On Tuesday night I attended the annual Jehovah’s Witnesses “Memorial of Jesus’ Death.” (aka in evangelical Christian circles “Communion,” “Lord’s Supper,” or “Eucharist.”) This once-a-year meeting is a Big Deal to them, but visitors like me (i.e. non-JW’s) will find it both boring and bizarre at the same time. Why are they so excited about such a drab, lifeless service that produces indifference in the rest of us? I think it comes down to smugness. That was the vibe I got this time around (I have attended 4 memorials now). The speaker spent a lot of time discussing how pleasing it was to Jehovah that everyone who was there was there, and how many millions around the world were also pleasing Jehovah. The implication was that “we’ve got the date right, and the practice right, and the doctrine right, so this is the only observance of the ordinance in all the world that counts.” My thought was “stop bragging about your observance of the memorial, and start actually observing it!” Bleah! Frustrating.
Anyway, before the service began, I greeted all my JW friends, then sat with a couple of nice older ladies. I even enlarged the font on my JW app Bible, enabling one of the ladies to look on with me. When the elements were being passed, I felt like I could not take part in passing them, so I got up and stood on one side of the room and observed. I took my seat again for the final song and prayer.
My goal in talking with people afterward was to engage each person for as long as I could. Several times I was asked if I liked or enjoyed the service, to which I used my standard reply, “I’m glad I came.” Most conversations were brief and trite (weather, jobs, etc.). When circumstances and the Spirit’s leading allowed, my gateway statement into deeper issues was this: “This is the fourth memorial I have attended, and I have yet to see anyone eat or drink. From the talks and my reading at JW.org, I think I know the answer why, but could you just explain to me again why Jesus says, “Do this,” and here we are, gathered to “do this,” but we don’t “do this”? I had two such longer and deeper conversations. The first was with “Debbie” (fictional name). She gave the standard explanation about the two classes of believers, that is, the anointed 144,000, and the remaining great crowd. I listened, then shared with her my concern about the great crowd not having the privilege of being adopted as Jehovah’s children, as so wonderfully discussed in Romans 8 and other scriptures. (If you’re not familiar with the passage, Read Romans 8:15-17. That’s a required reading, just like in the Watchtower publications.) Debbie referenced John 10:16, about the “other sheep,” applying the verse to the two classes of believers. My response was, “But isn’t that verse about the Jewish believers and Gentile believers at that time?” First she agreed, but then flipped and strongly disagreed (cognitive dissonance). I sensed her shutting down, so I shifted the conversation back to small talk. She immediately warmed to me again, and we left on good terms, even greeting each other later before we both left the building.
My second deeper conversation was with “Devin,” whom I knew both from the marketplace and from the kingdom hall. I used the same probing question that I had used with Debbie. He also gave the standard explanation about the two-class system of believers.
Side note: It’s interesting to me that WT has called the 144,000 the slave class, the anointed class, and other names with “class,” but the speaker on Tuesday night was adamant that we shouldn’t think of the great crowd as “second class.” Hmm.
So I expressed my concern to Devin that the great crowd misses out on so many benefits. I listed heavenly hope, being in the New Covenant, being sons of Abraham as well as kings and priests, being adopted as Jehovah’s sons (Romans 8 again; have you read it?), and having Jesus as our mediator. At that point Devin responded, “But Jesus is our mediator.” I assured him that WT teaches that Jesus is the mediator for only the anointed 144,000. Devin insisted that I was wrong, and he quized me about what I considered was included in Jesus being our mediator. I mentioned that public prayers at JW meetings are often concluded with “in the name of Jesus,” indicating that Jesus’ role in prayer is part of his mediatorial role. And I listed Jesus being not only our sacrifice, but also our high priest (according to the book of Hebrews), another aspect of being our mediator. And also that he is the mediator of the New Covenant, as mentioned in the talk, and as found in Hebrews. At that point I could see Devin’s mind bend, because of course WT teaches that only the 144,000 are in the New Covenant. He continued to insist that Jesus was mediator for all believers, while also arguing (at the same time) that only the 144,000 are in the New Covenant, of which Jesus is mediator (cognitive dissonance again).
I asked “If the anointed are in the New Covenant, what covenant are the great crowd in?” He answered correctly according to WT teaching that they are in no covenant. I then told him that it greatly concerns me, because a covenant is Jehovah’s arrangement with his people, and that Ephesians shows the severe implications of not being in the New Covenant. Devin’s response was “I’m not going to argue with you about it.” Oh-oh, signs of shutting down (alarms blaring). He then asked if I was studying with someone. I helped lighten the conversation by telling him about my studies with Aaron, explaining that we were on hiatus because of Aaron’s life changes, but that we were discussing picking up our meetings again soon. Devin gave his approval, and also invited me to contact him with any questions I might have. (Nice! That was a quick turnaround, and a good save; God must have been at work on that one.)
Before we finished talking, I told him that I was sure that WT teaches that Jesus is the mediator for only the anointed, and I told him where to find the info at JW.org. (Go to online library, publications, publications index, subject index, “mediator.” What comes up is the Insight book, vol. 2, the article about mediator.) We ended the conversation on very friendly terms.
As I honestly answered my JW friends, I am truly glad that I attended the 2017 Memorial. Seeing God at work in the hearts and minds of those who desperately need Jesus as their mediator is always (to use “theocratic language”) thrilling beyond words.