The Herald of Jehovah's Kingdom
The Herald of Jehovah's Kingdom
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.
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The International Association Jehovah's Witnesses

Themes Archive

 
A Memorial of Integrity for God's Kingdom
 
    Jehovah God the Creator established no kingdom over mankind in the garden of Eden. After the first man and "woman sinned against the Creator, and just before they were driven from their garden home, Jehovah made a promise openly to bring forth a deliverer for humankind. He said to the wicked tempter of Adam and Eve in their hearing : "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." (Gen. 3:15) That is to say, before ever the deliverer crushed the tempter's head the deliverer should himself suffer a painful wound, comparable to being bitten in the heel by a serpent. He must be willing and courageous enough to suffer' this for the sake of the kingdom of God. Under the suffering he must keep his integrity toward Jehovah God, in order to prove worthy to occupy the throne of the Kingdom.
    The further prophecies of God disclosed" that the promised King would be a descendant of Abraham through King David. David, it appears, came to be the first Jewish king of the same city in which Melchizedek had reigned about nine hundred years earlier, namely, Jerusalem. (Ps. 76:1,2) God promised David that the foretold King would come through his line, and hence the promised King was called "the Son of David". (2 Sam. 7:12-17) Over a thousand years after David, the Jews in and about Jerusalem played an important dramatic act that showed up plainly who this King is who becomes the Bruiser of the Serpent's head. Their dramatic act identified the King as the man then generally known as "Jesus the prophet of Nazareth". This was at the time that Jesus rode into Jerusalem in the fashion of the ancient kings of Israel, namely, astride an ass. This was a few days before the Jews' celebration of the yearly passover A.D. 33.
    One eyewitness of the event tells us that there the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 was fulfilled. He says: "A very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that Cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest." Another writer tells us they cried out, saying: "Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest." Another writer describes other shouts of the people as "Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh - in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest." Not only along the route of Jesus' ride, but also in the temple, the children cried: "Hosanna to the son of David!" which is to say, 'God save the Son of David!'—Matt. 21: 8,9,15; Luke 19: 38; Mark 11:9,10.
    The subject of God's kingdom was thus thrust into the celebration that year of the passover. During the three and a half years before that, Jesus had shown that God's kingdom is the leading issue before all mankind. Jesus did so by preaching publicly and
privately the good news of the kingdom of God. After his triumphal ride into Jerusalem he spoke many parables and prophecies concerning the Kingdom, to make plain who would be associated with him in it and how it would be set up and when. On passover day he died on a tree at Calvary, with the handwriting posted over his head as a sedition charge against him: "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." (John 19:19,20) On the third day after his death Jehovah God answered the people's pleas of "Hosanna I" which had ascended to him. He saved his King, the Son of David, out of the embrace of death, by raising him to life immortal that he might in due time bruise the Serpent's head. God rewarded Jesus in this glorious way because never under all the suffering down to the pouring out of his lifeblood did Jesus break his integrity toward Jehovah, the Sovereign Majesty of all the universe and the Founder of the Kingdom.
    It was at a dear cost that Jesus Christ gained the chief place in God's kingdom, but Jesus was willing to pay it. Why ? Because the Kingdom is the chief issue before all the universe. The Kingdom is the universal Government that the Most High God puts in power and operation in order to vindicate His own sovereignty as universal and unchangeable and in order to clear his holy name of all the reproaches and slanders that the Serpent, the tempter, has cast upon it for these six thousand years. Seeing that Jehovah God is the Supreme One and the Source of all life and creation, the vindication of His universal sovereignty and good name is of vaster importance than the saving of sinful human creatures. And yet it is through that very vindication that the redemption and saving of any human sinners is brought about. Evidently realizing that the foremost reason for his going down into death was to prove his integrity and to vindicate Jehovah's name arid sovereignty, Jesus set up a memorial among his footstep followers on the night of that passover A.D. 33. But first he ate the passover with them.
    Being a Jew by his human birth, Jesus rightly celebrated the passover at Jerusalem, the city where Jehovah God had caused His name to be put and his temple to be built. The date of this yearly passover celebration was the fourteenth of Abib, or fourteenth of Nisan, as it was later called. Jehovah God appointed Abib to be the first month of the Jewish year. He made it a law that the Israelites celebrate the passover annually as a memorial of the first passover that their forefathers held down in Egypt. At that time he delivered them from slavery in Egypt and killed all of Egypt's firstborn in order to break the Egyptians' will to resist Israel's leaving Egypt. God said to the Israelites through Moses as prophet: "And this day shall be unto you for a memorial, and ye shall keep it a feast to Jehovah: throughout your generations ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever." (Ex. 12:14, Am. Stan. Ver.) The slaying of a passover lamb, and the sprinkling of the blood outside on the doorways, and then the eating of the roasted lamb indoors that last night of slavery in Egypt, figured prominently in the celebration. But the future celebrations of the feast were not to be in memoriam of the passover lamb, but were to be a memorial to God, a "feast of Jehovah". The celebration memorialized Jehovah's act of vindicating his supreme power over Egypt and delivering his chosen people, and not primarily memorializing the passover lamb.
    Israel's deliverance from Egypt came more than three thousand years ago. It prophetically pictured how Jehovah delivers all those who become his people from this oppressive world of which the Serpent, the tempter, is the ruler mightier than Pharaoh of Egypt. The passover lamb, because of whose blood the firstborn children of the Israelites were passed over and spared .from death, typified someone. Whom! The One by whom Jehovah vindicates his name and delivers his people. For this reason John, who baptized Jesus in the Jordan river, pointed to Jesus and said: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." That this was particularly a reference to the passover lamb is shown by the apostle Paul, who writes: "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." (John 1:29; 1 Cor. 5: 7, 8) Hence it agreed with the fitness of things that Jesus, after celebrating his last typical passover with his disciples in Jerusalem, was killed later on that same day, Nisan 14. In that way he fulfilled to a completeness the prophetic picture of the passover lamb and made the passover celebration an out-of-date observance. With his death as the Lamb of God the time had come to celebrate the eternal realities which the ancient passover had merely typified or foreshadowed.
    Jesus knew he was due to suffer for the kingdom of God on that same day, and hence he was very desirous of celebrating this final passover with them. He so said to them, as we read, at Luke 22:13-18: "And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: for I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: for I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come." From such remarks it is evident that as Jesus ate of the roast passover lamb which pictured his own self and drank of passover wine his thoughts were not centered upon himself. He had in mind much more the great issue before all the universe, the rightful sovereignty of his Father Jehovah God. 'J'his he was determined to uphold and abide by although it meant bitter agony for him and suffering to the shameful death on the tree.
    The account of what followed we now take from translations based on the most ancient Greek manuscripts available and considered the most authoritative and reliable. We read: "As they were eating Jesus took a loaf and blessed it, and he broke it in pieces and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take this and eat it. It is my body!' And he took the wine-cup and gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, 'You must all drink from it, for this is my blood which ratifies the agreement, and is to be poured out for many people, for the forgiveness of their sins. And I tell you I will never drink this product of the vine again till the day when I shall drink the new wine with you in my Father's kingdom!'" (Matt. 26:26-29)
    Jesus' words over the loaf of unleavened bread and cup of red wine were not magical words changing the whole substance of the bread and wine into his literal body and his literal blood. His words were simply the announcement that the bread and wine were symbols or emblems. Both emblems unleavened bread and red wine, point to the one and the same thing, namely, Christ's death in vindication of his Father's universal sovereignty and sacred name. With us today the passover is not intertwined with the memorial as it was in Jesus' day, when four cups of wine were used on that memorial night and a blessing was pronounced over each of the four cups according to the custom of that day. The passover meal with its four cups of wine the unbelieving Jews celebrate even to this day, but the annual memorial celebrations of Christians on Nisan 14 are absolutely distinct from such passover meal since Jesus' death.
    "This do in remembrance of me," said Jesus. His words in no way instruct us to celebrate the memorial to the exclusion of memories of Jesus' Father and God, Jehovah, the Universal King. The pass-over was a memorial to Jehovah God, commemorating his act of vindication over Egypt rather than commemorating primarily the paschal lamb then slain. Among the Lord Jesus' disciples the Lord's supper on each Nisan 14 has taken the place of the passover. Thus the day which Jehovah appointed for a memorial to Almighty God the Lord Jesus did not push aside but held on to, to mark it by a different celebration of larger meaning. For a certainty, when setting up the memorial for his body-members on Jehovah's memorial day of Nisan 14 our Lord Jesus was not instituting a celebration more in his own honor than in Jehovah's honor. Christ's death, while it also accomplished the ransoming of humankind, was primarily for the vindication of Jehovah's name and universal sovereignty. Hence Christ's body-members celebrate the memorial to the honor of Jehovah, but with remembrance of Jesus Christ as the One whom Jehovah uses chiefly for His vindication and as the One whom all Christians must imitate, with integrity to the death.