They Did Jehovah’s Will
Heeding Jesus’ Parting Words
ON THE evening of Nisan 14, 33 C.E., Jesus Christ and his 11 faithful apostles reclined at a table in an upper room in Jerusalem. Aware that his death was imminent, he told them: “I am with you a little longer.” (John 13:33) In fact, Judas Iscariot was already on his way to conspire with wicked men who wanted to have Jesus killed.
No one in that upper room sensed the urgency of the situation more than Jesus did. He well knew that he was about to suffer. Jesus also knew that his apostles would abandon him on that very night. (Matthew 26:31; Zechariah 13:7) Since this was Jesus’ last opportunity before his death to speak with his apostles, we can be sure that his parting words focused on matters of utmost importance.
“Keep Doing This in Remembrance of Me”
With his faithful apostles, Jesus instituted a new observance that would replace the Jewish Passover. The apostle Paul called it “the Lord’s evening meal.” (1 Corinthians 11:20) Taking a loaf of unleavened bread, Jesus said a prayer. He then broke the loaf and gave the bread to his apostles. “Take, eat. This means my body,” he said. Then he took a cup of wine, offered a prayer of thanks and gave it to the apostles, 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.”—Matthew 26:26-28.
What was the significance of this event? As Jesus indicated, the bread represented his sinless body. (Hebrews 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22, 24) The wine symbolized Jesus’ shed blood, which would make possible the forgiveness of sins. His sacrificial blood would also validate the new covenant between Jehovah God and 144,000 humans, who would eventually rule with Jesus in heaven. (Hebrews 9:14; 12:22-24; Revelation 14:1) By inviting his apostles to partake of this meal, Jesus indicated that they would share with him in the heavenly Kingdom.
Regarding this commemorative meal, Jesus commanded: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) Yes, the Lord’s Evening Meal would be an annual event, just as the Passover had been. While the Passover commemorated the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the Lord’s Evening Meal would focus on a much greater deliverance—that of redeemable mankind from enslavement to sin and death. (1 Corinthians 5:7; Ephesians 1:7) Furthermore, those partaking of the emblematic bread and wine would be reminded of their future privileges as kings and priests in God’s heavenly Kingdom.—Revelation 20:6.
The death of Jesus Christ was truly the most important event in human history. Those who appreciate what Jesus did obey his command regarding the Lord’s Evening Meal: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” Jehovah’s Witnesses commemorate Jesus’ death each year on the date corresponding to Nisan 14. In 1996 this date falls on April 2, after sundown. You are warmly invited to attend at a Kingdom Hall in your area.
‘I Give You a New Commandment’
Besides instituting the Lord’s Evening Meal, Jesus had some parting counsel for his apostles. Despite their fine training, these men had much to learn. They did not fully discern God’s purpose for Jesus, for them, or for the future. But Jesus did not try to clarify all these matters at this time. (John 14:26; 16:12, 13) Instead, he spoke about something of great importance. “I am giving you a new commandment,” he said, “that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Jesus then added: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”—John 13:34, 35.
In what way was this “a new commandment”? Well, the Mosaic Law commanded: “You must love your fellow as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) However, Jesus called upon his followers to show self-sacrificing love that would go to the point of giving one’s life in behalf of fellow Christians. Of course, the ‘law of love’ would also apply in less critical circumstances. In all situations a follower of Jesus Christ would take the initiative to display love by helping others spiritually and otherwise.—Galatians 6:10.
On this last night of Jesus’ earthly life, love prompted Jesus to pray to Jehovah God on behalf of his disciples. In part, he prayed: “They are in the world and I am coming to you. Holy Father, watch over them on account of your own name which you have given me, in order that they may be one just as we are.” (John 17:11) It is noteworthy that in this plea to his Father, Jesus prayed for the loving unity of his followers. (John 17:20-23) They needed to ‘love one another just as Jesus loved them.’—John 15:12.
The faithful apostles heeded Jesus’ parting words. We too should comply with his commands. In these critical “last days,” love and unity among true worshipers is more important than ever before. (2 Timothy 3:1) Indeed, true Christians obey Jesus’ commandments and display brotherly love. This includes obeying his command to observe the Lord’s Evening Meal.