(All Bible quotations, except otherwise stated, are from the American King James Version).
As a matter of tradition, most Christians commemorate the death of the Lord Jesus every Good Friday, the day he was believed to have been crucified (was the Lord actually killed on a Friday?). On this day every year (the exact date is determined by the orthodox church calendar), the crucifixion is remembered. Some people get so touched by the events of the crucifixion that they actually forgo eating meat on the day it’s commemorated (the change in diet is not totally vegetarian though, as fish can be freely eaten on that day). So, the crucifixion is a significant event in the Christian calendar (and it should be, as without it, there would have been no redemption for mankind). How are we to remember the Lord’s death biblically? How did the Lord himself command us to commemorate his death? We shall look at the Apostolic writings to answer these questions.
The New Testament writers devoted more time to the death of Christ than to his birth. The reason is not far-fetched. Without Christ’s death and resurrection, there would have been no salvation for lost humanity, for it was through his vicarious death for mankind that the price for our sin was paid. So, while his death couldn’t have been possible without the incarnation and his birth, the Lord’s death directly provided the ransom for the sin of mankind, and so is constantly mentioned in the New Testament.
But, how did the Lord and his apostles instruct us to commemorate the Lord’s death? How are we commanded to remember Christ’s death? Well, the first thing we’ll realise on reading the New Testament is that, the concept of Lent and Good Friday, as a period of mourning to commemorate Jesus’ death, was unknown to the New Testament writers! Easter cannot be found in the New Testament, because it wasn’t the way the apostles commemorated the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Lent, Good Friday and Easter were church traditions that were introduced hundreds of years after the end of the apostolic period. So, these festivals are actually extra-biblical! What then was the apostolic way of remembering the Lord’s death? Jesus actually gave his followers definite instructions on how to remember his death, even before he died! Let’s hear his own words on this issue:
Luke 22:14 And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.
Luke 22:15 And he said to them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:
Luke 22:16 For I say to you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.
Luke 22:17 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves:
Luke 22:18 For I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.
Luke 22:19 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave to them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
Luke 22:20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.
The Lord Jesus instructed his apostles to remember his death through the celebration of the Lord’s supper. Jesus instituted the Lord’s supper to serve as a memorial of his death, and he expects his disciples to regularly keep his death in view by partaking in the holy communion. The apostle Paul stressed the fact that as often as we take part in the Lord’s supper, we are showing forth the Lord’s death till he returns.
1 Corinthians 11:23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
1 Corinthians 11:24 And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
1 Corinthians 11:25 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 you, as oft as you drink it, in remembrance of me.
1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he come.
At the inception of the church, the early Christians broke bread regularly (almost daily), as they tried to obey the Lord’s commandment to remember his death often. So, we see that remembering the Lord’s death in the early church was not just a yearly routine, but a daily reality. It was not celebrated through the observance of Lent or Good Friday, but through regular participation in the Lord’s supper. That’s how any church that seeks to follow the apostolic doctrine ought to commemorate the Lord’s death. Gathering at the Lord’s table is the way to remember the Lord’s death, and it is to be done often and regularly, as the cross of Christ which it represents should be kept in view always. We are to remember the Lord’s death always, for that is the focus of the gospel.
The Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls.
The Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
The Acts 2:43 And fear came on every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
The Acts 2:44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
The Acts 2:45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
The Acts 2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
The Acts 2:47 Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
In conclusion, though church tradition chooses to commemorate the death of Christ yearly during the Lenten season and on Good Friday, the original apostles and the early church remembered the Lord’s death through the Lord’s supper. It was in partaking in the communion meal that Christ commanded his disciples to remember his death. Hence, the early Christians took the communion frequently, almost daily at the church’s inception, to commemorate the Lord’s death. Paul taught that as often as we partake of the Lord’s supper, we do show the Lord’s death till he returns. It’s therefore in the Lord’s supper that we are to remember the Lord’s death, not in the yearly celebrations of Lent, Good Friday or Easter, which are extra-biblical traditions of men! We should not make the word of God void by our traditions, for that would amount to worshiping God in vain!
Mark 7:5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not your disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?
Mark 7:6 He answered and said to them, Well has Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
Mark 7:7 However, in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Mark 7:8 For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things you do.
Mark 7:9 And he said to them, Full well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition.
Mark 7:10 For Moses said, Honor your father and your mother; and, Whoever curses father or mother, let him die the death:
Mark 7:11 But you say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatever you might be profited by me; he shall be free.
Mark 7:12 And you suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;
Mark 7:13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which you have delivered: and many such like things do you.
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