Remembering Christ’s Death

ON TUESDAY EVENING, March 26, groups of the Lord’s people throughout many parts of the world will assemble to partake of the ‘bread’ and the ‘cup’ which memorialize the death of Jesus. Paul wrote, “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death.” (I Cor. 11:26) Jesus died as the antitypical Passover Lamb, the “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) Appropriately, his sacrifice was consummated on the anniversary of the slaying of the original Passover lamb, the night before the exodus of the Israelites from the land of Egypt. This was on the fourteenth day of the nation’s first month of the year, Nisan.

According to the Jewish calendar the fourteenth day of Nisan this year begins at sundown on March 26. This corresponds to the night before Jesus died, when he ate the Passover with his disciples for the last time and asked them to partake of the bread and the cup with him, explaining that these represented his broken body and shed blood. The Lord’s people believe that this yearly anniversary is the only proper time to partake of these Memorial emblems. So again this year they will follow this scriptural custom, and, as they once more ‘remember him’ in this special way, will renew their own vows of consecration to suffer and die with him, inspired by his promise that if they are faithful even unto death they will share with him in his kingdom glory.—Luke 22:29

It is a simple ceremony in which those participating confess their belief in the vicarious atoning work of Christ by partaking of the bread and the cup. Paul wrote that Jesus gave himself as a “ransom,” or corresponding price, for all. (I Tim. 2:3-6) It was the perfect man, Adam, who sinned and brought upon himself and his offspring the penalty of death. The perfect man, Christ Jesus, gave himself in death as a substitute, thus providing a way of escape from death for all mankind. He is a “propitiation,” or satisfaction, for “our” sins—that is, the sins of his followers during this age—and not for ours only, but also for the “sins of the whole world.”—I John 2:2

This provision of God’s grace is operative toward the Lord’s people now upon the basis of faith. The sacrifice of Jesus provided an opportunity for Adam and all his children to be restored to perfection of life as human beings. During the thousand years of Christ’s kingdom this opportunity will be extended to all mankind, those who have died throughout the centuries of the past. This will necessitate an awakening from the sleep of death.—John 5:28,29

During the present Gospel Age, however, the merit of Jesus’ sacrifice is merely imputed, or reckoned, to his followers—they are not actually given new life. The imputation of life through Christ is to make it possible for his consecrated followers to offer themselves in acceptable sacrifice to God and thus be “planted together” in the “likeness” of his death. (Rom. 6:3-5; 12:1) We are ‘crucified’ or put to death with Christ if we accept his invitation to deny ourselves and take up the “cross” and follow him.—Matt. 16:24

When we partake of the emblems which represent the broken body and shed blood of Jesus, we testify that we not only gratefully accept the provision of life thus made through him, but also that we have entered into a covenant with the Lord “by sacrifice,” and desire to be ‘broken’ with Jesus. (Ps. 50:5) This additional, more personal, significance of the Memorial emblems, is mentioned by Paul. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion [does it not represent our partnership] of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion [partnership] of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.”—I Cor. 10:16,17


It is especially appropriate in partaking of the Memorial emblems, and in our preparation for this holy ‘supper,’ to recall at what great cost redemption from sin and death was provided. Think of our Heavenly Father’s love in giving his only begotten Son to suffer and die! And think of what it cost Jesus in terms of mental and physical suffering to be our Redeemer, and the Redeemer of all mankind! To call to mind these examples of Divine love and compassion for the sin-cursed race should beget in us a renewed determination to be faithful in carrying out the terms of our consecration to do God’s will.

Jesus knew from the beginning of his ministry that he was to die sacrificially, and had so announced to his disciples. He had said that he would give his flesh for the life of the world. (John 6:51-56) The disciples did not grasp the reality of this. Even when it became apparent to them that Jesus would be killed by his enemies, they did not understand why it was thus necessary for him to die. This meant that Jesus bore the burden of his last trying hours with little benefit of human companionship, understanding, and comfort.

In the “upper room” (Mark 14:15), Peter professed great love for his Master and his willingness to die for him if necessary, and no doubt he was sincere in this profession of loyalty. But Peter, like the rest, when needed most by his Master, fell asleep. This was in the Garden of Gethsemane. “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me,” Jesus said to Peter, James, and John, whom he asked to accompany him into the garden. (Matt. 26:38) Then Jesus went a little farther, and in his great sorrow, prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matt. 26:39) After thus praying, Jesus returned to the three disciples and found them asleep, and he said to Peter who had professed such great love, “Could ye not watch with me one hour?”—vs. 40

How much it would have meant to Jesus to know that at least one human being was entering into his feelings with some degree of understanding. Yet he was kind to his disciples. He admonished them to “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation,” and added, “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (vs. 41) He knew that Peter and the others really did love him, and that in their hearts they were willing to do all they could to help him.

But a greater test of devotion and love for his Father, and doing of his Father’s will, was yet to come. It was difficult enough to realize that he must stand alone as far as human help was concerned; but he still had his Father to comfort and sustain him. Even in Gethsemane, while the Father did not remove the ‘cup,’ he comforted his beloved Son, and gave him strength to endure the harrowing experiences of being hailed before his accusers, condemned to death, beaten, and hung upon a cross.

Through all of this Jesus was calm and serene, humbly submitting to his Father’s will. When asked by the high priest if he was the “Son of God,” (Matt. 26:63) he was forthright in his acknowledgment of this truth which he knew would seal his condemnation as far as the religious leaders of Israel were concerned. “Thou hast said,” was his reply. (vs. 64) Later, when asked by Pilate if he were a king, Jesus said, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world.” (John 18:37) He knew that in view of this confession of the truth Pilate could do nothing to save his life, for his enemies would press the charge that it was treason against their Roman masters.

Even while hanging on the cross, enduring excruciating pain, Jesus was still composed, and was alert to a final opportunity to bear witness to the Gospel of the kingdom. When the thief asked, “Jesus! remember me, whensoever thou shalt come into thy kingdom,” his reply was, “Verily I say unto thee this day: With me shalt thou be in paradise.” (Luke 23:42,43, Rotherham) While Satan, the prince of this world, was succeeding in putting the “King of kings” (Rev. 19:16) to death, Jesus knew that the long-promised Messianic kingdom would be established, and that then “all the ends of the world” would “turn unto the Lord.” He knew, as had been foretold, that the time would come when, as the great Messiah of promise, he would be “governor among the nations.”—Ps. 22:27,28

As Jesus hung on the cross there came over him the realization not only that he had no human friends to whom he could look for sympathy and comfort, but that now his Heavenly Father had forsaken him. The knowledge of this startling fact may have reached him through the prophetic prayer of Psalm 22, in which incidents that took place while he was hanging on the cross are mentioned. “They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture,” the psalm states.—vs. 18

As he watched the Roman soldiers divide his garments among them, and cast lots for his robe, he doubtless remembered this prophetic prayer, and, as his mind turned back to its beginning, he realized its startling implications. Then it was, realizing what had occurred, the Master began to cry out to his Father in the words of the prayer, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?”—Ps. 22:1

The psalm continues to present the thoughts and petition of Jesus as he hung upon the cross, although he was evidently too weak to utter audibly more than those opening words. In his plea to his Father, he is represented as saying, “Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.”—Ps. 22:4-8

As Jesus hung upon the cross he heard the crowd that watched him actually saying these things. “He trusted in God,” they said, “let him deliver him.” (Matt. 27:43) When Jesus heard these prophesied utterances of the people he would realize that for the moment he was abandoned by his Heavenly Father. Knowing this, he reached out in his prayer to find some basis for renewed hope—“Thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly. Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.”—Ps. 22:9-11

In his agony of mind and body Jesus continued to pray, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.”—Ps. 22:14-16

The Heavenly Father did not continue to hide his face from his beloved Son. For Jesus to fully take the sinner’s place in death it was necessary that the Father temporarily withdraw his favor from him, even as he had withdrawn it from fallen man. But before the end came, Jesus again realized that his Father was sustaining him. This is indicated in the prayer, as it is continued in Psalm 22, “Ye that fear the Lord, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him [permanently]; but when he cried unto him, he heard.”—vss. 23,24

When the end came, Jesus was again seeing the smile of his Father’s countenance, and in faith and confidence he could say, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit,” my life, my all. (Luke 23:46) He had been led as a lamb to the slaughter, and now his sacrifice was finished. The antitypical Passover lamb had been slain, and as we again partake of the emblems which represent his broken body and shed blood we can do so with grateful appreciation of the love which provided redemption and life for us at so great a cost.


While we can rejoice that Jesus’ personal suffering was completed on Calvary nearly 2,000 years ago, the Memorial emblems will remind us that we have not yet completed our sacrifice, and that it is our privilege to fill up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ. (Col. 1:24) To remember him as our Exemplar in faithfulness, in suffering, should be a great incentive to continue following him. Paul wrote, “Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.”—Heb. 12:3,4

As Paul declares, we have not yet ‘resisted unto blood,’ which is a figurative way of saying that we have not yet fully given up our lives, not yet been faithful even “unto death,” as Jesus was. (Rev. 2:10) When we compare ourselves to Jesus, we realize how little we have suffered, and are suffering. This is due in part to the changed attitude of the world toward those whose religious beliefs do not conform to those generally considered to be orthodox. There are still those, of course, who would inflict the death penalty on ‘heretics,’ if civil governments would cooperate.

The Memorial season is an appropriate time to reexamine our own position. Are we facing up to our privileges of sacrifice as faithfully as we intended to do when we first entered the narrow way; or are we, unwittingly, perhaps, taking an easier way? As we consider Jesus at this Memorial time, we will want to make sure that we are among those who continue voluntarily to keep our sacrifice on the altar, regardless of the cost in terms of inconvenience, weariness, misunderstanding, and even suffering; rather than to wait for circumstances to wrest from us that which we offered to the Lord at consecration.

These thoughts will naturally come to mind as we ‘consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself.’ It is only those who endure unto the end who will receive the “great salvation.” (Heb. 2:3) “Ye have need of patience,” wrote Paul, “that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” (Heb. 10:36) James wrote, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation [testing]: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”—James 1:12

The Hebrew brethren, when they were “illuminated,” “endured a great fight of afflictions,” but this was not enough. (Heb. 10:32) Our first-love zeal for the Lord and for his service should be continued, day by day, year by year, even ‘unto death.’ “Let us not be weary in well doing,” Paul wrote, “for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Gal. 6:9) To consider Jesus, and the contradiction of sinners which he endured should do much to prevent our becoming weary and faint in our minds.


Those enlightened by present Truth know that we are living in the end of the age, when the Master is again present as the Chief Reaper in the harvest work. We are in the closing years of the Gospel Age! How many more years we will have the privilege of partaking of the Memorial emblems we do not know, but we are assured that the fruition of our hopes is near. The consciousness of this should give added meaning to this year’s Memorial Supper, and cause us to redouble our efforts in the weeks and months ahead to consider him and to be like him.

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 unmitigated 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 Jesus is represented as saying to his Heavenly Father, “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”—Ps. 16:11

This blessed hope of again being in the actual presence of his Father was one of the joys set before Jesus which enabled him to endure the cross and despise the shame. Paul tells us that Jesus “is [now] set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:1,2) Jesus promised, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”—Rev. 3:21

This, then, is one of the joys set before us, and what a powerful incentive to faithfulness it should be! Now that he who was to come has come, the time is near—so very near—when we shall see his face. John wrote, “We shall see him as he is.” (I John 3:1-3) What a glorious morning of joy that will be in contrast with the present experience of suffering! When we have entered into his presence with joy, and are partaking of the cup with him in the kingdom, how light our present trials will seem as we look back upon them from that vantage point of glory!

As we contemplate the “glory that should follow” the present privileges of suffering with Christ (I Pet. 1:11), we could almost pray for the Lord to hasten the time. Yet we know that he has his own ‘due time,’ and that he knows best what experiences we need, what tests of patience and devotion are essential to prepare us to occupy the place ‘prepared’ by Jesus. So we say to our aching, longing hearts, “Be calm and sink into his will,” assured that the time appointed by Divine wisdom is best.


Jesus, as we have seen, endured those final and excruciating tests alone, so far as human understanding and sympathy were concerned; for a short time losing even the comforting smile of his Heavenly Father. But with us it is different. As little groups of the Lord’s consecrated people come together in “remembrance” of him, (Luke 22:19) each brother, each sister, will realize a sense of companionship, a fraternity of interest and sympathy which should be a great stimulus to all. Even the isolated will know that they have brethren in other places who are thinking of and praying for them.

What a great blessing this is! Jesus admonished that we should “love one another” as he loved us. (I Pet. 1:22) But, just as partaking of the Memorial emblems is merely a symbol of what the sacrifice of Christ means to us, and of our privilege of dying with him, so it is also of the blessedness of interest which exists among the brethren. May the Memorial Supper, then, be a time to renew our determination to lay down our lives for the brethren, and to appreciate more than ever the priceless heritage of fellowship we enjoy with one another even while still tabernacling in the flesh.

The privilege of laying down our lives for the brethren 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 whom we know to be going through special trials. It is at such times that “the fellowship of kindred minds” means so much.


In the twenty-second Psalm, the opening words of which Jesus uttered audibly while hanging on the cross, he is shown as exulting over the triumph of his Father’s cause, and that as a result of his sacrifice the time would come when all the ends of the earth would turn unto the Lord. (vss. 27,28) Even under those trying circumstances Jesus’ thoughts were upon others, and when he had been brought ‘into the dust of death,’ he rejoiced in the purpose of his suffering, rejoiced that all the families of the earth were to be blessed.

May it be so with us, as again we commemorate his 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. This is God’s viewpoint, for he loved the world and gave his Son to be the Redeemer. Jesus also loved the world, and gave his life that the world might live. May this same love, and the Memorial Supper this year, help to fill our hearts a little more fully 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-wide peace and righteousness.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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