“Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” – Luke 22:19
It was at the memorial of 2013 that I first obeyed those words of my Lord Jesus Christ. My late-wife declined to partake that first year, because she did not feel worthy. I have come to see that this is a common response among Jehovah’s Witnesses who have been indoctrinated all their lives to view the partaking of the emblems as something reserved for a select few.
For most of my life, I held this same view. As the bread and wine were passed during the yearly commemoration of the Lord’s Evening Meal, I joined my brothers and sisters in refusing to partake. I did not view it as a refusal however. I saw it as an act of humility. I was acknowledging publicly that I was not worthy to partake, because I had not been chosen by God. I never really thought deeply on the words of Jesus when he introduced this topic to his disciples:
“Accordingly Jesus said to them: “Most truly I say to YOU, Unless YOU eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, YOU have no life in yourselves. 54 He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I shall resurrect him at the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in union with me, and I in union with him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me forth and I live because of the Father, he also that feeds on me, even that one will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. It is not as when YOUR forefathers ate and yet died. He that feeds on this bread will live forever.”” (Joh 6:53-58)
Somehow I believed that he would resurrect me at the last day, that I could receive everlastingly life, all the while refusing to partake of the symbols of the flesh and blood by which everlasting life is granted. I would read verse 58 which likens his flesh to the manna of which all the Isrealites—even the children—partook and yet feel that in the Christian antitypical application it was reserved only for an elite few.
Granted, the Bible does say that many are invited but few are chosen. (Mt 22:14) The leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses tells you that you should only partake if you have been chosen, and that the choosing is done via some mysterious process by which Jehovah God tells you that you’re his child. Okay, let’s put all the mysticism aside for a moment, and go with what is actually written. Did Jesus tell us to partake as a symbol of being chosen? Did he give us a warning that if we partake without getting some signal from God, that we would be sinning?
He gave us a very clear, straightforward command. “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” Surely, if he didn’t want the vast majority of his disciples to “keep doing this” to remember him, he would have said so. He wouldn’t leave us wallowing in uncertainty. How unfair would that be?
Is Worthiness a Requirement?
For many, the fear of doing something that Jehovah might disapprove of, is ironically keeping them from gaining his approval.
Would you not consider Paul and the 12 apostles to be the most worthy of men to partake of the emblems?
Jesus chose 13 apostles. The first 12 were chosen after a night of prayer. Were they worthy? They certainly had many failings. They bickered among themselves about who would be the greatest up to shortly before his death. Certainly a presumptuous desire for prominence is not a worthy characteristic. Thomas was a doubter. All abandoned Jesus in his moment of greatest need. The foremost of them, Simon Peter, denied our Lord publicly three times. Later in life, Peter gave way to fear of man. (Gal 2:11-14)
And then we come to Paul.
It can be argued that no follower of Jesus has had more impact on the development of the Christian congregation than he. A worthy man? A desirable one, for sure, but chosen for his worthiness? In fact, he was chosen at the time he was most unworthy, on the road to Damascus in pursuit of Christians. He was the foremost persecutor of the followers of Jesus. (1Co 15:9)
All of these men were not chosen when they were worthy – that is to say after they had done notable deeds befitting a true follower of Jesus. The choosing came first, the deeds came afterwards. And even though these men did great deeds in the service of our Lord, even the best of them never did enough to win the prize by merit. The reward is always given as a free gift to undeserving ones. It is given to those the Lord loves and he decides whom he will love. We don’t. We may, and often do, feel unworthy of that love, but that does not stop him from loving us the more.
Jesus chose those apostles because he knew their heart. He knew them far better than they knew themselves. Could Saul of Tarsus have been aware that within his heart existed a quality so precious and desirable that our Lord would reveal himself in blinding light so as to call him out? Did any of the apostles really know what Jesus saw in them? Can I see in myself, what Jesus sees in me? Can you? A father can look at a young child and see potential in that infant far beyond anything the child can imagine at that point. It is not for the child to judge his worthiness. It is only for the child to obey.
If Jesus was standing outside your door right now, asking to come in, would you leave him on the stoop, reasoning you are not worthy of him to enter your home?
“Look! I am standing at the door and knocking. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into his [house] and take the evening meal with him and he with me.” (Re 3:20)
The wine and bread is the food of the evening meal. Jesus is seeking us out, knocking at our door. Will we open to him, let him in, and eat with him?
We do not partake of the emblems because we are worthy. We partake because we are not worthy.