The Memorial Supper

Scripture Readings:
    Exodus 12:1-3,6-8,11,12
    Matthew 26:17-20,26-30,36-45
    I Corinthians 11:23-28

THROUGHOUT MANY PARTS of the world on Tuesday evening, April 15, groups of earnest followers of the Master will meet to commemorate his death. Many individuals who, for one reason or another, are not able to meet with their brethren will partake of this Memorial Supper by themselves. This is properly, we believe, an annual privilege of Christians, the date being figured as was the custom of the Jews in Old Testament times, and as it still is, from the new moon nearest to the spring equinox.

Jesus instituted the first Memorial Supper on the anniversary of the slaying of the Passover lamb, which occurred on the day before the Israelites were delivered from Egyptian bondage. This was on the fourteenth day after the new moon, which introduced the Jewish new sacred year, the first month of which is Nisan. According to Biblical arrangements, the day begins at sundown. It was after sundown that Jesus partook of the Passover supper with his disciples and instituted the Memorial of his death. Since he was crucified before sundown of the following day, both events really occurred on the same Biblical day.

Jesus was the antitypical Passover lamb, and when we partake of the “bread” and the “cup” it is in memory of his death. (Matt. 26:26,27) The events of that memorable Passover night in Egypt have an important bearing on the significance of the Memorial Supper, and we suggest a careful reading of the passages cited in the Book of Exodus, that the main happenings of that night may be fresh in mind. This account would be merely historical but for the light thrown upon it by the New Testament. By this light, we see that the Passover has been made one of the greatest of Biblical types.

Pharaoh ceases to be Pharaoh and becomes Satan, the opposer of God, and the people of God, his children. The firstborn of Israel become “the church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven.” (Heb. 12:23) Israel, in antitype, becomes the world of mankind. Blessed are those whose spiritual eyes can see that Jesus is the “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” and who see that we are to ‘feed’ on Christ, as the Jews fed upon the Passover lamb.—John 1:29

The unleavened bread ceases to be unleavened bread and becomes the pure Truth of God’s Word. (I Cor. 5:8) Instead of bitter herbs, which aided and whetted the Jewish appetite, we have bitter trials, which help to wean our affections from earthly things and whet our appetites for the unleavened bread of life, and for the things of God.

The girdle becomes a symbol of service to the Lord, to the Truth, and to the brethren. It becomes a very personal thing to us, for service to others is an obligation of our Christian walk.

The shoes on their feet to us become a symbol of walking in newness of life in Christ, having our feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. (Eph. 6:15) And the staff upon which they depended becomes the promises of God—our source of comfort and sustaining grace, our ever-present help in time of need, as we journey toward spiritual Canaan.


Now, Christ our Passover Lamb has been slain, and we keep the Memorial of his death. It is a hallowed and blessed occasion. To us, Memorial night is different from all other nights. It is then, more than ever, that we meet in the holy bonds of Christian fellowship to commemorate our Savior’s death. We remember that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and we renew our personal consecration to God and our determination to be faithful in our devotion to him, and to the principles of Truth and righteousness.

In the type, only Israel’s firstborn were in danger that night in Egypt. Only the church of the firstborn are now in danger, for during the Gospel Age these are the only ones on trial. It was a matter of life and death to the firstborn of Israel as to whether they remained in the house, under the blood, which had been sprinkled upon the doorposts and the lintels. To us, it is a matter of eternal life or eternal death as to whether we remain in the household of faith under the protection of the blood of our Passover Lamb.

Soon the night of sin and death will have passed. Soon the glorious morning of the world’s deliverance from Satan’s rulership will have come. Soon the Christ, the antitypical Moses, will be the world’s Deliverer. That day of deliverance will last for one thousand years. (Rev. 20:2) During that time all who obey the will of God shall live. At the close of that day, all evil and all evildoers, pictured by the hosts of Egypt, will be destroyed in the antitypical Red Sea, the “second death.” (Rev. 21:8) All the families of the earth will be delivered from sin and death and blessed in the righteous kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This also is part of the lesson taught by the Passover, and subsequent deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.


Two prophecies combine in the testimony of this great event. On the tenth of Nisan the Passover lamb in Israel was chosen. Beyond all doubt the Lord Jesus knew that he was to be the antitypical Passover Lamb. In proof of this let us recall some events in our Lord’s life. John 7:6-9 reads, “Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come. When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee.” Compare this with John 13:1, which states that Jesus knew his hour had come.

Jesus knew that to be the antitypical Passover Lamb he would be chosen on the tenth of the month, and killed on the fourteenth, and this was his experience. They shouted their acceptance of him as he rode into Jerusalem, and four days later they cried, “Crucify him, crucify him.” (John 19:6) They killed the Lord of glory. No wonder the disciples were stunned by these fast-moving events!

The prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 had to be fulfilled. It reads, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” It was in fulfillment of this prediction that the Master rode into Jerusalem upon an ass.—Matt. 21:1-5

The Jews knew that in days gone by their kings had ridden to their coronation on a white ass. (I Kings 1:38; Judg. 5:10) They knew also of the prophecy of Zechariah. They had waited long for its fulfillment. So it was necessary that Jesus present himself to the people on that particular day, and in that special way—for it was the tenth of Nisan, and necessary in order that it might be shown that Israel’s rejection of him was without excuse. They knew the prophecy; they saw the prophecy fulfilled.

Whether or not our Lord’s entry into the city of Jerusalem was a grand and triumphal thing depends upon the standpoint from which it is viewed. To the chief priests, the scribes, and the Pharisees it was far from a triumphal procession. To them it was merely a parade of a fanatical leader and his ignorant followers. They could see no more—their eyes were blinded. They did not see the Messiah. They saw no salvation. They shouted no hosannas. They feared that his fanaticism would spread, and that it would undermine their position of authority.—John 11:47,48

From the standpoint of the disciples, and others who were filled with Messianic enthusiasm, it was a march of triumph. He who had the power to heal the sick and raise the dead would, they believed, now establish the long-promised kingdom. They trusted that it was he who was to redeem Israel. But Jesus was king only for a day, and he never actually ruled. Four days later the disciples saw their king nailed to the cross, and saw him die.

From God’s standpoint, Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem was seen in still another light. He knew that Jesus was the antitypical Lamb. He knew that Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. But more that that, he knew that in his own “due time,” after he had given Jesus all power in heaven and in earth, he would triumphantly, and for all time, put away sin and bring all things in subjection to the Divine rule. (I Tim. 2:6) He therefore knew that Jesus would lift man up from sin, disease, and death. He knew that as “King of kings, and Lord of lords” Jesus would eventually establish the Divine will throughout all the earth.—I Tim. 6:15

Thank God this is our view as we think of Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city! We can sing with the spirit and the understanding, “Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”! (Matt. 21:9) After entering the city, Jesus healed the lame and the blind, foreshadowing his Millennial Age work when, as ‘King of kings,’ he will establish his kingdom in which, as is promised in Isaiah, chapter 35, “the lame man [shall] leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb [shall] sing.”—vs. 6


As we approach the Memorial of the Master’s death, let us keep in mind that it is a simple feast—unleavened bread, and fruit of the vine. What a meaning it has for us! The events of the first Memorial are clear in our minds—there was the blessing of the ‘bread’ and the blessing of the ‘cup.’ The Lord explained to his disciples that the bread represented his broken body, and that the cup represented his shed blood.

Jesus emphasized that all his followers should participate, not only in feeding upon him, but also in being broken with him—not only in partaking of the merit of the ransom, but also in laying down their own lives in his service. And he said that those who do this will be in the kingdom and drink the cup (of joy) anew with him. These thoughts must thrill all those who are in tune with their Lord and with his Truth.

Take eat, Jesus said, this represents my body. He gave them pure, unleavened bread. How well it represented his pure and sinless flesh, which he gave for the life of the world! Previously, Jesus had said, “I am that bread of life. … This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:48-51) To partake of the unleavened bread signifies that we appropriate to ourselves, through faith, the merit of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ, realizing that our salvation is bought through our Lord’s death on Calvary.

Likewise, the fruit of the vine primarily symbolizes our Savior’s life, given for us—his soul poured out in death as a ransom on our behalf. Blood represents life—not life retained, but life yielded, given up, sacrificed, laid down. There is no way to gain eternal life except through the Lord’s shed blood. “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”—Acts. 4:12

The Memorial Supper is held on the anniversary of our Lord’s death. The afternoon preceding the Memorial is the anniversary of the day on which our Lord dispatched Peter and John to make ready the Passover supper. Memorial night is the anniversary of that night in which he instituted the Memorial Supper. After the supper he went into the Garden of Gethsemane, and there gained that great victory, saying to his Heavenly Father, “Not as I will, but as thou wilt. … thy will be done.”—Matt. 26:39,42

Later that night Jesus was betrayed by a kiss, and still later he was brought before Herod, and then Pilate. Pilate washed his hands of the matter, and said to the Jews who demanded Jesus’ death, “Ecce homo,” meaning, “Behold the man!” (John 19:5) It was as though Pilate said, You have no Jew his equal; would you crucify him? But the rabble shouted, “Crucify him, crucify him.” (Luke 23:21) Then came the flogging, the smiting, and the crown of thorns. But Jesus was not defeated.

In sorrow he loved those who hated him. He was mild, but he was not weak. His inner strength of spirit continued to the end. At nine o’clock on the following morning he was nailed to the tree of crucifixion, and at three in the afternoon this spotless Lamb of God died.

As we meditate upon the Memorial of our Savior’s death, let us remember the bread—his broken body, and the cup—his shed blood. Our eternal life depends upon our continued appreciation of these great Truths. These Truths pertaining to the Divine provision for our salvation and eternal life are not shallow, they are deep—as deep as the love of God.


The primary thought in the Memorial is of Christ—his sacrifice and our ransom: the provision of life for us and for all mankind. “Verily, verily, I say unto you,” Jesus explained, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”—John 12:24

There is, however, a secondary significance to the Memorial, which is very important. The Apostle Paul refers to it, saying, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.”—I Cor. 10:16,17

‘Communion,’ what a precious thought—a common union, a common participation, a partnership, a brotherhood, based upon that which is represented by the ‘bread’ and the ‘cup.’ In a loaf of bread there are many grains, crushed to make that one loaf. We have no merit of our own. Our spiritual life exists only as we are a part of that loaf. The breaking of the bread represents the sacrificing of our justified humanity with its privileges, as we fulfill our consecration vows to be “dead with him” (Rom. 6:8) that we might live with him; suffering with him that we might reign with him.

Likewise, the cup represented Jesus’ shed blood, his life poured out. We receive of that life, but only on condition that we, like Jesus, lay it down in sacrifice. It is the merit of his sacrifice that makes our offering to the Lord acceptable. While there is joy in this sacrificial service, it is often a cup of sorrow, which we learn to accept as of the Father’s pouring—his will for those who die with Jesus.

Jesus took the steps—consecration, sacrifice, suffering for righteousness’ sake—and was rewarded for his faithfulness. He asks us, “Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of?”—endure lives of consecration, sacrifice, suffering for righteousness’ sake? (Matt. 20:22) If we are able, the reward will be wonderful—heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.—Rom. 8:17

We believe the proper time to observe the Memorial should be carefully considered, as it is important. However, we feel that the heart condition of those who partake is far more important than the time or the place. In this connection Paul wrote, “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.”—I Cor. 5:7,8

As we meditate upon the Memorial of our Lord’s death, may we search our hearts to rid them of leaven, and let us renew our determination to triumph through faith. After we partake of the Memorial emblems, let us go forth with a song in our hearts, thankful for being called out of darkness into light, and called to partnership in the body of Christ.

May the hope of partaking anew with Christ in the kingdom lift our affections close to him, and keep them there until we hear his words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: … enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Matt. 25:21) With some this may be the first Memorial Supper. With others it may be the last this side of the veil. This matters but little so long as we remain faithful to that which the emblems represent. Our prayer is that the Lord may give all of us strength thus to be faithful.

Let us use the opportunity to renew our consecration to God. Let us thank him for his great gift, his own beloved Son. Let us thank him for the light of Truth, which we enjoy. Let us thank him for his “high calling” through Jesus Christ our Lord.—Phil. 3:14

Dawn Bible Students Association
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