“This means my body. . . . This means my ‘blood of the covenant.’”—MATT. 26:26,28.
SONG 108 Praise Jehovah for His Kingdom
1-2. (a) Why can we expect that Jesus would provide us with a simple way to commemorate his death? (b) What qualities of Jesus will we consider?
CAN you describe what takes place at the annual Memorial of Christ’s death? No doubt most of us can recall the basic details of the Lord’s Evening Meal. Why? Because the meal is so uncomplicated. However, this is a significant event. So we might ask, ‘Why is the meal so simple?’
2 During his earthly ministry, Jesus was known for teaching important truths in a way that was simple, clear, and easy to understand. (Matt. 7:28, 29) In the same way, he provided us with a simple yet meaningful way to commemorate * his death. Let us consider closely this Memorial meal and some of the things Jesus said and did. We will appreciate even more just how humble, courageous, and loving Jesus really is, and we will learn how we can imitate him more closely.
JESUS IS HUMBLE
3. As reported at Matthew 26:26-28, how simple was the Memorial meal that Jesus introduced, and what did the two basic items symbolize?
3 Jesus introduced the Memorial of his death in the presence of his 11 faithful apostles. He took what was at hand from the Passover meal and made this simple commemoration. (Read Matthew 26:26-28.) He used only the unleavened bread and the wine that were already on hand. Jesus told his apostles that those two basic items symbolized his perfect body and blood, which he would soon offer up in their behalf. The apostles may not have been surprised at the simplicity of this important new meal. Why not?
4. How does the advice that Jesus gave earlier to Martha help us to understand why Jesus kept the Memorial meal simple?
4 Consider what happened months earlier, during the third year of Jesus’ ministry, when he visited the home of his close friends—Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. In that relaxed setting, Jesus began teaching. Martha was present, but she was distracted with preparing a large meal for her honored guest. Observing this, Jesus kindly corrected Martha, helping her to see that an elaborate meal was not always necessary. (Luke 10:40-42) Later, with just hours remaining before his sacrificial death, Jesus applied his own counsel. He kept the Memorial meal simple. What does this tell us about Jesus?
5. What does the simplicity of this meal show about Jesus, and how does this harmonize with Philippians 2:5-8?
5 In everything that Jesus said and did, he was humble. So it is not surprising that he showed great humility on that last night of his life on earth. (Matt. 11:29) He knew that he was about to offer the greatest sacrifice in human history and that Jehovah would resurrect him to a glorious position in heaven. Even so, he did not draw undue attention to himself by requiring an elaborate observance of his death. Instead, he told his disciples that once a year they should remember him by means of this simple meal. (John 13:15; 1 Cor. 11:23-25) The simple but appropriate meal shows that Jesus was not a proud person. We can be happy that humility is one of the outstanding qualities of our heavenly King.—Read Philippians 2:5-8.
6. How can we imitate Jesus’ humility when we face trials?
6 How can we imitate Jesus’ humility? By putting the interests of others ahead of our own. (Phil. 2:3, 4) Think back to the final night of Jesus’ earthly life. Jesus knew that he would soon experience a painful death; yet, he was deeply concerned about his faithful apostles, who would soon be grieving for him. So he spent the last night instructing, encouraging, and reassuring them. (John 14:25-31) Jesus humbly showed more concern for the welfare of others than for himself. What an excellent example he set for us!
JESUS IS COURAGEOUS
7. How did Jesus show great courage just after he introduced the Lord’s Evening Meal?
7 Just after Jesus introduced the Lord’s Evening Meal, he demonstrated tremendous courage. How so? Jesus accepted his Father’s will for him, even though he knew that doing so meant that he would be executed for the shameful crime of blasphemy. (Matt. 26:65, 66; Luke 22:41, 42) Jesus maintained perfect integrity so as to honor Jehovah’s name, uphold God’s sovereignty, and open the way to endless life for repentant humans. At the same time, Jesus prepared his followers for what they would soon face.
8. (a) What did Jesus tell his faithful apostles? (b) In the years following his death, how did Jesus’ disciples follow his example of courage?
8 Jesus also showed courage by setting aside any anxiety he may have had and by focusing attention on the needs of his faithful apostles. The simple meal, which he introduced after dismissing Judas, would remind those who would become his anointed followers of the benefits of Jesus’ shed blood and of sharing in the new covenant. (1 Cor. 10:16, 17) To help them prove worthy of their heavenly calling, Jesus told his followers what he and his Father expected of them. (John 15:12-15) Jesus also told the apostles of the trials that lay ahead of them. Then, pointing to his own example, he urged them to “take courage!” (John 16:1-4a, 33) Many years later, Jesus’ disciples were still following his self-sacrificing course and displaying courage. At great cost to themselves, they supported one another in their various trials.—Heb. 10:33, 34.
9. How can we imitate Jesus in showing courage?
9 Likewise today, we follow Jesus’ example of showing courage. For instance, it takes courage to assist our brothers who are persecuted because of their faith. At times, our brothers may be unjustly imprisoned. When that happens, we must do all that we can for them, including speaking up in their behalf. (Phil. 1:14; Heb. 13:19) Another way we show courage is by continuing to preach “with boldness.” (Acts 14:3) Like Jesus, we are determined to preach the Kingdom message, even though people may oppose and persecute us. At times, however, we may find that we lack courage. What can we do?
10. In the weeks leading up to the Memorial, what should we do, and why?
10 We can strengthen our courage by thinking about the hope that the ransom sacrifice of Christ makes possible for us. (John 3:16; Eph. 1:7) In the weeks leading up to the Memorial, we have a special opportunity to build our appreciation for the ransom. During that time, keep up with the Memorial Bible reading and prayerfully meditate on the events surrounding Jesus’ death. Then when we gather for the Lord’s Evening Meal, we will understand more fully the significance of the Memorial emblems and the matchless sacrifice that they represent. When we appreciate what Jesus and Jehovah have done for us and understand how it benefits us and our loved ones, our hope grows stronger, and we are motivated to endure courageously to the end.—Heb. 12:3.
11-12. What have we learned so far?
11 So far we have learned that the Lord’s Evening Meal reminds us not only of the precious ransom but also of Jesus’ outstanding qualities of humility and courage. How grateful we can be that Jesus continues to display these qualities as our heavenly High Priest, who pleads in our behalf! (Heb. 7:24, 25) To show our heartfelt appreciation, we must loyally commemorate Jesus’ death, just as he commanded. (Luke 22:19, 20) We do this on the day that corresponds to Nisan 14, the most important date of the year.
12 We can discern from the simple features of the Lord’s Evening Meal another quality that moved Jesus to die for us. As a man on earth, he was known for this quality. What was it?
JESUS IS LOVING
13. How do John 15:9 and 1 John 4:8-10 describe the love that Jehovah and Jesus have shown, and who benefit from their love?
13 Jesus perfectly reflected Jehovah’s intense love for us in everything that he did. (Read John 15:9; 1 John 4:8-10.) Above all, Jesus was moved from the heart to give his life in our behalf. Whether we are of the anointed or of the “other sheep,” we benefit from the love that Jehovah and his Son have shown to us by means of that sacrifice. (John 10:16; 1 John 2:2) Think, too, about the very nature of the Memorial meal; it reveals Jesus’ love and consideration for his disciples. How so?
14. In what way did Jesus show love for his disciples?
14 Jesus showed love for his spirit-begotten followers by instituting, not a complicated ritual, but a simple meal for them to observe. As time passed, those anointed disciples needed to observe the Memorial each year, doing so under various circumstances, including imprisonment. (Rev. 2:10) Were they able to obey Jesus? Yes, they were!
15-16. How have some been able to observe the Lord’s Evening Meal under difficult conditions?
15 Down to modern times, true Christians have sought to commemorate Jesus’ death. They followed the procedure for the Lord’s Evening Meal as best they could, sometimes under difficult conditions. Note the following examples. While in solitary confinement in a Chinese prison, Brother Harold King had to be innovative. He discreetly prepared the Memorial emblems, using what he had on hand. He also calculated the date for the Memorial as carefully as he could. When the time came for the commemoration, he—alone in his cell—sang, prayed, and gave a Scriptural talk.
16 Here is another example. A group of sisters imprisoned in a concentration camp during World War II risked their lives to commemorate the Lord’s Evening Meal. However, because of the meal’s simple nature, they were able to observe the Memorial discreetly. They reported: “We stood close together in a circle, in the midst a footstool with a white cloth bearing the emblems. A candle lit the room, as electric light might have betrayed us. . . . We expressed anew our fervent vows to our Father to use all our strength for the vindication of His holy name.” What outstanding faith they showed! And what love Jesus displayed when he made it possible for us to observe the Memorial even under difficult circumstances!
17. What questions might we ask ourselves?
17 As the Memorial approaches, we do well to ask ourselves the following questions: ‘How can I imitate Jesus more closely in showing love? Do I think more about the needs of my fellow worshippers than about my own? Do I expect more from my brothers and sisters than they can give, or am I aware of their limitations?’ May we always imitate Jesus and show “fellow feeling.”—1 Pet. 3:8.
KEEP THESE LESSONS IN FRONT OF YOU
18-19. (a) Of what can we be sure? (b) What are you determined to do?
18 The requirement to observe the Memorial of Christ’s death will not last much longer. When Jesus “comes” during the great tribulation, he will gather his remaining “chosen ones” to heaven, and the Memorial will cease to be commemorated.—1 Cor. 11:26; Matt. 24:31.
19 Even after the Memorial meal is no longer observed, we can be sure that Jehovah’s people will fondly remember this simple meal as a symbol of the greatest humility, courage, and love ever shown by a human. At that time, those who observed this extraordinary meal will no doubt tell about it for the good of all then living. But to benefit right now from this meal, we must be determined to imitate Jesus’ humility, courage, and love. If we do, we can be confident that we will receive our reward from Jehovah.—2 Pet. 1:10, 11.
SONG 5 Christ, Our Exemplar
^ par. 5 We will soon be attending the Lord’s Evening Meal to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ. This simple meal teaches us much about Jesus’ humility, courage, and love. In this article, we will discuss how we can imitate the precious qualities he displayed.
^ par. 2 EXPRESSION EXPLAINED: To commemorate means to do something special in order to remember and honor an important event or person.
^ par. 56 PICTURE DESCRIPTIONS: Reenactments of faithful servants observing the Memorial in the first-century congregation; in the late 1800’s; in a Nazi concentration camp; and in our day in a modest, open-sided Kingdom Hall in a South American country with a warm climate.