“What would Jesus do?” You’ve likely heard this catchphrase since this question has been popular in religious circles in recent decades. It’s shown up on countless signs, shirts, bracelets, posters, jewelry and books—often in the abbreviated form of “ WWJD?”
It’s a great question and one we should always consider.
A friend of mine offers a variation on that question that is perhaps even more incisive: “What did Jesus do?”
I like this question better, because while any of us can speculate as to what Jesus might or might not do in a given situation, it’s a little harder to rationalize our answers when we have a solid factual account of what Jesus actually did as recorded in the Gospels and other parts of the Bible.
So again, I like this question better. Speculation is outweighed by solid facts.
Every year around this time I think about these two questions because the Bible clearly records Jesus giving His followers a specific “Do this,” and then He showed them by example what it was He wanted them to do.
Yet in spite of this example and instruction, many who claim to be following Him don’t do what He said to do, or do it differently, or do something completely unrecognizable from what He clearly said to do. Why is that?
Luke 22 describes what Jesus Christ did on His last night on earth with His apostles: “When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, ‘With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God’” (Luke 22:14-16 Luke 22:14-16 14 And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.
15 And he said to them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:
16 For I say to you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×).
Notice what Jesus called this observance. It was the Passover, the annual observance God had revealed to the Israelites some 15 centuries earlier. Although Christ would now add a new significance and dimension, it wasn’t a wholly new institution. And it was not to be observed whenever or however anyone wanted; it would be kept on one specific night a year following the instructions He laid down for His followers.
Continuing with Luke’s account of that evening: “And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you’” (Luke 22:19-20 Luke 22:19-20 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.
20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.
American King James Version×).
Unleavened bread and wine had long been a customary part of the Passover celebration, but now Jesus gave them new meaning and significance as symbols of His sacrifice and suffering.
More than 20 years later the apostle Paul echoed these words when he wrote to the church in Corinth (a group that, by the way, seems to have had far more gentiles than Jews):
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me’” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 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:
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.
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.
American King James Version×).
So Jesus instructed His apostles on what to do regarding this one evening a year, and some two decades later the apostle Paul repeated these instructions to a mostly gentile congregation. Both accounts are explicit that Jesus said to “Do this,” and that Christians are to do this as a commemoration of His astounding sacrifice.
So why don’t people do this in observance of Passover today? Why do they change Jesus’ instructions? Why do they substitute other practices and customs nowhere commanded in the Bible—such as sunrise services, Easter egg hunts and fluffy bunnies with colorful baskets—in place of what He commanded His followers to do?
Jesus never commanded such things, nor did the early Church. The one time “Easter” appears in the Bible in some translations (Acts 12:4 Acts 12:4And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.
American King James Version×), it’s a blatant mistranslation of the Greek word pascha, which always means Passover. He never told His followers to have a special celebration of His resurrection. But He clearly commanded them to annually commemorate His sacrificial death in the Passover bread and wine.
This year I’d encourage you to ask yourself these two all-important questions—What would Jesus do, and what did Jesus do?
The articles in this issue will help you understand the answers to these questions. And then there’s another important question: What will you do about it?
We’re here to help you understand what Jesus did, and how He expects us to follow His instructions and example! Contact us or one of our ministers at the office nearest you. We hope to hear from you!