“Keep doing this in remembrance of me.”—LUKE 22:19.
SONG 19 The Lord’s Evening Meal
1-2. Why do we attend the Memorial each year?
ALMOST 2,000 years ago, Jesus gave his life in our behalf, opening the way for us to gain everlasting life. On the night before he died, Jesus commanded his followers to remember his loving act by means of a simple ceremony involving bread and wine.—1 Cor. 11:23-26.
2 We obey Jesus’ command because we love him very much. (John 14:15) Each year during the Memorial season, we show our appreciation for what he has done by taking time to meditate prayerfully on the meaning of his death. We also gladly increase our share in the ministry, encouraging as many as possible to join us for this special occasion. And, of course, we are determined not to allow anything to prevent us from attending the Memorial.
3. What will we examine in this article?
3 In this article, we will consider three ways in which Jehovah’s people have made significant efforts to commemorate Jesus’ death: (1) by reestablishing the pattern that Jesus set, (2) by inviting others to the Memorial, and (3) by observing the Memorial despite difficult circumstances.
REESTABLISHING THE PATTERN THAT JESUS SET
4. What truths are highlighted each year at the Memorial, and why should we not take these truths for granted? (Luke 22:19, 20)
4 Each year at the Memorial, we listen to a Bible-based talk that gives clear answers to a number of questions. We learn why mankind needs a ransom and how the death of one man can atone for the sins of many. We are reminded of what the bread and the wine represent and who should partake of them. (Read Luke 22:19, 20.) And we meditate on the blessings that are in store for those who cherish the earthly hope. (Isa. 35:5, 6; 65:17, 21-23) We should not take these truths for granted. Billions of people do not understand them, and they do not appreciate just how valuable Jesus’ sacrifice is. They also do not observe the Memorial of his death according to the pattern he established. Why is that?
5. After most of the apostles died, what happened to the pattern that Jesus set?
5 Soon after most of Jesus’ apostles died, imitation Christians worked their way into the congregation. (Matt. 13:24-27, 37-39) They spoke “twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:29, 30) One of the “twisted things” that imitation Christians eventually began teaching was that Jesus did not offer his body “once for all time to bear the sins of many,” as the Bible says, but that his sacrifice must be repeated over and over again. (Heb. 9:27, 28) Today many sincere people believe this false teaching. They gather together in churches regularly—sometimes daily—to observe what has come to be called “the Sacrifice of the Mass.”b Other religious organizations observe the death of Jesus less often, but most of their members have only a vague notion about what Jesus’ sacrifice has accomplished. Some may wonder, ‘Does Jesus’ death really mean that my sins can be forgiven?’ Why do they ask that question? In some cases, they have been influenced by those who doubt that Jesus’ sacrifice makes possible the forgiveness of sins. How have Jesus’ true followers dealt with this issue?
6. By 1872, what conclusion had a group of Bible students reached?
6 In the late 19th century, a group of Bible students led by Charles Taze Russell began an intensive study of the Scriptures. They wanted to know the truth about the value of Jesus’ sacrifice and how his death should be commemorated. By 1872, they had reached the Bible-based conclusion that Jesus did indeed provide a ransom for all mankind. They did not keep their findings to themselves. Rather, they spread the word by means of books, newspapers, and magazines. And early on, in imitation of the first-century Christians, they began meeting just once a year to observe the Memorial.
7. How are we benefiting from the research of those early Bible students?
7 Today we benefit from the research that those sincere Christian men undertook so long ago. How so? With Jehovah’s blessing, our eyes have been opened to the truth about Jesus’ sacrifice and what it accomplishes. (1 John 2:1, 2) We have also learned that the Bible holds out two hopes for humans who please God—immortal life in heaven for some and everlasting life on earth for millions of others. We draw closer to Jehovah as we consider how much he loves us and how much we personally benefit from Jesus’ sacrifice. (1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 4:9) So like our faithful brothers of the past, we invite others to join us in observing the Memorial according to the pattern Jesus set.
INVITING OTHERS TO THE MEMORIAL
8. What have Jehovah’s people done to invite others to the Memorial? (See picture.)
8 Jehovah’s people have a long history of inviting others to the Memorial. As early as 1881, brothers and sisters in the United States were invited to meet together in a private home in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, for that special occasion. Later, each congregation held its own Memorial. In March 1940, publishers were told that they could invite anyone in their territory who showed interest. In 1960, for the first time, Bethel provided congregations with printed invitations. Since then, billions of Memorial invitations have been distributed. Why do we put forth so much time and effort to invite others?
9-10. Who benefit from our efforts to invite others to the Memorial? (John 3:16)
9 One reason why we invite others to observe the Memorial with us is that we want those who attend for the first time to learn the truth about what Jehovah and Jesus have done for all of us. (Read John 3:16.) We hope that what they see and hear at the Memorial will move them to learn more and to become servants of Jehovah. But others benefit as well.
10 We also invite those who are no longer serving Jehovah. We do so to remind them that God still loves them. Many respond to our invitation, and we are overjoyed to see them. Attending the Memorial reminds them of how much they enjoyed serving Jehovah in the past. Consider Monica’s example.c She was reactivated as a publisher during the COVID-19 pandemic. After attending the Memorial in 2021, she said: “This Memorial has been very special for me. For the first time in 20 years, I’ve been able to witness to people and invite them to the Memorial. I really put my heart into it because I’m so grateful for what Jehovah and Jesus have done for me.” (Ps. 103:1-4) Whether people respond positively to our invitation or not, we diligently invite others to the Memorial, knowing that Jehovah appreciates our efforts.
11. How has Jehovah blessed our efforts to invite people to the Memorial? (Haggai 2:7)
11 Jehovah has richly blessed our efforts to invite people to the Memorial. In 2021, despite the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we had a record attendance of 21,367,603. That is almost two and a half times the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the world! Of course, Jehovah is not concerned about mere numbers. He is interested in individuals. (Luke 15:7; 1 Tim. 2:3, 4) We are convinced that Jehovah uses our invitation work to help us find honesthearted people.—Read Haggai 2:7.
OBSERVING THE MEMORIAL DESPITE CHALLENGING CIRCUMSTANCES
12. What conditions can make it difficult for us to observe the Memorial? (See picture.)
12 Jesus foretold that during the last days, we would face all sorts of difficult circumstances—family opposition, persecution, wars, pestilences, and much more. (Matt. 10:36; Mark 13:9; Luke 21:10, 11) At times, these conditions make it difficult for us to commemorate Jesus’ death. What have our brothers and sisters done to overcome such challenges, and how has Jehovah helped them?
13. How did Jehovah bless Artem’s courage and determination to observe the Memorial while in prison?
13 Imprisonment. Our brothers who are in prison for their faith do what they can to commemorate Jesus’ death. Consider Artem’s example. During the 2020 Memorial season, he was confined to a 17-square-meter (183-sq-ft) cell that contained up to five prisoners at a time. Despite being imprisoned, he was able to collect some items to use as Memorial emblems, and he planned to give the Memorial talk for his own benefit. But his cellmates smoked and cursed a lot. What did he do? He asked them if they could refrain from cursing and smoking for just one hour. To Artem’s surprise, his cellmates agreed not to smoke or swear during the Memorial. Artem says, “I offered to tell them about the Memorial.” Although they said that they did not want to hear about the event, after seeing and hearing Artem observe the Memorial, they asked him all about it.
14. What efforts were made to observe the Memorial despite the COVID-19 pandemic?
14 COVID-19 pandemic. When this pandemic struck, Jehovah’s people could not attend the Memorial in person. But that did not prevent them from observing the Memorial.d Congregations with access to the Internet held the Memorial by videoconference. But what of the millions who had no access to the Internet? In some countries, arrangements were made to broadcast the talk on television or on the radio. In addition, branches recorded the talk in over 500 languages so that even those in remote areas could observe the Memorial. And faithful brothers arranged for the recordings to be delivered to those who needed them.
15. What do you learn from the example of a Bible student named Sue?
15 Family opposition. For some, the biggest challenge to observing the Memorial is family opposition. Consider the example of a Bible student named Sue. In 2021, on the day before the Memorial, Sue told her Bible teacher that because of opposition at home, she would not be able to attend the Memorial. Her Bible teacher read Luke 22:44. Then she explained to her that when we experience difficulties, we should follow Jesus’ example by turning to Jehovah in prayer and by putting our complete trust in Him. The next day, Sue prepared the emblems and watched the special Morning Worship program on jw.org. That evening, while alone in her room, she connected to the Memorial by phone. Afterward, Sue wrote to her Bible teacher: “You encouraged me so much yesterday. I did everything I could to attend the Memorial, and Jehovah really did the rest. I cannot express how happy and thankful I am!” Do you think that Jehovah can help you if you face a similar situation?
16. Why are we confident that Jehovah will bless our efforts to attend the Memorial? (Romans 8:31, 32)
16 Jehovah greatly appreciates our efforts to commemorate Jesus’ death. We can be sure that he will bless us when we show appreciation for what he has done for us. (Read Romans 8:31, 32.) Let us, then, be determined to attend the Memorial this year and to do what we can to increase our share in spiritual activities during the Memorial season.
SONG 18 Grateful for the Ransom
a On Tuesday, April 4, 2023, millions around the world will observe the Memorial of Christ’s death. Many will be present for the first time. Others who were once active Witnesses will join us for the first time in years. Some will have overcome significant obstacles in order to attend. Whatever your personal circumstances, you can be sure that Jehovah will be pleased that you made the effort to be present.
b The worshippers believe that during this observance, the bread and the wine are changed into the body and the blood of Christ. They think that Jesus’ body and blood are, in effect, sacrificed each time someone takes part in this ritual.
c Some names have been changed.
d See also on jw.org the articles entitled “2021 Memorial Commemoration.”
e PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Since the 1960’s, Memorial invitations have been improved and are now available in print and electronically.
f PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Reenactment—Brothers and sisters observe the Memorial during civil unrest.