CHRISTIANS are commanded to observe the Memorial of Christ’s death. This observance is also called “the Lord’s Evening Meal.” (1 Corinthians 11:20) What is so significant about it? When and how should it be observed?
Jesus Christ instituted this observance on the night of the Jewish Passover in 33 C.E. The Passover was a celebration held just once a year, on the 14th day of the Jewish month Nisan. To calculate that date, the Jews evidently waited for the spring equinox. This is the day when there are approximately 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. The first observable new moon nearest to the spring equinox marked the first day of Nisan. Passover began 13 days later.
Jesus celebrated the Passover with his apostles, dismissed Judas Iscariot, and then instituted the Lord’s Evening Meal. This meal replaced the Jewish Passover and therefore should be observed only once a year.
The Gospel of Matthew reports: “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.’ And taking a cup, he offered thanks and 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.’”—Matthew 26:26-28.
Some believe that Jesus turned the bread into his literal flesh and the wine into his blood. However, Jesus’ fleshly body was still intact when he offered this bread. Were Jesus’ apostles really eating his literal flesh and drinking his blood? No, for that would have been cannibalism and a violation of God’s law. (Genesis 9:3, 4; Leviticus 17:10) According to Luke 22:20, Jesus said: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf.” Did that cup literally become “the new covenant”? That would be impossible, since a covenant is an agreement, not a tangible object.
Hence, both the bread and the wine are only symbols. The bread symbolizes Christ’s perfect body. Jesus used a loaf of bread left over from the Passover meal. The loaf was made without any leaven, or yeast. (Exodus 12:8) The Bible often uses leaven as a symbol of sin or corruption. The bread therefore represents the perfect body that Jesus sacrificed. It was free of sin.—Matthew 16:11, 12; 1 Corinthians 5:6, 7; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 2:1, 2.
The red wine represents Jesus’ blood. That blood makes valid the new covenant. Jesus said that his blood was poured out “for forgiveness of sins.” Humans can thus become clean in God’s eyes and can enter into the new covenant with Jehovah. (Hebrews 9:14; 10:16, 17) This covenant, or contract, makes it possible for 144,000 faithful Christians to go to heaven. There they will serve as kings and priests for the blessing of all mankind.—Genesis 22:18; Jeremiah 31:31-33; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 5:9, 10; 14:1-3.
Who should partake of these Memorial emblems? Logically, only those in the new covenant—that is, those who have the hope of going to heaven—should partake of the bread and the wine. God’s holy spirit convinces such ones that they have been selected to be heavenly kings. (Romans 8:16) They are also in the Kingdom covenant with Jesus.—Luke 22:29.
What about those who have the hope of living forever in Paradise on earth? They obey Jesus’ command and attend the Lord’s Evening Meal, but they come as respectful observers, not partakers. Once a year after sundown on Nisan 14, Jehovah’s Witnesses observe the Lord’s Evening Meal. Although only a few thousand worldwide profess to have the heavenly hope, this observance is precious to all Christians. It is an occasion when all can reflect on the superlative love of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ.—John 3:16.