“How good and how pleasant it is . . . to dwell together in unity!”—PS. 133:1.
1, 2. What is the most unifying event of 2018, and why? (See opening picture.)
ON March 31, 2018, as the sun begins to set, God’s people and many interested ones will assemble for the annual observance of the Lord’s Evening Meal. As the planet turns on its axis, millions will gather to observe the Memorial of Christ’s death. Each year, this observance is the most amazing unifying event that takes place on planet Earth!
2 We can only try to imagine how Jehovah and Jesus must rejoice as they observe hour after hour millions of earth’s inhabitants attending this special event until that day ends. The Bible foretold that “a great crowd, which no man [would be] able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” would shout: “Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:9, 10) How wonderful that Jehovah and Jesus are honored in this way by means of the annual Memorial observance!
3. What questions will this article answer?
3 Some questions have arisen that this article will answer. (1) How can we individually prepare for the Memorial and benefit from attending it? (2) In what ways does the Memorial influence the unity of God’s people? (3) How can we personally contribute to that unity? (4) Will there ever be a final Memorial? If so, when?
HOW TO PREPARE FOR AND BENEFIT FROM ATTENDING
4. Why is it important for us to be present at the Memorial if at all possible?
4 Reflect on the importance of attending the Memorial. Remember, congregation meetings are part of our worship. Surely Jehovah and Jesus take note of who makes the effort to attend this most important meeting of the year. Frankly, we want them to see that unless it is physically or circumstantially impossible, we will be present at the Memorial. When we show by our actions that meetings for worship are important to us, we give Jehovah added reason to keep our name in his “book of remembrance”—“the book of life”—in which the names of those who are in line to attain to everlasting life are inscribed.—Mal. 3:16; Rev. 20:15.
5. In the days before the Memorial, how can we ‘test whether we are in the faith’?
5 In the days leading up to the Memorial, we can set aside time to examine prayerfully and carefully our personal relationship with Jehovah. (Read 2 Corinthians 13:5.) How can we do that? By ‘testing whether we are in the faith.’ To do that, we do well to ask ourselves: ‘Do I really believe that I am part of the only organization that Jehovah has approved to accomplish his will? Am I doing my utmost to preach and teach the good news of the Kingdom? Do my actions show that I truly believe that these are the last days and that the end of Satan’s rule is near? Do I have the same confidence in Jehovah and Jesus now that I had when I dedicated my life to Jehovah God?’ (Matt. 24:14; 2 Tim. 3:1; Heb. 3:14) Pondering the answers to such questions will help us to keep proving what we ourselves are.
6. (a) What is the only path to life? (b) How does one elder prepare for the Memorial each year, and how might you do something similar?
6 Read and meditate on Scriptural material that discusses the significance of the Memorial. (Read John 3:16; 17:3.) The only path to everlasting life involves “coming to know” Jehovah and “exercising faith” in Jesus, His only-begotten Son. To prepare for the Memorial, why not choose some study projects that will help you to draw closer to Jehovah and Jesus? Consider what one longtime elder has been doing. Over the years, he has collected Watchtower articles that particularly discuss the Memorial and the love that Jehovah and Jesus have shown us. In the weeks prior to the Memorial, he rereads these articles and meditates on the importance of this observance. On occasion, he updates his collection with an article or two. This elder has found that by rereading these articles and by reading and meditating on the Memorial Bible reading, he learns new things each year. Most important, he feels that his love for Jehovah and Jesus deepens each and every year. Such a study project may help you to deepen your love and appreciation for Jehovah and Jesus and thus may help you to benefit more fully from the Memorial.
THE MEMORIAL’S INFLUENCE ON OUR UNITY
7. (a) What did Jesus pray for on the night of the first Lord’s Evening Meal? (b) What shows that Jehovah has answered Jesus’ prayer?
7 On the night of the first Lord’s Evening Meal, Jesus prayed that his followers would all be united and that they would enjoy the same unity that he and his Father treasure. (Read John 17:20, 21.) Jehovah has indeed answered that prayer of his dear Son, and now millions believe that Jehovah sent his Son. The Memorial, like no other meeting of God’s people, provides undeniable evidence of the unity of Jehovah’s Witnesses. People of many nations and skin colors gather together in meeting places around the earth. In some areas, the gathering of these different races at a religious meeting is unheard of or is looked down on by others. But such unity is beautiful in the eyes of Jehovah and Jesus!
8. What message did Jehovah give Ezekiel regarding unity?
8 As Jehovah’s people, we are not surprised at the unity we enjoy. Jehovah, in fact, foretold it. Consider the message he gave to the prophet Ezekiel regarding the joining together of two sticks, the stick “for Judah” and the stick “for Joseph.” (Read Ezekiel 37:15-17.) The “Questions From Readers” published in The Watchtower of July 2016 explained: “Jehovah gave Ezekiel a message of hope promising the unification of the nation of Israel after its being restored to the Promised Land. That message also foretells the unification of God’s people that started to take place during the last days.”
9. How is the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy in evidence each year at the Memorial?
9 From the year 1919 onward, Jehovah first gradually reorganized and reunited the anointed, who were symbolically like the stick “for Judah.” Then, as more and more of those with the earthly hope—symbolically like the stick “for Joseph”—joined the anointed, the two groups became “one flock.” (John 10:16; Zech. 8:23) Jehovah promised to join these two sticks and make them one in his hand. (Ezek. 37:19) Now both groups serve unitedly under one King—the glorified Jesus Christ, who is prophetically spoken of as God’s “servant David.” (Ezek. 37:24, 25) The precious unity described in Ezekiel is clearly evident each year as the anointed remnant and the “other sheep” gather to observe the Memorial of Christ’s death! What, though, can we individually do to preserve and promote that unity?
WAYS WE INDIVIDUALLY CAN PROMOTE UNITY
10. How can we promote unity among God’s people?
10 One way we can promote the unity of God’s people is by cultivating humility. When on earth, Jesus admonished his disciples to humble themselves. (Matt. 23:12) If we are lowly in heart, we will not give in to the worldly spirit of self-exaltation. Rather, our humility will help us to be submissive to those taking the lead, and such an obedient spirit is essential for unity in the congregation. Above all, our humility will please God, for he “opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.”—1 Pet. 5:5.
11. How can reflecting on the meaning of the Memorial emblems help us to promote unity?
11 A second way we can promote unity is by reflecting on the meaning of the emblems used at the Memorial. Prior to that special night—and especially on that night—give serious thought to the significance of the unleavened bread and the red wine. (1 Cor. 11:23-25) The bread represents the sinless body of Jesus offered in sacrifice, and the wine pictures his shed blood. But we need more than just an intellectual understanding of what those emblems mean. Remember that the ransom sacrifice of Christ involved the two greatest expressions of love—the love that Jehovah showed in giving his Son in our behalf, and the love that Jesus showed by willingly offering up his life for us. Reflecting on their love should move us to love them in return. And the love for Jehovah that we and our fellow worshippers share is like a cord that ties us together and strengthens our bond of unity.
12. In his illustration of the king settling accounts, how did Jesus make it clear that Jehovah expects us to be forgiving?
12 A third way we can promote unity is by freely forgiving others. When we forgive those who have offended us, we show that we appreciate the forgiveness of our own sins made possible by Christ’s ransom sacrifice. Consider one of Jesus’ illustrations as recorded at Matthew 18:23-34. Ask yourself: ‘Am I moved to apply what Jesus taught? Do I show patience and understanding to my fellow servants? Am I ready to forgive those who sin against me personally?’ Granted, there are degrees of sin, and some offenses are very hard for imperfect humans to forgive. Yet, this illustration teaches us what Jehovah expects. (Read Matthew 18:35.) Jesus makes it clear that Jehovah will not forgive us if we do not forgive our brothers when there is a sound basis for doing so. What a sobering thought! We protect and preserve our precious unity when we forgive others as Jesus taught us to do.
13. How does proving ourselves to be peacemakers promote unity?
13 When we forgive others, we prove ourselves to be peacemakers. Recall the apostle Paul’s counsel that we should be “earnestly endeavoring to maintain the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:3) During this Memorial season and especially on the night of the Memorial, think deeply about how you treat others. Ask yourself: ‘Do I give clear evidence of being one who does not hold grudges? Am I known for going out of my way to promote peace and unity?’ These are serious questions to ponder at this time of the year.
14. How can we show that we are “putting up with one another in love”?
14 A fourth way to promote unity is by showing love in imitation of Jehovah, the God of love. (1 John 4:8) Never would we want to say regarding fellow worshippers, “I may have to love them, but I do not have to like them”! To think that way is contrary to Paul’s counsel that we should be “putting up with one another in love.” (Eph. 4:2) Note that he did not simply say that we should be “putting up with one another.” He added that we should do so “in love.” There is a difference. In our congregations are found all sorts of people whom Jehovah has drawn to him. (John 6:44) Since Jehovah has drawn them to him, he must find them lovable. How, then, could any of us judge a fellow worshipper as being unworthy of our love? We must not hold back the love that Jehovah commands us to display!—1 John 4:20, 21.
A FINAL MEMORIAL—WHEN?
15. How do we know that there will be a final Memorial?
15 One day the Memorial will be observed for the last time. How do we know? In his first inspired letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote to anointed Christians that by commemorating Jesus’ death each year, they “keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he comes.” (1 Cor. 11:26) The word “comes” here refers to the same event as the “coming” that Jesus mentioned in his prophecy about the time of the end. Regarding the great tribulation just ahead of us, he said: “The sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in grief, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And [Jesus] will send out his angels with a great trumpet sound, and they will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from one extremity of the heavens to their other extremity.” (Matt. 24:29-31) This ‘gathering of chosen ones’ refers to the time when all anointed Christians who still remain on earth will receive their heavenly reward. It will happen after the initial part of the great tribulation has passed but before the battle of Armageddon. Then all of the 144,000 will share with Jesus in conquering the kings of the earth. (Rev. 17:12-14) The last Memorial that is observed prior to this gathering of the anointed to heaven will be the final one, for Jesus will have ‘come.’
16. Why are you determined to be present at this year’s Memorial?
16 May we be determined to benefit ourselves by attending the Memorial on March 31, 2018. And let us ask Jehovah to help us keep contributing to the unity of his people! (Read Psalm 133:1.) Remember, someday the Memorial we observe will be the final one. Meanwhile, may we do our utmost to be in attendance, and may we treasure the pleasant unity experienced at the Memorial.
THE WATCHTOWER—STUDY EDITION