The Lord’s Supper Has Great Meaning for You
DOES the Lord’s Supper have significant and lasting meaning for you? To find out, let us first establish the meaning that Jesus Christ himself attached to this special event.
On the evening of Nisan 14, 33 C.E., Jesus assembled with his 12 apostles in an upper room in Jerusalem to celebrate the annual Passover. After they had eaten the Passover meal, traitorous Judas left the room to betray Jesus. (John 13:21, 26-30) To the remaining 11 apostles, Jesus introduced “the Lord’s evening meal.” (1 Corinthians 11:20) It is also referred to as the Memorial, since Jesus commanded his followers: “Do this as a memorial of me.” This is the only event that Christians are commanded to memorialize.—1 Corinthians 11:24, The Jerusalem Bible.
According to Webster’s dictionary, a memorial is something that helps “to preserve remembrance” or “that keeps remembrance alive.” In many places, people erect a monument or designate a special day to memorialize, or commemorate, someone or something significant. In this case Jesus instituted a commemorative meal—a meal that would serve as an aid to memory, helping his disciples to preserve the remembrance of the deeply significant events of that momentous day. For generations to come, this memorial meal would remind observers of the profound meaning of what Jesus did that night, particularly of the symbols he used. What symbols, or emblems, did Jesus use, and what do they mean? Let us examine the Bible account of what took place that night in 33 C.E.
“He took a loaf, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them, saying: ‘This means my body which is to be given in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.’”—Luke 22:19.
When Jesus took the loaf and said, “this means my body,” he was indicating that the unleavened bread was representative of, or was a symbol of, his own sinless fleshly body, which he gave “in behalf of the life of the world.” (John 6:51) Although some Bible translations say “this is [Greek, es·tinʹ] my body,” Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament says that this verb often means “to denote, signify, import.” It conveys the thought of representing, or symbolizing.—Matthew 26:26, footnote.
The same was true of the cup of wine. Jesus said: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf.”—Luke 22:20.
In Matthew’s account, Jesus said regarding the cup: “This means my ‘blood of the covenant,’ which is to be poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28) Jesus was using the wine in the cup as a representation, or symbol, of his own blood. His shed blood was to be the basis of “a new covenant” for spirit-anointed disciples, who would rule as kings and priests with him in heaven.—Jeremiah 31:31-33; John 14:2, 3; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Revelation 1:5, 6; 5:9, 10; 20:4, 6.
The wine in the cup also serves as a reminder that Jesus’ shed blood would be the basis for providing “forgiveness of sins,” thus opening the way for the partakers to be called to heavenly life as joint heirs with Christ. Understandably, those with this heavenly calling—a limited number—are the only ones who partake of the bread and the wine at the Memorial.—Luke 12:32; Ephesians 1:13, 14; Hebrews 9:22; 1 Peter 1:3, 4.
What, though, about all those followers of Jesus who are not in the new covenant? These are the Lord’s “other sheep,” who look forward, not to ruling with Christ in heaven, but to enjoying eternal life on a paradise earth. (John 10:16; Luke 23:43; Revelation 21:3, 4) As “a great crowd” of faithful Christians “rendering [God] sacred service day and night,” they are delighted to be appreciative observers at the Lord’s Supper. Their words and deeds in effect declare: “Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.”—Revelation 7:9, 10, 14, 15.
“Keep doing this in remembrance of me.”—Luke 22:19.
How often should the Memorial be observed in order to preserve remembrance of Christ’s death? Jesus did not specifically say. However, since he instituted the Lord’s Evening Meal on Nisan 14, the evening of the Passover, which the Israelites celebrated annually, it is evident that Jesus intended the Memorial to be commemorated in the same way. Whereas the Israelites annually celebrated their deliverance from bondage in Egypt, Christians annually commemorate their deliverance from bondage to sin and death.—Exodus 12:11, 17; Romans 5:20, 21.
The concept of an annual observance to commemorate a significant event is certainly not unusual. Consider, for example, when a couple celebrate their wedding anniversary or when a nation commemorates an important event in its history. The commemoration usually takes place once a year on the anniversary of that event. Interestingly, for several centuries after Christ, many professed Christians were called Quartodecimans, meaning “Fourteenthers,” because they commemorated Jesus’ death once a year, on Nisan 14.
Simple yet Profound
The apostle Paul explained that observing the Lord’s Supper would enable Jesus’ disciples to “keep proclaiming the death of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 11:26) Hence, this commemoration would focus on the crucial role that Jesus, by his death, played in the outworking of God’s purpose.
By his faithfulness down till death, Jesus Christ vindicated Jehovah God as a wise and loving Creator and a righteous Sovereign. Contrary to Satan’s claims and unlike Adam, Jesus proved that it is possible for a human to remain faithful to God, even under extreme pressures.—Job 2:4, 5.
The Lord’s Supper also preserves appreciative remembrance of Jesus’ self-sacrificing love. Despite severe trials, Jesus remained perfectly obedient to his Father. He was thus able to offer his own perfect human life to cover the enormous cost of Adam’s sin. As Jesus himself explained, he came “to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:28) Consequently, all who put faith in Jesus can have their sins forgiven and receive everlasting life in harmony with Jehovah’s original purpose for mankind.—Romans 5:6, 8, 12, 18, 19; 6:23; 1 Timothy 2:5, 6.*
All of this also highlights Jehovah’s abundant goodness and undeserved kindness in making provision for mankind’s salvation. The Bible states: “By this the love of God was made manifest in our case, because God sent forth his only-begotten Son into the world that we might gain life through him. The love is in this respect, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent forth his Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins.”—1 John 4:9, 10.
Yes, what a marvelous observance the Memorial is! Simple and practical enough to be commemorated worldwide under a wide range of circumstances, yet symbolic enough to remain a meaningful reminder over a long period of time.
Its Meaning for You
The sacrificial death of our Lord Jesus Christ was made at enormous cost both to him and to his Father, Jehovah. As a perfect man, Jesus did not face inherited death as we all do. (Romans 5:12; Hebrews 7:26) He could have gone on living forever. His life could not have been taken, even forcibly, without his allowing it. He said: “No man has taken [my life] away from me, but I surrender it of my own initiative.”—John 10:18.
Yet, Jesus willingly offered his perfect human life as a sacrifice so that “through his death he might bring to nothing the one having the means to cause death, that is, the Devil; and that he might emancipate all those who for fear of death were subject to slavery all through their lives.” (Hebrews 2:14, 15) Christ’s self-sacrificing love is further evident in the manner of death to which he submitted himself. He was acutely aware of the way he would suffer and die.—Matthew 17:22; 20:17-19.
The Memorial also reminds us of the greatest expression of love ever made by our heavenly Father, Jehovah. How distressing for him, who “is very tender in affection and compassionate,” to hear and see the “strong outcries and tears” of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, the sadistic scourging, the cruel impalement, and the slow, agonizing death. (James 5:11, footnote; Hebrews 5:7; John 3:16; 1 John 4:7, 8) Just the thought of it even now, centuries later, causes emotional pain to many.
To think that Jehovah God and Jesus Christ paid such a high price for us sinners! (Romans 3:23) Every day, we face the painful reality of our sinful nature and our imperfections. However, on the basis of faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice, we can appeal to God for forgiveness. (1 John 2:1, 2) This makes it possible for us to enjoy freeness of speech with God and a clean conscience. (Hebrews 4:14-16; 9:13, 14) What is more, we can entertain the prospect of living on a paradise earth for all eternity. (John 17:3; Revelation 21:3, 4) These and many other blessings are all results of Jesus’ supreme act of self-sacrifice.
Showing Appreciation for the Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper is without a doubt a marvelous manifestation of “the surpassing undeserved kindness of God.” And Jehovah God’s provision of the ransom sacrifice—made possible by Jesus’ self-sacrificing love—is indeed his “indescribable free gift.” (2 Corinthians 9:14, 15) Do these expressions of God’s goodness through Jesus Christ not stir in you a deep and abiding sense of gratitude and appreciation?
We are confident that they do. We, therefore, warmly invite you to assemble with Jehovah’s Witnesses in observing the Memorial of Jesus’ death. This year the Memorial will be held on Wednesday, April 16, after sunset. Jehovah’s Witnesses in your locality will be pleased to let you know the exact time and place for this most important event.
For a more thorough discussion of the ransom, please see the book Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
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“THIS IS MY BODY” OR “THIS MEANS MY BODY” WHICH?
When Jesus said, “I am the door” and, “I am the true vine,” no one thought that he was a literal door or a literal vine. (John 10:7; 15:1) Likewise, when The New Jerusalem Bible quotes Jesus as saying: “This cup is the new covenant,” we do not conclude that the cup itself was literally the new covenant. So, too, when he said the bread ‘was’ his body, there can be no question that the bread meant, or symbolized, his body. Thus, the Charles B. Williams translation says: “This represents my body.”—Luke 22:19, 20.
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The unleavened bread and the wine are fitting symbols of Jesus’ sinless body and his shed blood
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The Memorial is a reminder of the great love shown by Jehovah God and Jesus Christ