“The Lord’s Evening Meal”
“To eat the Lord’s evening meal. . . . For as often as you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives.”—1 Cor. 11:20-26, NW.
1. What has Jehovah provided to unify his people as one body?
JEHOVAH God has provided a cup and a table for the people upon whom his great name is called. Favored and happy are all men and women who have the privilege of participating in the cup and at the table. These things he provides in order to unify his people as one body, with all members of it at peace with one another, helping and serving one another.
2. What two classes are now brought together at Memorial, and so what question arises?
2 In the world artificial methods are being tried to attain unity within human society, and yet the steady tendency is toward selfish disunity, with finally ‘every man’s hand against his neighbor’. But Jehovah’s unification work is succeeding. For nineteen centuries he has been calling, gathering and preparing the “little flock” of sheeplike men and women. (Luke 12:32) These faithfully follow the Shepherd Jesus Christ and so are to be united with him in the heavenly kingdom to reign with him for the blessing of all the families of the earth. In recent years, since the end of World War I in 1918, Jehovah has been using his Shepherd to gather other sheeplike ones, a “great crowd” of them, and they are called his “other sheep”. (Rev. 7:9-17; John 10:16) There is now only a small remnant of the “little flock” on earth within the Shepherd’s fold, but now he provides them with many companions by bringing together a great crowd of other sheep. Thus he brings about the condition which he describes as “one flock, one shepherd”. The other sheep find in the Bible that their destiny is not heavenly, but earthly. They are to inhabit forever the restored paradise on this earth and to be blessed with peace, prosperity, happiness and perfect human health by the heavenly kingdom of Jesus Christ and his little flock. So, in this condition of “one flock, one shepherd”, the question arises at Memorial time, What are the privileges of the remnant and of the great crowd respecting Jehovah’s cup and table? Difference of destiny should not create disunity among the sheep, and neither should difference of privilege do so. Happily it has been found not to do so. Why not?
3. What name did Paul give to Memorial? How did he describe it?
3 The cup of Jehovah and the table of Jehovah are spoken of in connection with the Lord’s evening meal. Likely you call it “the Lord’s supper”. (1 Cor. 11:20) This name designates the special meal which the Lord Jesus set up among his loyal followers on the night in which he was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. One of Jesus’ followers, the apostle Paul, gives it this name in his letter to the Corinthians. Calling attention to their disorderliness about the matter, he writes: “Therefore, when you come together to one place, it is not possible to eat the Lord’s evening meal. . . . For I received from the Lord that which I also handed on to you, that the Lord 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 also, after he had the evening meal, saying: ‘This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood. Keep doing this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives.”—1 Cor. 11:20-26, NW; also Moffatt’s translation.
4. How often has it been celebrated? Who now have questions on it?
4 The Lord Jesus died in the year 33 (A.D.). For nineteen centuries since then his obedient disciples have observed this supper, or evening meal, on the proper day of each year. The celebration of it annually until this year 1951 has meant its celebration more than 1,900 times, which makes it “often” indeed. Contrary to the claims of some religionists, Jesus personally has not had to suffer again that many times, that “often”, because the apostle Paul says not. (Heb. 9:24-26; 10:10-14) In this twentieth century a faithful remnant of his “little flock” continues obediently to observe the Lord’s evening meal, “proclaiming the death of the Lord.” But now a “great crowd” of other sheep in hundreds of thousands are associating with the remnant under the Shepherd Jesus Christ. Since the “little flock” is limited by the Scriptures to 144,000 members as a whole (Rev. 7:4-8; 14:1, 3), and since the number of copies of The Watchtower printed is some 1,235,000 in 36 languages, the majority of our readers must be outside the “little flock” and be destined for the great crowd of other sheep. As we approach another Memorial season there is no question about what the small remnant must do, but the question all these other sheep now entertain is, Shall I participate in the bread and wine with the remnant? Am I commanded to, and so must I? Is it my privilege also?
DECIDING ON PARTAKING
5-7. What participator recorded the first Memorial? What does he say?
5 By examining the circumstances and features of the first celebration it will help us all in determining the Bible answer to these important questions. Let us take the account of a man who was present and participated and who saw and heard what was done. He is the apostle Matthew. The other writers of accounts, Mark, Luke and Paul, were not participators. Matthew 26:17-30 reads:
6 “On the first day of the unleavened cakes the disciples came up to Jesus, saying: ‘Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the passover?’ He said: ‘Go into the city to so-and-so and say to him, The Teacher says: “My appointed time is near; I will celebrate the passover with my disciples at your home.’” And the disciples did as Jesus ordered them, and they got things ready for the passover. When, now, it had become evening, he was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples [so including Matthew]. While they were eating he said: ‘Truly I say to you, One of you will betray me.’ Being very much grieved at this, they commenced each and every one to say to him: ‘Master, it is not I, is it?’ In reply he said: ‘He that dips his hand with me in the bowl is the one that will betray me. True, the Son of man is going away, just as it is written concerning him, but woe to that man through whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for him if that man had not been born.’ By way of reply, Judas, who was about to betray him, said: ‘It is not I, is it, Rabbi?’ He said to him: ‘That was for you to say.’”
7 After this exchange between Jesus and Judas, the account goes on to say: “As they continued eating, 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.’ Also he 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. But I tell you, I will by no means drink henceforth any of this product of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in the kingdom of my Father.’ Finally, after singing praises, they went out to the mount of Olives.”—NW; see also Moffatt’s translation.
8. What does John write on Jesus’ identifying of his betrayer?
8 Mark’s account agrees with Matthew’s above. Thus we have two writers as witnesses. The apostle John was at that first Memorial and he tells us more details about the identifying of the betrayer after Jesus said: “Truly I say to you, One of you will betray me.” So John 13:22-30 adds: “The disciples began to look at one another, being at a loss as to which one he meant. There was reclining in front of Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, and Jesus loved him. Therefore Simon Peter nodded to this one and said to him: ‘Tell who it is about whom he is speaking.’ So the latter leaned back upon the breast of Jesus and said to him: ‘Master, who is it?’ Therefore Jesus answered: ‘It is that one to whom I shall give the morsel that I dip.’ And so, having dipped the morsel, he took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. And after the morsel then Satan entered into the latter. Jesus, therefore, said to him: ‘What you are doing get done more quickly.’ However, none of those reclining at the table knew for what purpose he said this to him. Some, in fact, were imagining, since Judas was holding the money-box, that Jesus was telling him: ‘Buy what things we need for the feast,’ or that he should give something to the poor. Therefore, after he received the morsel, he went out immediately. And it was night.”—NW.
9. So did Judas celebrate Memorial? What shows whether he did?
9 Thus by the agreement of these three witnesses we have it settled that Judas left the gathering before Jesus introduced the Memorial to the other apostles, the faithful eleven. The bread Jesus served at this Memorial was not dipped in the passover sauce before he gave it to them. Neither after setting up the Memorial did Jesus return to eating the passover and dipping morsels of bread. So Jesus served Judas with the sop and dismissed him before the new Memorial. Judas celebrated merely the passover with Jesus and his faithful apostles, just as the temple priests and captains did to whom Judas had bargained to betray Jesus. Judas was not debarred from the passover any more than they were; only all of them celebrated that passover with condemnation to themselves. Jesus let Judas be there for the passover with him that thus prophecy might have its full climax; as Jesus said: “But the result is that the scripture is fulfilled, ‘He that used to feed on my bread has lifted up his heel against me.’” (John 13:18, NW) It follows that Jesus established the Memorial with the eleven loyal apostles, and by this he indicated who were to celebrate it henceforth.
10. Why, though not spirit-begotten, could the apostles partake?
10 No, those eleven men had not yet been begotten and anointed by God’s spirit, “for as yet there was no spirit, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.” (John 7:39, NW) The spirit first came on the day of Pentecost ten days after Jesus had ascended to heavenly glory at his Father’s right hand. But Jesus had said to those apostles: “In the re-creation, when the Son of man sits down upon his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also yourselves sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matt. 19:28, NW) He had also called them members of his little flock, saying: “Have no fear, little flock, because your Father has approved of giving you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32, NW) To the apostles James and John he had also said: “The cup I am drinking you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am being baptized you will be baptized.” (Mark 10:39, NW) And right after setting up the Memorial Jesus confirmed their being in line for the heavenly kingdom, when he said: “You are the ones that have stuck with me in my trials; and I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:28-30, NW) In his closing prayer Jesus prayed to his heavenly Father that they might be with him in his kingdom.—John 17:24.
11. So in what way will the other sheep not qualify as those apostles later did?
11 Thus the fact that the eleven apostles were not yet begotten by the spirit cannot be used as an argument that believers who are not begotten of the spirit may partake of the Memorial emblems. Fifty-one days later the holy spirit was poured out upon the apostles and they were brought forth as spiritual sons of God. After that they did celebrate the Memorial as spiritual sons of God. But those who make up the great crowd of other sheep are not in line for the heavenly kingdom and will never be begotten by God’s spirit and be resurrected to spirit life. So they never become the spiritual Israelites to whom the apostle Peter wrote: “Coming to [Christ] as to a living stone, rejected, it is true, by men, but chosen, precious, with God, you yourselves also as living stones are being built up a spiritual house for the purpose of a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. . . . you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”—1 Pet. 2:4-9, NW.
NOT AN ANTITYPE OF THE PASSOVER
12. What argument is raised for the other sheep to partake of it?
12 Someone will say: “The remnant and the other sheep are now ‘one flock, one shepherd’. The other sheep are devoted to God the same as the remnant. This devoting of oneself to God was symbolized by the Jewish rite of circumcision, was it not? And were not those strangers who sojourned with the Israelites allowed to partake of the passover, if they got circumcised? And so why should not the remnant and the other sheep or stranger class all partake together in common appreciation of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice? Did not those circumcised strangers who partook of the passover make up the mixed multitude which marched out of Egypt with the Israelites, and do they not picture the ‘great crowd’ of other sheep of today? So why not all partake of Memorial?”—Ex. 12:48, 49, 38; Num. 11:4.
13, 14. Why is this no real argument for them to partake?
13 We answer, These things may be true, but participating in the Jewish passover is no argument for partaking of the Lord’s evening meal. Why not? Because the passover is not a type of the Lord’s evening meal.
14 In the passover the natural Jews and the circumcised strangers sojourning among them ate of a roast lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Previous to the supper, the blood of the passover lamb was sprinkled on the doorposts and lintels of the Israelite homes and the celebrators retired indoors under the blood to keep the passover. (Ex. 12:1-27) But when setting up the Memorial Jesus took a loaf of unleavened bread, blessed it, broke it and distributed it, saying: “This means my body which is to be given in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” Then he used wine to represent blood, but he did not tell his disciples to sprinkle the wine the way the lamb’s blood had been sprinkled in Egypt. Instead, he handed them the wine in a cup and told them all to drink it, that is, drink symbolic blood, saying: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf.” (Luke 22:19, 20, NW) For the passover celebrators to drink the lamb’s blood would have been to violate God’s covenant with Noah concerning the sanctity of blood. Hence it would have called for the death of the drinkers. But Jesus told his disciples to drink the symbol of blood, the wine. So in a very important respect there is no correspondency between passover and Memorial, and the passover does not typify the Memorial. Celebrating passover does not picture celebrating the Christian Memorial.
15. What Israelites first celebrated, and afterward what Gentiles?
15 For the first four celebrations of the Memorial (A.D. 33-36) those who participated were Jews, proselytes and circumcised Samaritans. They were not the average Israelites who were entitled to partake of the passover. They were the remnant of the Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah sent by God and who were baptized. Three and a half years after Jesus instituted the Memorial the apostle Peter was sent to the home of the Italian centurion Cornelius. From then on the uncircumcised non-Jews or Gentiles turned to Jehovah God and accepted Jesus as His Messiah and they were baptized in his name and admitted to the Memorial table and its emblems. Jehovah God the Father begot them as his spiritual sons and anointed them with his spirit to preach the kingdom of God. (Acts 10:1 to 11:18; Daniel 9:24-27) During the past nineteen centuries since then these spiritual children of God, these anointed “ambassadors for Christ”, have been the only ones celebrating the true Memorial worthily.
EMBLEMATIC MEANING HELPS DECIDE
16, 17. What does the meaning of the emblems help us decide? What were Jesus’ words explaining their meaning?
16 What do the emblems which Jesus used in setting up the Memorial mean? This has been a subject of tremendous controversy over centuries. The true Scriptural meaning itself helps in deciding who may rightly partake in harmony with the symbolism. The Memorial being instituted right after eating the passover, only unleavened bread was available to Jesus. Leaven or yeast represents sin; and bread without it is the only proper kind of emblem in the way of bread, to represent something sinless. So what does the loaf of bread mean, and also the wine? Using Moffatt’s translation, we quote again Matthew’s account for Jesus’ words:
17 “As they were eating, he took a loaf and after the blessing he broke it; then he gave it to the disciples saying, ‘Take and eat this, it means my body.’ He also took a cup, and after thanking God he gave it to them saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you; this means my blood, the new covenant-blood, shed for many, to win the remission of their sins. I tell you, after this I will never drink this produce of the vine, till the day I drink it new with you in the Realm of my Father.’”—Matt. 26:26-29, Mo.
18. Were the bread and wine transubstantiated? So how were they used?
18 By this we see that Jesus did not say that the bread and wine had been transubstantiated into his literal body and blood; no more than that the cup had been transformed into the new covenant when he said: “This cup means the new covenant ratified by my blood shed for your sake.” (Luke 22:20, Mo) The bread and wine are merely emblems. They undergo no change by the words pronounced over them, but by such words they are explained to mean something else. What? Jesus said, “my body” and “my blood shed for your sake”.
19. What is Paul’s commentary on their meaning at 1 Corinthians 10?
19 For commentary on these words we turn to Paul, where he says: “Therefore, my beloved ones, flee from idolatry. I speak as to men with discernment; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of the Christ? The loaf which we break, is it not a sharing in the body of the Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, although many, are one body, for we are all partaking of that one loaf.” (1 Cor. 10:14-17, NW) For comparison we quote another version of these words, Moffatt’s: “Shun idolatry, then, my beloved. I am speaking to sensible people; weigh my words for yourselves. The cup of blessing, which we bless, is that not participating in the blood of Christ? The bread we break, is that not participating in the body of Christ? (for, many as we are, we are one Bread, one Body, since we all partake of the one Bread).” With Moffatt’s rendering the American Standard Version agrees; also Rotherham, Darby, Cuthbert Lattey, the New World Translation’s margin, etc.a
20. To what was Jesus referring by his words “my body”? What scriptures bear this out?
20 From this inspired testimony it is evident that at the Memorial the Lord Jesus was referring to the “congregation, which is his body”. It is, as Jesus said, “my body,” because God “subjected all things under his feet, and made him head over all things to the congregation, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills up all things in all”. (Eph. 1:22, 23, NW) In further explanation the apostle Paul writes in his same first letter to the Corinthians, saying: “For just as the body is one thing but has many members, and all the members of that body, although being many, are one body, so also is the Christ. For truly by one spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink one spirit. But now God has set the members in the body, each one of them, just as he pleased. If they were all one member, where would the body be? . . . the head cannot say to the feet: ‘I have no need of you.’ . . . Now you are Christ’s body, and members individually. And God has set the respective ones in the congregation.”—1 Cor. 12:12, 13, 18, 19, 21, 27, 28, NW.
21. So what does partaking of the loaf mean? Whom does this debar?
21 Hence when a Christian is really devoted to God and eats of the Memorial bread, he is thereby confessing that he is “sharing in the body of the Christ”; he is a member of it. Has he glorified or exalted himself publicly to membership in the spiritual body of Christ? No; but he has met God’s requirements and he recognizes that “God has set” him in the body of Christ. This in itself rules out all the “other sheep” from partaking of the Memorial emblems, as they are not members of Christ’s body. They cannot partake and say: “Because there is one loaf, we, although many, are one body,” that is, “one body” with the members of Christ’s body.
22. What must therefore exist between partakers of the loaf? How?
22 The body of Christ was represented by the “one loaf”, and the members of that spiritual body “are all partaking of that one loaf”. For that reason there must be complete unity among them, for “we, although many, are one body”. (1 Cor. 10:17, NW) Our unity must be not merely with one another, but particularly with the Head Jesus Christ. He is the Principal One. We must remember him. We must keep “holding fast to the head, to the one from whom all the body, being supplied and harmoniously joined together by means of its joints and ligaments, goes on growing with the growth which God gives”. (Col. 2:19, NW) It was because of arguing this vital matter of unity in his first letter to the Corinthians that the apostle suddenly made reference in the tenth chapter to the Lord’s evening meal, or the Memorial. He held before them as a warning example the Israelites in the wilderness who fell away from Jehovah God to the worship of idols representing demons, so committing spiritual as well as physical fornication. He then warned his fellow Christians to “flee from idolatry”. As an argument for them to do this he told them to consider what he had to say about the Lord’s evening meal. The basic thought of that meal was oneness with Christ.
a Spencer; Verkuyl, Anderson: Torres Amat, D’Almeida; the Portuguese Brazilian Bible; Elberfelder German; Centenary Version; Basic English; Westminster Version; the Latin Vulgate; and Douay Version.