A Precious Observance
“Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19, NAS).
Memorial season is a sober time in which we remember the great sacrifice of our Lord for us and for all mankind. We remember not just the agonies of the last hours of his life, culminating in his death on the cross, but his entire life and ministry. It is also a time to express praise and deep appreciation for all that Christ has done for us.
Although not all agree, it is generally held that the first Memorial was the final Passover meal which our Lord shared with his disciples. Passover was the time to remember the nation of Israel’s miraculous deliverance from the land of Egypt following years of slavery, and to remember how the first-born of Israel were delivered from the death sentence passed upon the land of Egypt.
When all was ready in the upper room, our Lord bid his disciples welcome: “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15 NAS). Jesus knew his time of final suffering and death was near. Although he understood that agony and despair lay ahead, he also knew that this was his Father’s will. He was prepared to do even this part of the will of God.
We, too, should come to Memorial season with an earnest desire for time together with brethren to reflect on the great sacrifice of our Lord and to recommit ourselves to our Heavenly Father. “Do this in remembrance of me” was more of a request than a commandment from our Lord. There was no threat of retribution if we were unable to attend the Memorial service, just an earnest plea “do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:25 NAS).
Memorial, then, should be a time of refreshing and communion as we participate in the benefits of Jesus’ death and resurrection to life: “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?” (1 Corinthians 10:16 NAS).
That first Memorial night was to bring an end to the ceremonial law of the Passover, as it was but a shadow of the things to come. “For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7 NAS). Following the final sacrifice of our Lord, there was no longer a need for his followers to celebrate the Passover, since Christ had now fulfilled all that it had represented.
Significance of the Emblems
Let us recall the circumstances surrounding the Memorial emblems, the unleavened bread and the cup. Jesus declared that these represented his body and shed blood. He gave thanks and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” The evident meaning of his words was that the bread symbolized or represented his flesh. The bread was not actually his body, for it had not yet been sacrificed.
Previously Jesus had said, “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world” (John 6:33 NAS). “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst” (John 6:35NAS). “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51 NAS).
In order to appreciate our participation, it is necessary for us to understand just what the bread signifies. According to our Lord’s explanation of the matter, it was his flesh, which he sacrificed for us. It was not his pre-human existence as a spirit being that was sacrificed, although that was laid down in order that he might receive our human nature. Jesus was a perfect human, holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners without any contamination from Adam, thus enabling him to become the redeemer of Adam’s race, “a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2:3-6).
It was the pure, spotless human nature of our Lord Jesus that was laid down on behalf of sinners. His perfect human life was given to redeem all the race of man from condemnation to death, and to give them an opportunity to gain everlasting life and to return to human perfection.
However, in order for any of the race of Adam to profit by Jesus’ sacrifice, it was necessary for him to be raised from the grave, receive “all power … in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18), ascend to the Father, deposit the merit of his sacrificial death on the mercy seat, and have it accepted by our Heavenly Father.
This power in heaven and in earth will come into effect during the Millennial Age when Jesus will be known to the world of mankind as “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 NIV). Then, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever” (Isaiah 9:7). During his reign with his Church as the mediator between God and man, Christ will re-establish harmony with God and assist man back to perfection. The bread represents the great gift of the ransom — the opportunity for eternal life — which our Lord procured for all who have ever lived.
His shed blood was poured out unto death on our behalf. For the Church and all mankind to be redeemed it was necessary for Jesus’ blood to be shed. It was that sacrifice, poured out over the entire time of his ministry and culminating on the cross, which allowed Jesus to be resurrected as a glorious spirit being and to have within his power the ability to apply the life-giving benefits of his ransom sacrifice on behalf of the Church and the entire race of men. “The first man, Adam, became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45 NAS).
Deeper Meaning of the Emblems
During this current Gospel Age, the Church is justified by faith, in advance of the justification of the world by obedience during the Millennial Age. Those who now appreciate the great sacrifice which Christ made are given the opportunity to present themselves a living sacrifice and to be counted with the Lord Jesus in his sacrifice as members of his Body.
This deeper meaning of the Memorial was not referred to directly by Jesus. It would be revealed to his followers after Pentecost, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when it, the Spirit of truth, comes, it will guide you into all the truth; for it will not speak on its own initiative, but whatever it hears, it will speak; and it will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:12-13 NAS).
This spirit of truth was the power and influence of the Father bestowed through the holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul clearly understood this higher level of significance in the emblems when he wrote to the consecrated Church. “The cup of blessing, for which we bless God — is it not a participation of the blood of the anointed one? The loaf which we break — is it not a participation of the body of the anointed one? Because there is one loaf, we, the many, are one body; for we all partake of the one loaf (1 Corinthians 10:16,17 Emphatic Diaglott).
It is essential that we recognize our justification comes through our Lord’s sacrifice. It is essential that we recognize the entire Church is, from the Divine standpoint, a composite Body of many members, of which Jesus is the Head (1 Corinthians 12:12-14). It is essential that each member become a copy of the Lord Jesus and walk in the footsteps of His sacrifice. We do this by laying down our lives for our brethren as Jesus laid down his life — directly for his Jewish brethren, but really for the entire world according to the Father’s purpose. We can see the beauty and force of Paul’s statement that the Lord’s children are participants together in the one loaf. But it is Jesus’ blood, the virtue of his sacrifice that redeems.
Our Lord distinctly declares that the cup, the fruit of the vine, represents blood — the life shed, given, yielded up — sacrificed. He tells us that this life poured out was for the remission of sins. All that would be his must drink of it, must accept his sacrifice and appropriate it by faith. It will not do for any to claim life comes from outside of Christ. It will not do to declare that life is the result of obedience to the Law. It will not do to claim that faith in some great teacher and obedience to his instructions will amount to the same thing and bring eternal life. There is no way to attain eternal life other than through the blood shed once as the Ransom-price for the whole world. “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Likewise there is no other way by which we can attain to the new nature than to partake of the one Loaf — his ransom — and by accepting the Lord’s invitation to drink of his cup — the sacrificial life — and thus to be buried with him by baptism into his death, and thus to participate in his resurrection glory, honor and immortality (Romans 6:3-5, Roman 2:7).
Let us remember that this privilege of partaking in the memorial is not to be taken lightly. “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine [literally “prove” or “test”] himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup” (1 Corinthians 11:26-28).
This is also brought out by Paul: “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:7,8).
Let us all look forward to the promise of our Lord in Matthew 26:29, “But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”