents my body. So Jesus calls himself a door (John 10:9), a vine (John 15:1), a star (Rev. 22:16). So Paul says, ‘that rock was Christ’ (1 Cor. 10:4); ‘Agar is Mount Sinai’ (Gal. 4:25). Such emblematic expressions are common in all languages, and are easily understood.”