This Do in Remembrance of Me

ON THE night of April 6th, devoted Christians all over the world will commemorate the annual Memorial Supper. In the institution of this event, Jesus prepared a very meaningful way for his followers ever since to have brought forcefully before their minds the significance and importance of his sacrifice unto death.

Jesus and his Twelve Apostles had gathered in the upper room to keep the feast of the Passover which was required of them according to Israel’s law. It was in harmony with this type of the killing of the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the first month that our Lord was to die as the antitypical Passover Lamb, “the lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.”—John 1:29

As the Jews were commanded to select the lamb of sacrifice on the tenth day of the month, and to receive it into their houses on that date, Jesus appropriately offered himself to them, when, five days before the Passover, he rode into the city while the multitudes cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 21:9) Five days later, in the same night in which he was betrayed, and in the same day in which he died as the antitypical Lamb, he celebrated the typical Passover of the Jews, eating with his Twelve Apostles the lamb which represented himself—his own sacrifice for the sins of the world.

On this occasion, after the Passover observance was finished, Jesus took some of the remaining unleavened bread and some of the wine, and Instituted a memorial of his own death as the antitypical Passover Lamb. We read concerning this, “As they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples and said, Take eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament [covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matt. 26:26-28) Our Lord’s evident intention was to fix in the minds of his followers the fact that he is the antitypical lamb to the antitypical firstborn. The expression, “This do in remembrance of me,” implies that this new institution should take the place of the former one, which would become obsolete by reason of fulfillment. As it would not have been lawful or proper or typical to celebrate the Passover at any other time than that appointed by God, likewise it is still not appropriate to celebrate the antitype at any other time than its anniversary.

The broken bread, and the wine (the product of the crushed grape) denote suffering and death. Jesus used bread to symbolize his flesh, his perfect humanity, broken in death as a ransom for mankind, and wine to represent his poured-out life. Thus, in the twofold symbolism employed in the Memorial Supper, we are reminded not only that a life had been poured out for us and for the world, but that it was a perfect human life.

How appropriate it is that once each year we should be so forcefully reminded of the basis of our reconciliation with God, and of our eternal salvation from death! As we partake of these emblems we are saying to one another and to the Lord that we recognize our need of his sacrifice on our behalf because of the fact that we are by nature members of a fallen and sinful race. Jesus said on another occasion that the only ones to receive life through him would be those who eat his flesh and drink his blood, and it is this that is symbolized by our partaking of the bread and the cup. Jesus said, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. … Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”—John 6:51-54

It was difficult for the disciples prior to their receiving the Holy Spirit to understand how they could eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood. Noting this, Jesus said in verse sixty-three, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” In other words, we partake of the flesh and blood of Jesus symbolically speaking, by our obedience to his teachings, and to the teachings of the entire Word of God. This means that we do not partake of Christ merely on the evening of the Memorial Supper, but daily throughout the entire course of our earthly pilgrimage. It is through the teachings of the Word that we learn we are sinners and estranged from God. It is through the Word that we learn the need for repentance and the acceptance of Jesus and his redemptive work. It is through the Word that we hear the invitation to consecrate ourselves to the doing of God’s will. We hear Jesus invite us to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow him.—Matt. 16:24

It is through the Word that we are given all the helpful admonitions to faithfulness in laying down our lives in divine service. Through the Word we are counseled to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God; to be submissive to his will, and thus to work out our own salvation, while he works in us to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12,13) And as we give heed to all these wonderful things of the Word of God, as best we can apply them in our lives, we are symbolically speaking, thereby eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of man. Our partaking of the bread and the cup at the Memorial Supper Is merely a reminder of the fact that if we are living up to our privileges we are feasting on Christ through His Word every day of the year.

On that original Memorial night it is specifically stated that Jesus broke the bread and personally offered the cup. How well this signified the willingness of our Lord in offering himself in sacrifice. His body wasn’t broken by others, and his life wasn’t taken from him—but he himself willingly and lovingly laid it down, in the three-and-one-half years of his ministry, enduring suffering and affliction for the Gospel’s sake, and finally a painful death upon the cross. Jesus said, “On account of this the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may receive it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to receive it again. This commandment I received from my Father.”—John 10:17,18, Diaglott

It was the prospect of receiving his life again, that is receiving into his possession the ransom benefits of his sacrificed human life, that inspired him to lay it down. The receiving of it again implied his resurrection from death to a position of power and privilege, which would enable him to bestow the life-giving merit of his ransom price upon, first the church, and then to all the remainder of mankind. Paul tells us in Hebrews 12:2 that this prospect was a joy that was set before him, which enabled him to endure the cross and despise the shame.

In the prophecy of his life recorded in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, it is stated that he was led as a lamb to the slaughter. To save himself he opened not his mouth. He stated to Peter who tried to save him from death, that he could call upon twelve legions of angels for protection, but heeding the desire of Jesus the angels stood aside and allowed him to be so cruelly crucified by men.

He was despised and rejected of those to whom he was sent. Though he knew beforehand through the prophets that Israel would not receive him, yet even so it brought him sadness. He sorrowed at their hardness of heart and wept over Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how oft would I have gathered thee as a hen gathers her chicks, but ye would not. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, feeling so acutely the elements of sin and degradation around him and sympathizing so keenly with human suffering.

It is perhaps hard for us to appreciate what a difficult course of life his was. For the whole time of his ministry he was aware of the exact time and manner of his death! How his humanity must have rebelled at this, and how his love of righteousness and appreciation of his Heavenly Father must have recoiled at the idea of dying the death of the cross, condemned as a blasphemer of God.

Yet it was Jesus’ choice to endure all of this contradiction of sinners against himself, for our benefit, that a way might be prepared for us to follow in his footsteps. The Apostle Paul tells us that after having poured out his human life unto death, having broken himself on earth as the living bread, he, being raised to the divine nature, appeared in the presence of God for us. There he offered the merit of his ransom sacrifice for our justification, and standing upon the foundation of his imputed righteousness we can lay hold upon the words and the deeds of his life as a guide for our discipleship.

In three-and-one-half years of ministry, Jesus was teaching by precept and example the pattern of life that would be required of all who would be his followers. He taught by personal example what was meant when stating that if any man would be his disciple he must take up his cross and follow him. In the cross was represented the sacrificial death that Jesus had consecrated his all to carry out, which involved divesting himself of all personal interests of this world and devoting his time and strength to serving the kingdom of heaven. This brought suffering from the many who opposed him, and his devotion to God was constantly tested in the demands upon his physical strength in serving the people.

The Apostle Paul wrote that we have a partnership in his ministry. When he said that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, he also said that the Lord had given unto us the “word of reconciliation.” (II Cor. 5:18-20) Paul further explained that this makes us the ambassadors of Christ. We represent Christ in the world even now, and through us the Word of reconciliation reaches those who have a hearing ear. But the god of this world has blinded the minds of nearly all mankind, and because of this, Christ’s ambassadors are often repudiated and persecuted. This leads to our suffering with Christ and thereby gives us the opportunity of proving our worthiness to live and reign with him.

This future hope of sharing in his resurrection glory, if faithful in sharing in his suffering and death, was referred to by Jesus when he said that the wine represented his blood of the new testament, or covenant. Centuries before Jesus came to die for the sins of the world, God made a wonderful promise concerning a new covenant which he would make.

“Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake … but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel. … I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”—Jer. 31:31-33

While this promise states that the new covenant will be made with restored Israel first, other prophecies indicate that it will extend to all the world of mankind. With the old covenant made with Israel, there was shedding of blood associated with its establishment. This blood pointed forward to the sacrificial work of Jesus, typifying the fact that he would shed his blood, in order that a new covenant might be established with the world. For this reason Jesus referred to the cup as representing his blood of the new testament or covenant.

The New Covenant was not made at the time of our Lord’s first advent, but what did happen was the beginning of the work of selection and training of those whom Paul referred to as “able ministers of the new testament.” These are the true footstep followers of the Master who are being prepared to be co-administrators with Jesus in the future establishment of the New Covenant under which the world will be blessed. Paul wrote, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament”—II Cor. 3:5,6

No member of the sinful and dying race could qualify for such a high position, but as Paul explains: “Our sufficiency is of God.” God has made a provision through the blood of his Son which qualifies us to share in the fulfillment of his promise to bring all mankind into covenant relationship with him during Christ’s thousand-year kingdom. The blood of Christ is used during the present age to cover the imperfections of those who are being prepared to be associated with him in making the New Covenant. Thus it is properly referred to as the “blood” of that covenant. It will be this same blood, or merit of Jesus’ sacrificed life, that will seal that covenant when it is made with the world of mankind.

When we partake of the Memorial emblems we are not only reminded of the riches of God’s grace to us, but also are expressing our faith and confidence in God’s purpose to extend the blessings of life through Christ to all mankind during the Millennial Age.

Drinking blood was forbidden by the Jewish Law. God said that in the blood was represented life. The blood of the animals sacrificed under the Law arrangement so often symbolized the precious blood of the Redeemer. Because of this it must have seemed strange to the disciples when Jesus said to them that unless they drank his blood they could have no life in them. Now Jesus wanted his disciples to know that they must “drink” his “blood” if they were to have life. When we drink Jesus’ blood we do have life—his life. Paul wrote, “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” (Gal. 2:20) When we present our bodies a living sacrifice our offering is acceptable because we partake of the life provided by Jesus’ shed blood.

We see then, that as we partake of the symbols of Jesus’ sacrifice we appropriate anew to ourselves by faith the merit of that sacrifice; but we do more than this—we re-consecrate our lives to share in that sacrifice. In his letter to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul said: “The cup of blessing which we bless is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (I Cor. 10:16,17) The Greek word which is here translated ‘communion’ has the meaning of ‘partnership’ or ‘sharing.’ We then partake of the justifying merit of Christ’s sacrifice as symbolized in the bread and the cup in order that we, in turn, may also lay down our justified lives in sacrifice, filling up that which is behind of the suffering of Christ. (Col. 1:24) The Revelator wrote, “These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.”—Rev. 14:4

We too, as part of Christ’s body, are required to be broken, to be sacrificed, to share in his sufferings. This we agreed to do when we first consecrated ourselves to the Lord. The eating of the symbolic bread and drinking the symbolic wine is a confirmation of our vow of consecration to share with Jesus in laying down our lives, following closely the example he set for us in his life. “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you … that ye may be children of your Father which is in heaven.”—Matt. 5:44,45

Jesus was a living example of these words. He lived his life in doing good, and died on behalf of even those who hated and despitefully used him. Our Master taught that a consequence of sharing his life would be the sharing also of his suffering and death. A cup was often used as a symbol of participation in a common cause. Jesus asked the two disciples who wished to sit next to him in his kingdom, Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of? He had just explained that they were going up to Jerusalem and there he would be betrayed and condemned to death, delivered to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and the third day rise again. This culmination of his ministry of sacrifice was yet to be experienced before the glory of his kingdom could be achieved. How simply the Lord pointed out that any who would desire to share in his kingdom must through sharing his sacrifice and suffering prove their worthiness. “Ye shall drink indeed of the cup that I drink of.”—Matt. 20:22,23

The Apostle Paul also referred to the Memorial cup as a “cup of blessing.” The word ‘blessing’ is a translation of the Greek word eulogia, meaning ‘eulogy’ or ‘eloquence of language.’ In the Passover celebration of our Lord’s day, the cup was an important feature associated with eulogizing and praising God. To begin the service, the first cup of wine was filled and a special blessing asked upon it before it was passed for all present to drink. Later, before the lamb was eaten, a second cup of wine was filled and, before it was passed, the head of the table gave an account of Israel’s great deliverance from Egypt by the power of God. Then the Hallel (Halleleujah) was sung. This was Psalms 113 and 114 set to music, which speak in prophecy of the majesty of God as manifested through his plan of salvation for all mankind. “Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high, who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill, that he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people.” (vss. 5-8) After the lamb was eaten, third and fourth cups of wine were poured and passed. Associated with this was the singing of the second part of the Hallel, Psalms 115 to 118. Some of these words prophetically speak of Jesus and his suffering. “I was brought low and he helped me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. For thou host delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted.” (Ps. 116:6-10) Still other parts of this beautiful song speak of the Lord’s disciples: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me? I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”—Ps. 116:12-15

As Jesus sat with his apostles he was no doubt considering the various features of God’s plan alluded to in these texts. He realized that they were no longer just prophecies in picture, but that their fulfillment in reality was now due to begin, and all centered in him and his faithfulness to the difficult task at hand. How he must have rejoiced to realize that through him his Heavenly Father would be so greatly praised. And so with the typical Passover thus ended, Jesus took the cup of blessing and filling it again, passed it to his disciples, saying, “This is my blood … which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” What greater eulogy to God could be offered: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16

So it is that when we drink of the cup it is with a deep appreciation of the gracious privilege which has been extended to us of being “crucified” with Christ, for the prospect of sharing in the hope of his resurrection. And our appreciation of this glorious privilege can best be expressed to the Lord by a renewal of our determination to fulfill our vows of consecration, and to let nothing stand in the way of our being faithful unto death.

When instituting the Memorial Supper, Jesus told his disciples that he would not drink the cup with them again until in the kingdom. Then, of course, it will be a cup of unalloyed joy, for all the sacrifice and suffering of the complete Christ company will be finished. Jesus himself was confident of this final outcome of joy and triumph. In another prophetic prayer he is represented as saying to his Heavenly Father, “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Ps. 16:11) What a prospect this is for each one of us, who partake of the cup of sacrifice and suffering.

The privilege of laying down our lives does not imply spectacular demonstrations of sacrifice, but rather the faithful use of the little opportunities we have of rendering service when, and in the manner most needed. We can all cooperate in the general effort to reach and comfort the brethren worldwide, and we should also be on the alert to speak that word of comfort, perform that little act of kindness, and breathe that word of prayer, on behalf of those we know are having special trials. It is at such times that the fellowship of kindred minds means so much.

As again we commemorate Jesus’ death, may we remember and be glad that the great and ultimate purpose of that which we memorialize is the reconciling of the world to God, and let us rejoice that this purpose will be accomplished. May the Memorial Supper this year help to fill our hearts with the same love, and with the desire to comfort all who mourn, and increase our longing for the time when we will have the glorious opportunity of association with Jesus in restoring all the willing and obedient to health and life, and of establishing global peace and happiness.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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