As Oft as Ye Do This

THE HEBREW MONTH, Nisan, which is the first month of the Jewish sacred or religious year usually begins after the spring equinox. This year, it begins a few days before. It was on the fourteenth day of this month that the Passover lamb was slain, and its blood sprinkled upon the doorposts and lintels of Hebrew homes as a protection against the slaying of their firstborn. The death of Egypt’s firstborn that night was the tenth plague upon the Egyptians, brought upon them by the Lord to induce Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to leave the country and go to the ‘promised land’.

The Scriptures clearly reveal that the slaying of Israel’s Passover lamb prefigured the death of Jesus as “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) It was appropriate, therefore, that Jesus should give his life on the day scheduled for the typical Passover lamb to be slain, and it was on the ‘evening’ of this day—which began at sundown the night before—that Jesus partook of the Passover supper with his disciples for the last time. It was on this occasion that Jesus instituted the only recurring rite or ceremonial enjoined upon his followers—the Memorial Supper—sometimes called ‘Communion’ and the ‘Eucharist’.

It was a very simple ceremony as Jesus outlined it to his disciples, in which unleavened bread and wine—or ‘fruit of the vine’ were used. Paul explained the purpose of this, saying, “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” (I Cor. 11:26) The expression, ‘as often’, has been taken to mean that it is appropriate to partake of the Memorial Supper almost any time, and as frequently as decided practical. We doubt, however, if this is what Paul had in mind. The ceremony is in memory of the death of Jesus, and we believe the only proper time to partake of the ‘bread’ and the ‘cup’ is on the anniversary of his death. If one should say, “As often as we commemorate the birth of Jesus,” we would not understand him to mean as many times in the year as we feel disposed to commemorate the Savior’s birth.

This year, the fourteenth day of Nisan corresponds to Wednesday, March 31. Since the Biblical day begins at sundown, it means Nisan 14 begins about six o’clock on Tuesday, March 30. After six o’clock that evening, therefore, would be the appropriate time this year to partake of the Memorial Supper commemorating the death of Jesus as our Redeemer, and the Redeemer of the whole world.


The fact that Jesus instituted the Memorial Supper while he and his disciples were together partaking of the Passover does not imply that this new ceremony is simply a revision of the old, although there is a close relationship between the two. As we have seen, Jesus was the antitypical Passover Lamb. With his death, the yearly sacrifice of the typical Passover lamb officially ended, because the true Lamb which it prefigured had come and had shed his blood in order that all who come under its protection might have life.

The new rite was intended to be, not a revision of the old, but a commemoration of that which the old prefigured, a memorial of the antitype. As Paul explained, it is to ‘show the Lord’s death’. In this ceremony we ‘show’ the Lord’s death by partaking of the ‘bread’ which represents his sacrificed body, and the ‘cup’, which symbolizes his shed blood. Concerning the bread, Jesus said [in the words of the Apostle Paul]: “Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.”—I Cor. 11:24; Luke 22:19

Jesus did not mean by this that the bread was actually his body, as taught by some, for his literal body of flesh was still living when he gave this command. Clearly, what Jesus meant was that it represented his body. On a previous occasion, the Master had taught his disciples that he would give his flesh for the life of the world. (John 6:51) In this lesson he likened his flesh to the manna which his Heavenly Father had provided for Israel during their wilderness journey, adding, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven.”

This is pictorial language, beautifully symbolizing the precious truth of the Bible that those who accept God’s grace through Christ will have everlasting life. The manna which fell in the wilderness sustained the lives of the Israelites for forty years, but the antitypical ‘manna from heaven’ has nourishing qualities sufficient to sustain life forever. This living ‘bread’ had to be broken; that is, it was essential for Jesus to die, thus taking the sinner’s place, in order for it to possess life-giving qualities. So Jesus broke the symbolic bread, that this great truth of the Divine plan might the more indelibly be impressed upon the hearts and minds of the disciples. May we appreciate this vital truth more keenly as we ‘take, eat’ on the evening of March 30th.


“After the same manner also he took the cup,” Paul relates, “saying, This cup is the New Testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.” (I Cor. 11:25) “The blood is the life”, the Lord told the Israelites. (Deut. 12:23; Lev. 17:11) Thus, in partaking of that which represents Jesus’ blood, it is with the thought that we get life from him. “The sting of death is sin,” Paul tells us (I Cor. 15:56), meaning that sin, like a poisonous serpent, has stung and continues to sting the human race to death. However, as the Apostle John writes, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (I John 1:7) When cleansed from the venom of sin, and feeding upon the ‘broken’ body of the ‘slain Lamb’, we have life—by faith now, and actually in the resurrection.


A long time before Jesus came to die for the sins of the world, God made a wonderful promise concerning a New Covenant which he would make with his people. The promise reads:

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”—Jer. 31:31-34

According to this promise, the New Covenant will first be made with the regathered Israelites in their ‘promised land’, but its blessings will be extended to all mankind. This is clearly indicated by the prophecy recorded in Ezekiel 16:55-63.

There was shedding of blood associated with the establishment of the original Law Covenant with Israel. (Exod. 24:6-8) This blood pointed forward to the sacrificial work of Jesus, typifying the fact that he would shed his blood—or give up his life—in order that a New Covenant might be established with Israel and with the world. Thus, when Jesus invited his disciples to drink of the ‘cup’ which represented his blood, he said it was the ‘blood of the New Testament’, or New Covenant.

This does not mean that the New Covenant was made with the ‘house of Israel, and with the house of Judah’ at the time of our Lord’s First Advent. What did begin then was the selection and training of those who would be, as Paul describes them, ‘able ministers of the New Testament’. These are the true footstep followers of the Master who, in addition to being prepared to reign with him in his kingdom, are also to be co-mediators with him in making the promised New Covenant.

The Apostle Paul gives us a beautiful thought in relation to this high office to which we have been called, saying, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament.” (II Cor. 3:5,6) How true it is that no member of the sinful and dying human race could qualify for such a high position because of his own righteousness. But, as Paul explains, ‘our sufficiency is of God’. Yes, he has made a loving provision through the blood of his Son, which qualifies us to be “labourers together with God” (I Cor. 3:9) in fulfillment of his promises to bring all mankind into covenant relationship with him during the thousand years of Christ’s reign.—II Cor. 6:4; II Tim. 2:12

Because the blood of Christ is used during the present age to cover the blemishes of his followers, and make their sacrifice acceptable to God, it is properly called the blood of the New Testament. And it will be this same blood—that is, the merit of Jesus’ sacrificed life—that will seal that covenant when it is made with the people. Thus, when we partake of the Memorial emblems, we are not only reminding ourselves of the riches of Divine grace on our own behalf, but also expressing our confidence in the larger purpose of God to extend the blessings of life through Christ to all mankind—Jew and Gentile.

Drinking blood was forbidden by the Jewish Law. It must have seemed strange to the disciples, therefore, when Jesus said to them that unless they drank his blood they could have no life in them; and also when later he commanded them to drink of the “cup” which represented his blood. (John 6:53; Matt. 26:27,28) Possibly one reason the Jews were forbidden to drink blood was that it symbolized the precious and sacred blood of the Redeemer. And now Jesus wanted his disciples to know that they could and must ‘drink’ his ‘blood’ if they were to have life.

But there is a further thought associated with this, which is that we have the privilege of dying with Jesus, of laying down our lives sacrificially with him. Of ourselves we have nothing to offer to the Lord in sacrifice which would be acceptable to him. We have no life, because we are under condemnation to death. But when we ‘drink’ Jesus’ ‘blood’ we do have life. Paul wrote, “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” (Gal. 2:20) Therefore, when we present our bodies “a living sacrifice,” our offering is acceptable because we have partaken of the life provided by Jesus’ shed blood.—Rom. 12:1,2

So it is that when we drink of the ‘cup’ at the Memorial Supper it is also with deep appreciation of the gracious privilege which has been extended to us of being ‘crucified’ with Christ, of being baptized with his death baptism. (Rom. 6:3,6) And our appreciation of this glorious privilege can best be expressed to the Lord by a renewal of our determination to fulfill our vows of consecration, and to let nothing stand in our way of being “faithful unto death.”—Rev. 2:10


When Jesus said that no one could have life unless he ate his flesh and drank his blood, many followed no more with him. It was, as the record indicates, a “hard” saying, one which the disciples themselves at that time did not understand. Jesus perceived that they “murmured,” and then he asked, “Doth this offend you?”—John 6:61

Then he offered a partial explanation, saying, “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the Spirit that quickeneth [giveth life]; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:61-63) Jesus had said that he would give his flesh for the life of the world. (John 6:51) This meant that when he was raised from the dead it would not be as a human being to remain here on the earth. Instead, he was to return to the heavenly courts, and to be as he was before, a spirit being, although of a much higher nature, even the Divine nature—the express image of the Father’s person.—Heb. 1:3

With this explanation, the disciples would realize that Jesus did not expect anyone to eat his flesh in a literal fashion, in order to have life. ‘It is the Spirit that quickeneth’, or gives life, he explained. Then he added, ‘the flesh profiteth nothing’. This was the Master’s way of explaining that he did not mean they should actually eat his flesh, for this would be of no profit to them. Then he added, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”

By this Jesus meant that we ‘eat’ his flesh and ‘drink’ his blood when we take heed to his teachings and obey them. In the category of truth encompassed by Jesus’ ‘words’ are all the essential doctrines of the Divine plan, including those which stress the necessity of accepting him as our personal Redeemer and Savior. Thus, through the acceptance of the Gospel, and obedience to the commandments of the Scriptures which are associated therewith, we appropriate to ourselves the life-giving virtues of the one whose blood was shed and body broken that we might have life.


Throughout the world this year, as in the past, little groups of devoted Christians will gather on the proper night (March 30) and together will partake of the ‘bread’ and the ‘cup’. These gatherings may number into the hundreds. In other instances there may be but a lone individual, or perhaps a small family of two or more. Among all who thus commemorate the death of our Redeemer the same spirit of appreciation and devotion will prevail.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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