The Memorial Supper

“As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.”
—I Corinthians 11:26

SUNDAY EVENING, APRIL 4, will be the appropriate time this year to commemorate Jesus’ death. This will be the beginning of the fourteenth day of Nisan, Jewish reckoning, which corresponds to the date on which Jesus partook of the Jewish Passover supper for the last time with his disciples. This was the night before he was crucified, and it was while Jesus was still with his disciples in the upper room, that he instituted the Memorial of his death.

It was a very simple ceremony as Jesus outlined it to his disciples, a ceremony in which were used unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine. 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.’ 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 that the only proper time to partake of the bread and the cup is on the anniversary of his death.


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.—John 1:29

The new rite was intended to be 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—his humanity—and the “cup” which symbolizes his shed blood—his life poured out.—I Cor. 11:23,25

Concerning the ‘bread’ Jesus said, as recorded by Paul, “Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.” (vs. 24) Jesus did not mean by this that the bread was actually his body still alive, as taught by some Christian religious groups. Jesus was still alive when he gave this command. Clearly, what Jesus meant was that it represented his body. Previously the Master had taught his disciples that he would give his flesh “for the life of the world.” 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.”—John 6:48-51

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 temporarily, but this 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 have life-giving qualities. To illustrate this, Jesus broke the symbolic bread in order that the basic Truth of the Divine plan might be the more indelibly impressed upon the hearts and minds of his followers. May we appreciate this vital Truth more keenly as we “Take, eat” (Matt. 26:26) on the evening of April 4.


“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) 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, meaning that sin, like a poisonous serpent, continues to ‘sting’ the human race to death. (I Cor. 15:56) 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.

There is a further thought associated with the Memorial Supper. It is that we have the privilege of suffering and dying with Jesus, of laying down our lives sacrificially with him. Paul wrote, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion [common participation] of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (I Cor. 10:16) Of ourselves, we have nothing to offer to the Lord in sacrifice which would be acceptable to him. 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” (Rom 12:1), our offering is acceptable because we have partaken of the life provided by Jesus’ blood.

Thus, when we partake of the Memorial Supper emblems, in addition to memorializing Jesus’ death as our Redeemer and the Redeemer of the world, we are reminding ourselves of the precious privilege which has been given to us of being “crucified with Christ,” of suffering and dying with him that we might live and reign with him. And as we contemplate the fact that Jesus died for the whole world of mankind, and that his kingdom in which we hope to reign will bring blessings of life to the world, our hearts also will rejoice in this glorious prospect of coming blessings for the “whole creation,” which “groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” (Rom. 8:22,19) Surely our appreciation of all that the Memorial Supper means to us can best be expressed 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


Throughout the world this year, as in the past, little groups of devoted Christians will gather on the proper night (April 4) and together will partake of the bread and the cup. In other instances there may be but a lone individual, or perhaps a small family of two or more. If you have never before participated in one of these annual services, and feel that you would like to do so, we will be glad to put you in touch with the group nearest to you. You do not need to belong to anything in order to be qualified to partake of the Memorial Supper. Indeed, Bible Student groups have no membership rolls. If you have accepted Christ as your personal Savior, and have consecrated your life to do God’s will, you are qualified to enjoy the blessings of this appropriate, and solemn, service. It is with pleasure, therefore, that on behalf of local Bible study groups everywhere, we extend to you a cordial invitation to meet with them this year to partake of the Memorial Supper.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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