“This do in remembrance of me (Luke 22:19).
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Remembering our Lord
When we partake of the Memorial each year, there are two aspects to this simple and symbolic feast. The first is that every year we partake, we again commemorate the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. This thought is contained in the Apostle Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 11:26, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” The second aspect to the Memorial is that by partaking, we symbolize our participation with Jesus in sacrifice. The Apostle Paul touches on this in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17. We will review these two aspects of partaking of the Memorial as we prepare our minds for this simple feast.
Commemorating the Lord’s Death
Jesus sent Peter and John ahead of the group to make preparations for their last supper together. He gave them instructions on where, and with whom, to make the necessary arrangements. That evening found Jesus and the apostles gathered together in the upper room. Our Lord opened up the meal by expressing his heart’s desire to his friends. “He said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15- 16). Jesus knew the end of his ministry was at hand and he wanted a final communion with his closest disciples. He still had many things to tell them. There were some lessons he would yet give his apostles, such as the washing of one another’s feet and the parable of the vine and the branches. Also, Jesus desired to tell them more about his departure and his sending the holy Spirit to comfort and guide them. All of these things were on our Lord’s mind as he sat down to eat with his closest disciples. It was at this time that Jesus instituted the Memorial.
“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” (Matthew 26:26). Jesus stated the bread symbolized his body, his flesh, and he passed it around for the apostles to consume.
Jesus was made flesh when he came down to earth during his first advent. “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14 NASB). He was made just like any of us in mankind, a human being, except that he had no sin. He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26). He endured temptations and trials throughout his earthly life and ministry, as we endure during our lives. Yet he remained pure and sinless through them all. “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 NASB). Our Lord proved his obedience and remained faithful in all things. This was necessary so that he could be our redeemer by laying down his perfect life as a ransom for father Adam (Romans 5:18-19).
Jesus worked diligently throughout his earthly ministry. He did not remain idle. He taught the disciples and all those who had a hearing ear about God and His plan. In expounding these teachings, Jesus always deferred credit and honor to the Heavenly Father. He said in John 12:49, “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.” Here, Jesus explains that the words he spoke originated from the Father, not himself. There were other teachers at that time, such as the teachers of the Law. But they often took a proud stance and saw themselves as above others (Luke 18:9-14). In contrast to this, our Lord had a complete humility and devotion to the Heavenly Father’s will and the legacy of his teachings has passed down to us.
Jesus fully spent his entire life doing the will of the Father. He gave all his energy, all his talents, all his time and ability to accomplish the task he was given to do. Ultimately, this led to the giving of his life voluntarily for our salvation. He was the bread, a humble and sinless sacrifice given unto death.
“And when he had taken a cup and given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins’” (Matthew 26:27-28 NASB).
Jesus here identifies the cup as representing his blood, given for the forgiveness of sins. Similar to the bread, he passed the cup around for the apostles to drink from. Going back to the time of the nation of Israel, we read in Leviticus 17:11 (BBE): “For the life of the flesh is in its blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to take away your sin: for it is the blood which makes free from sin because of the life in it.”
God here identifies that the life of any creature is represented by the blood. This makes perfect sense. For as long as there is blood flowing throughout the body, circulating throughout the organs, distributing oxygen and nutrients to the cells of the body, there is life. Take away the blood, and life ceases.
Thus, God instructed the Israelites to treat the blood of all creatures in a special way. They were not to eat of it. They were given special instructions to use it in the animal sacrifices which represented atonement for sins. The animal sacrifices did not accomplish real atonement, but pointed forward to the real sacrifice that would — that of our Lord Jesus. “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12 ESV). Jesus gave his own blood, his own life, as the sacrifice for atonement.
Jesus mentioned that his blood was the blood of the New Covenant. It is our Lord’s sacrifice which makes the fulfillment of the New Covenant possible. It provides a guarantee or seal that the New Covenant will be established at the proper time. By paying the ransom for father Adam, Jesus has made possible the resurrection of all mankind. He made possible the opportunity for man to come in under that New Covenant arrangement, which will begin with the nation of Israel. Paul brings out that Christ has been appointed to be the mediator of this New Covenant in Hebrews 8:6-12 and 12:24. Thus, we see how the cup that our Lord blessed and referred to as his blood represented his sacrificial death, the giving of his human life.
The second aspect of the celebration of the Memorial is our participation in it. Jesus did not simply keep the bread and cup to himself. He instead passed these to his disciples and told them to partake of them. Our consuming of the bread and cup carries with it the thought of our acceptance of our Lord’s sacrifice and our participation in following after him. Partaking of the bread carries with it the following thoughts — we realize our Lord’s sinless sacrifice, we accept him as our redeemer from sin, and we strive to feed on the spiritual food and nourishment he has left us through his example and teachings. Partaking of the cup carries with it the following thoughts — we join with our Lord in laying down our lives voluntarily in sacrifice, and we accept the trials and sufferings that come with walking up the narrow way. We have made this decision to follow in our Lord’s footsteps because we greatly love God and His Son for providing our and mankind’s salvation, and because we desire to show our love to them by giving our all without further delay.
The Apostle Paul makes another point in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 (NASB): “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.” Paul points out that our participation also binds us as a group together, as part of the body of Christ. He said, “we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.” We all have this common goal to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and be faithful unto death. Our Lord Jesus knew that we would have need of each other along this narrow way. This is why he gave us the lesson of washing one another’s feet as well as the commandment to “love one another” (John 13:14, John 15:17). As we go through our own trials and experiences, we can draw strength from one another, help one another, and cheer each other on to victory. As we fulfill our Lord’s command, we will gain a greater heart-communion with him and with our fellow body members.
When we look back on the past year in our respective ecclesias, we will see some difficult trials experienced by the brethren. Some may have experienced the ups and downs of trials of health. This can seem like a roller coaster of uncertainty. Some may have lost loved ones, members of their family or close friends. This leaves a void that will never quite be filled. These are just some of the trials that stand out. Certainly, there are others that go unseen and are endured in secret. Amidst all of these trials and difficulties, despair and discouragement can creep in. These trials are not easy. They are hard and often times heart breaking.
But we are not left without encouragement. Our Heavenly Father knows all that we go through as He is at the helm of our trials. There is nothing that is a surprise to Him. He knows the very hairs on our head (Matthew 10:29-31). Our Father allows these trials for our character development and for us to learn to put our complete trust in Him (Hebrews 12:5-11). He gives us His precious promises to help support us during our times of greatest need. We must remember these precious promises, grasp them, and cling to them. These promises include the promise of the resurrection of all mankind, the promise of His coming Kingdom, the promise that man’s enemy — death — will be destroyed, the promise of always being able to go to the Father in prayer, and the promise that no matter what happens, our Heavenly Father is with us, will not fail us, nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).