Memorials are generally depicted as great monuments or obelisks to commemorate wars of conquest or great people. There would not be a city or village without some monument of importance. Yet memorials are erected in a variety of forms in memory of leaders, events or significant works of good people. Parks, hospitals, galleries, universities, buildings, cities and even awards and scholarships may be named after people of influence, for the purpose of instituting a monument to their memory.
The Lord also has left us with some great memorials to remind us, and even to teach us of His constant goodness and leading throughout history. But especially has the Lord left memorials to be commemorated by His church until the end of time as a reminder and lesson of the sacred work commissioned to His people. God’s teaching and work has first to be established among the believers.
Gathering His disciples together the evening before the Passover feast, Jesus instituted a memorial to be commemorated for all time in the most significant of events – the plan of salvation. His sacrifice, death and resurrection centred in the cross of Calvary. Little did the disciples realize on this occasion that Jesus was establishing a memorial for His church, but the lesson was indelibly imprinted into the ordinances of the true remnant forever.
The Passover feast with its types and ceremonies of the Old Testament was about to be fulfilled in the crucifixion of the Lamb of God. New ordinances of the New Testament were about to be established for the Gospel church
“Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.” John 13:1-5.
It was the work of a servant to wash the feet of the guests. As there was no servant on this occasion, one of the disciples should have accepted the role. They were unwilling to accept this menial task for they desired a high place in the kingdom of Christ. It proved too great a sacrifice to humble themselves and accept the role of a servant.
When He saw the selfishness and pride of His disciples, Jesus was saddened. But it was His purpose to demonstrate a lesson that would show them that it is loving service and true humility which constitute real greatness. Already He had taught them, “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant”, and “…he that shall humble himself shalt be exalted.” Matthew 23:11,12.
Jesus rose from the table, laid aside His outer garment, took a towel and girded Himself. The disciples looked on in surprise and waited silently for what was to follow. When the Lord knelt down and started washing their feet their eyes were opened. Bitter shame and humiliation filled their hearts. They understood the unspoken rebuke, and saw themselves in altogether a new light. As they watched their Master, they were greatly moved.
“Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit” John 13:6-10.
When Peter’s turn came, his outspoken nature exclaimed with indignation “Lord, dost thou wash my feet?” The condescension of Jesus broke his heart. He was filled with shame to think that none of the disciples was performing this service. Peter could not bear to see his Lord acting the part of a servant. His whole being rebelled against this humiliation. He did not understand that for this reason Christ came into the world. Peter exclaimed: “Thou shalt never wash my feet.” But Christ replied to Peter, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me.” In refusing to let Jesus wash his feet, Peter was rejecting the higher cleansing of sin from the heart. With these words of Christ, Peter surrendered his pride and self-will. He could not endure the thought of separation from Christ and he said: “Not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” But Jesus answered: “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.”
When Jesus washed the dust from His disciples’ feet, He desired by that act to wash the alienation, jealousy and pride from their hearts. With the spirit they had, not one of them was prepared for communion with Christ. Until their hearts were filled with humility and love, they were not prepared to partake in the memorial service which Christ was about to institute. Jesus washed away all pride and self-seeking from their hearts in the act of washing their feet.
At baptism, we too, are washed in the blood of Christ, but often through contact with evil, the heart’s purity is soiled. We must come to Christ for saving grace. We must bring our sinful, polluted heart into contact with the heart of Christ!
Jesus now could say: “Ye are clean” John 13:10, and then they were prepared to partake in the second part of the ordinance, the Lord’s Supper.
In washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus instituted the feet-washing as an ordinance in His church: “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” John 13:14-17.
Whenever this ordinance is rightly celebrated, the people of God are brought into a holy relationship, to help and bless each other. For those who receive the spirit of this service, it will never become a mere ceremony. Its constant less will be, “By love serve one another.” Galations 5:13.
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Matthew 26:26-28.
Immediately after the feet-washing Jesus seated Himself at the Passover table and there proceeded to institute the additional ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.
Jesus was in the shadow of the cross. In but a few short hours He would be taken by the mob to be reviled, tortured and crucified. His body was to be pierced by the nails and the spear. His blood was soon to be spilled. All this He was willing to endure, not for anything He had done, but for the remission of the sins of others.
Therefore Jesus placed in the church an ordinance that would be symbolic of the very suffering He must endure and as an example of a life of sacrifice on man’s behalf.
The Passover was ordained as a commemoration of the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage. God had directed that, year by year, as the children should ask the meaning of this ordinance, the history should be repeated. Thus the wonderful deliverance was to be kept fresh in the minds of all. The ordinance of the Lord’s Supper was given to commemorate the great deliverance wrought out as the result of the death of Christ. Till He shall come the second time in power and glory, this ordinance is to be celebrated. It is the means by which His great work for us is to be kept fresh in our minds.
“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” I Corinthians 11:23-26.
The manna which was fed to the Hebrews through the wilderness was a type of the real bread from heaven. The life-giving Spirit, flowing from the infinite fullness of God, is the true manna. Jesus said, “The bread of God is he which cometh down out of heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” John 6:33. Jesus spoke even more plainly: “I am the bread of life.” v. 35.
But even these symbols fail to present the privileges of the believer’s relation to Christ. Jesus said, “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.” John 6:57. As the Son of God lived by faith in the Father, so we are to live by faith in Christ.
The bread used at the Lord’s Supper was the unleavened type used during the Passover season. The unleavened bread is a fit symbol of the unpolluted, unblemished Lamb of God. Leaven was not permitted as it is a symbol of sin. Jesus Himself explained to the disciples:“Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Luke 12:1.
The apostle Paul also declares that leaven is a symbol of evil, malice, etc. that contaminates. He says: “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 Corinthians 5:7,8.
As a little leaven will leaven a whole lump of dough, so a little sin, if allowed to remain in the life, will defile the whole person. But not so with Christ: “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.” I Peter 2:22.
The Passover wine, the pure juice of the grape, untouched by fermentation represents Christ’s own unblemished sacrifice. Nothing corrupted by fermentation, the symbol of sin and death, could represent the “lamb without blemish and without spot”. I Peter 1:19. To this the prophet Isaiah refers when he speaks of the new wine “in the cluster,” and says, “Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it.” Isaiah 65:8.
The wine was a symbol of His blood, shed for the cleansing of the sins of all those who should come unto Him for pardon, and receive Him as their Savior.
Fermentation defiles the pure and healthful fruit of the vine: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” Proverbs 20:1.
Our spiritual life depends on frequent participation in this ordinance.
“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink of his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.” John 6:53-58.
Before we partake of the Lord’s Supper we should examine the sincerity and genuineness of our own hearts.
“But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” I Corinthians 11:28,29.
“But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Matthew 26:29. In the institution of this sacred rite by which His death was to be shown forth “till he come” (I Corinthians 11:26), Jesus made it clear that this was to be repeated by His church until His return.
“This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” I Corinthians 11:25,26.
The Lord’s Supper is to be celebrated often, to keep fresh in the memory of His followers, the solemn scenes of His betrayal and crucifixion for the sins of the world. He would have His followers realize their continual dependence upon His blood and broken body for salvation.
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