Celebrate the Memorial Worthily
IT WAS on the evening of Nisan 14, 33 C.E., that Jesus instituted the Memorial.* He had just finished observing the Passover celebration with his 12 apostles, so we can be certain of the date. After dismissing the traitor, Judas, Jesus “took a loaf, said a blessing, broke it and gave it to them, and said: ‘Take it, this means my body.’ And taking a cup, he offered thanks and gave it to them, and they all drank out of it. And he said to them: ‘This means my “blood of the covenant,” which is to be poured out in behalf of many.’”—Mark 14:22-24.
Jesus commanded his disciples to commemorate his death because of its importance. (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26) His was the only sacrifice that could redeem humankind from the curse of inherited sin and death. (Romans 5:12; 6:23) The bread and the wine that he used were symbols of his perfect body and his blood. Knowing the original date, we can celebrate the occasion on the corresponding day each year, just as was done with the Jewish Passover. But we must do so worthily. Why?
The apostle Paul said that those partaking of the emblems of bread and wine would “keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives.” (1 Corinthians 11:26) The focus of the celebration would thus be on Jesus’ death and its meaning for mankind. The occasion would be serious, a time for reflecting on God’s goodness and on the appreciation we should have for Jehovah and his Son. (Romans 5:8; Titus 2:14; 1 John 4:9, 10) Therefore, Paul warned: “Consequently whoever eats the loaf or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty respecting the body and the blood of the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 11:27.
Obviously, God would not be pleased if we desecrated the occasion by engaging in questionable practices or by adopting pagan customs. (James 1:27; 4:3, 4) This would preclude the popular events of Easter time. In following Jesus’ instruction to “keep doing this in remembrance of [him],” we would want to observe the Memorial just as he instituted it. (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24, 25) This would rule out the trappings that have been added to the celebration by Christendom’s churches. The New Catholic Encyclopedia admits that “the Mass of today differs greatly from the very simple ceremony followed by Christ and His Apostles.” And by observing the Mass frequently, even daily, Christendom has veered from what Jesus intended and has made it a common event.
Paul wrote the Corinthian Christians about partaking unworthily because a problem had arisen in the congregation in regard to the Lord’s Evening Meal. Some did not respect its sacredness. They brought their supper with them and ate it before or during the meeting. Often they ate and drank to excess. This made them drowsy and dulled their senses. By not being mentally and spiritually alert, they could “not discern the body” and thus became “guilty respecting the body and the blood of the Lord.” Meanwhile, those who had no supper were hungry and also became distracted. Virtually none of them were in a condition to partake of the emblems with appreciation and full realization of the seriousness of the occasion—that the celebration was in memory of the Lord’s death. This resulted in judgment against them, for they were showing disrespect, even contempt, for it.—1 Corinthians 11:27-34.
Some have partaken of the Memorial emblems although, later, they realized that they should not have done so. Those who rightfully partake of the Memorial emblems have been chosen by God and have the testimony of God’s spirit to that effect. (Romans 8:15-17; 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22) It is not their personal decision or determination that makes them worthy. God has limited the number of those who will rule with Christ in the heavens to 144,000, a relatively small number compared with all those benefiting from Christ’s ransom. (Revelation 14:1, 3) The selection began in Jesus’ day, so it follows that today there are only few partakers. And as death overtakes some of them, that number should decrease.
Why might one wrongly partake of the emblems? It may be due to previous religious views—that all the faithful go to heaven. Or it may be because of ambition or selfishness—a feeling that one is more deserving than others—and a desire for prominence. Perhaps it is the result of strong emotions arising from severe problems or a tragedy that makes one lose interest in life on earth. It may also be because of a close friendship with someone who has the heavenly calling. All of us need to remember that the decision is solely God’s, not ours. (Romans 9:16) So if a person, “after scrutiny,” finds that he really should not have been partaking of the emblems, he should now refrain.—1 Corinthians 11:28.
The hope that God has put before most of mankind is that of eternal life on a paradise earth. That is a great blessing to anticipate, and one to which we can easily relate. (Genesis 1:28; Psalm 37:9, 11) It is on earth that faithful ones will be reunited with their resurrected loved ones and will meet the righteous ones of old, such as Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, David, and John the Baptizer—all of whom died before Jesus opened the way to heavenly life.—Matthew 11:11; compare 1 Corinthians 15:20-23.
Those with earthly hopes celebrate the Lord’s Evening Meal worthily by their attendance and respectful attention, even though they do not partake of the bread and the wine. They too benefit by Christ’s sacrifice, which enables them to have a favorable standing before God. (Revelation 7:14, 15) As they listen to the discourse given, their appreciation for sacred things is strengthened, and their desire to remain in unity with God’s people everywhere grows.
This year, after sundown on Tuesday, April 2, the Memorial will be observed in all of the more than 78,000 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses earth wide. Will you be in attendance?
The Jewish day began in the evening. According to our calendar, that Nisan 14 ran from the beginning of Thursday evening, March 31, to sundown of Friday evening, April 1. The Memorial was instituted on Thursday evening, and Jesus’ death occurred on Friday afternoon of the same Jewish day. He was resurrected on the third day, early Sunday morning.
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Jehovah’s Witnesses celebrate the Memorial once each year