“After giving thanks, he broke [the loaf] and said: ‘This means my body which is in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.’”
1, 2. What could the apostles have thought about the timing of a trip to Jerusalem?
‘WITH the clouds gone, we can see the crescent of the moon. Last evening, watchmen in Jerusalem must have seen the first sliver of the moon. Once the Sanhedrin learned of that, they declared the start of a new month, Nisan. Then signal fires or messengers spread the news, even reaching here. Certainly, Jesus will want to head for Jerusalem in order to arrive before the Passover.’
2 We can imagine such thoughts coming to the mind of some who were with Jesus in Perea (across the Jordan) on his final trip to Jerusalem. (Matt. 19:1; 20:17, 29; Mark 10:1, 32, 46) Once the first day of the Jewish month Nisan was determined, the Passover would be held 13 days later, after sunset on Nisan 14.
3. Why are Christians rightly interested in the date of the Passover?
3 The date of the Lord’s Evening Meal, which corresponds to the date of the Passover, will be after sundown on April 14, 2014. That will be a special day for true Christians and interested ones. Why? Because of what we read at 1 Corinthians 11:23-25: “Jesus in the night in which he was going to be handed over took a loaf and, after giving thanks, he broke it and said: ‘This means my body which is in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.’ He did likewise respecting the cup.”
4. (a) What questions might arise about the Memorial? (b) How is the date of the Memorial determined each year? (See the box “Memorial 2014.”)
4 No doubt you will be present for the one event that Jesus said his followers should commemorate annually. In advance, ask yourself: ‘How should I prepare for that evening? What particular items will be used? What procedure will be followed during the event? And what meaning should the occasion and the items used have for me?’
5. Jesus had what preparations made for the last Passover with the apostles?
5 When Jesus told the apostles to get a room ready for the Passover meal, he did not mention elaborate decorations; instead, he likely wanted just a suitable, clean room with adequate space for the invited group. (Read Mark 14:12-16.) They would get ready certain items for the meal, including unleavened bread and red wine. After finishing the Passover meal, Jesus focused on those two emblems.
6. (a) After the Passover meal, what did Jesus say about the bread? (b) What sort of bread is used at the Memorial?
6 The apostle Matthew was present and later wrote: “Jesus took a loaf and, after saying a blessing, he broke it and, giving it to the disciples, he said: ‘Take, eat.’” (Matt. 26:26) The “loaf” was unfermented bread, as was used for the Passover. (Ex. 12:8; Deut. 16:3) The bread was made from wheat flour and water, without any leaven or seasoning, such as salt, being added. Because it was unleavened, it would not have risen. It would be plain, dry, and crackerlike, easy to break into pieces. Today, in advance of the Memorial, the congregation elders may ask someone to make such bread out of wheat flour and water, cooking it on a lightly oiled pan. (If wheat flour cannot be obtained, it may be made with flour from rice, barley, corn, or a similar grain.) Or Jewish matzoth may be used, a type without added malt, eggs, or onions.
7. What type of wine did Jesus speak of, and what sort of wine may be used today at the Memorial?
7 Matthew continued: “[Jesus] took a cup and, having given thanks, he gave it to them, saying: ‘Drink out of it, all of you.’” (Matt. 26:27, 28) What Jesus took in hand was a cup of red wine. (It would not have been fresh grape juice, for the grape harvest was long past.) Wine had not been part of that first meal in Egypt, yet Jesus did not object to its being part of the Passover. He even used some of it during the Lord’s Evening Meal. Christians thus have wine present for the Memorial. As there was no need for augmenting or fortifying the value of Jesus’ blood, the wine used is not a type fortified with brandy or spices. Plain red wine should be used, a homemade wine or a commercial wine, such as Beaujolais, Burgundy, or Chianti.
8. Why are Christians interested in the significance of the bread and the wine?
8 The apostle Paul made clear that Christians other than the apostles were to keep the Lord’s Evening Meal. To fellow believers in Corinth, he wrote: “I received from the Lord that which I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus . . . took a loaf and, after giving thanks, he broke it and said: ‘This means my body which is in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.’” (1 Cor. 11:23, 24) Accordingly, Christians down to today hold this special event annually and are interested in the significance of the bread and the wine.
9. Some hold what wrong view of the bread that Jesus used?
9 Some churchgoers point out that Jesus literally said: ‘This is my body,’ so they believe that the bread miraculously became his actual flesh. However, that is contrary to fact. * Jesus’ body was there in front of the faithful apostles, and so was the unleavened bread they would partake of. Clearly, Jesus was speaking symbolically, as he did many other times.
10. What is represented by the bread used during the Lord’s Evening Meal?
10 The bread that the apostles could see and would soon partake of meant Jesus’ body. Which body? At one time, God’s servants felt that because Jesus broke the bread but none of his own bones were broken, the bread meant “the body of the Christ,” the congregation of anointed ones. (Eph. 4:12; Rom. 12:4, 5; 1 Cor. 10:16, 17; 12:27) In time, however, it was appreciated that both reason and Scripture indicate that the bread represents Jesus’ human body, which had been prepared for him. Jesus “suffered in the flesh,” even being impaled. Thus, at the Lord’s Evening Meal, the bread represents that physical body in which Jesus “bore our sins.”
11, 12. (a) What did Jesus say regarding the wine? (b) The wine used at the Lord’s Evening Meal represents what?
11 That helps us to understand what Jesus then said about the wine. We read: “He did likewise respecting the cup also, after he had the evening meal, saying: ‘This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood.’” (1 Cor. 11:25) Many Bibles are worded similar to the literal version by Robert Young: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” (Italics ours.) Was the actual cup Jesus held the new covenant? No. The word “cup” referred to what was in it
12 In Mark’s Gospel, we find Jesus’ words: “This means my ‘blood of the covenant,’ which is to be poured out in behalf of many.” (Mark 14:24) Yes, Jesus’ blood would be “poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins.” (Matt. 26:28) Hence, the red wine fittingly represents Jesus’ literal blood. By means of that blood, we can gain release by ransom, “the forgiveness of our trespasses.”
COMMEMORATING CHRIST’S DEATH
13. Describe how the annual Memorial of Christ’s death is commemorated.
13 If you are attending the Memorial with Jehovah’s Witnesses for the first time, what can you expect? The gathering will likely be in an attractive, clean setting where all can comfortably enjoy the occasion. There may be some simple flower arrangements, but you will not be distracted by gaudy bunting or any party atmosphere. A qualified elder will consider in a clear and dignified manner what the Bible says about the occasion. He will help all to appreciate what Christ did for us. He died as a ransom that we may live. (Read Romans 5:8-10.) The speaker will explain the two distinct hopes set out in the Bible for Christians.
14. During the Memorial talk, what hopes are discussed?
14 One is the hope of reigning with Christ in heaven, the hope entertained by a relatively small number of Christ’s followers, such as the faithful apostles. (Luke 12:32; 22:19, 20; Rev. 14:1) The other hope is for most Christians loyally serving God in our time. They have the prospect of living forever on earth in a restored paradise. Then God’s will is to be done on earth as in heaven, something for which Christians have long prayed. (Matt. 6:10) And the Scriptures give delightful indications of the marvelous conditions that they will be able to experience endlessly.
15, 16. What is done with the bread during the Lord’s Evening Meal?
15 Near the close of that discussion, the speaker will indicate that the time has come to carry out what Jesus told his apostles to do. As mentioned above, two emblems will be used, unleavened bread and red wine. These may be on a table near the speaker. He will call attention to a Bible account that describes what Jesus said and did when he instituted this event. For example, in Matthew’s account we read: “Jesus took a loaf and, after saying a blessing, he broke it and, giving it to the disciples, he said: ‘Take, eat. This means my body.’” (Matt. 26:26) Jesus broke the unleavened bread so that he could pass some to the apostles on each side of him. You will see at the meeting on April 14 some unleavened bread already broken into a few pieces and placed on serving plates.
16 Enough plates will be used so that in a reasonable time, these can be passed to all present. This will not be with any elaborate ritual. A brief prayer will be offered, after which the plates will be passed in an orderly way, according to what seems practical locally. Few (or perhaps no one) will partake of the bread, as was the case in most congregations when the bread was passed on this occasion in 2013.
17. At the Memorial, how is Jesus’ direction regarding the wine followed?
17 The focus will then shift to what Matthew went on to describe: “[Jesus] took a cup and, having given thanks, he gave it to them, saying: ‘Drink out of it, all of you; for this means my “blood of the covenant,” which is to be poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins.’” (Matt. 26:27, 28) Following that pattern, there will be another prayer and then ‘cups’ of red wine will be passed among all present.
18. If few or even none partake of the emblems, why is it still important to be present?
18 Most in attendance respectfully abstain from partaking of the emblems as they are passed because Jesus indicated that only those who will reign in his heavenly Kingdom are to partake. (Read Luke 22:28-30; 2 Tim. 4:18) All others present will be respectful observers. Still, being at the Lord’s Evening Meal is important, for being there shows how highly they value Jesus’ sacrifice. During the Memorial, they can reflect on the blessings that they can have on the basis of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. They have the prospect of being among the “great crowd” who survive the coming “great tribulation.” Those are worshippers who will have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
19. What can you do to prepare for and benefit from the Lord’s Evening Meal?
19 Jehovah’s Witnesses around the earth prepare for this special meeting. Weeks in advance, we will participate in inviting as many as possible to attend. Furthermore, in the days leading up to the Memorial, most of us will read the Bible accounts of what Jesus did and what occurred on the corresponding date in 33 C.E. We will have arranged our personal affairs to be sure to be present. It is fine to arrive well before the opening song and prayer so that we can welcome visitors and then take in the whole program. All of us, members of the congregation and visitors, will derive real benefit from following along in our Bible as the points are made. Most important, our presence at the Memorial will show heartfelt appreciation for Jesus’ sacrifice and will reflect obedience to his command: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.”
^ par. 9 German scholar Heinrich Meyer observes: “Seeing . . . that the body of Jesus was still unbroken (still living), and that, as yet, His blood had not been shed, none of the guests [the apostles] can have supposed . . . that they were in reality eating and drinking the very body and blood of the Lord, [so] Jesus Himself could not have intended His simple words to be understood in a sense which they did not then admit of.”