“Keep Doing This in Remembrance of Me”
ONCE a year on the Biblical date of Nisan 14, Passover night, Jehovah’s dedicated people gather together in all parts of the earth in harmony with Jesus’ command: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19; Ex. 12:2-6) It is proper for the Lord’s Evening Meal to be commemorated on this true Passover night, annually after sundown, in one’s community.
Who are invited to attend? Those few, the remnant of Jehovah’s spirit-anointed ones, surely will attend, but also all those of the increasing “great crowd,” with earthly hopes, are cordially invited to be present, as well as all who are becoming acquainted with Jehovah’s provisions. (Rev. 12:17; 7:4, 9) Is this an occasion for ritualistic formalism or mysticism? Definitely not. Rather, this anniversary occasion, involving the symbolic emblems of bread and wine, recalls to the minds and hearts of the attenders what Jesus Christ did for them nineteen hundred years ago and what all of this means for them today and for a endless future.—1 Cor. 11:23-26.
How is this important date determined? In the first century Jesus and the early Christians accepted the determination of the date Nisan 14 (which commenced at sundown) as set by the Jewish temple priesthood in Jerusalem. It is noteworthy that Jesus celebrated the Passover meal on Nisan 14, as directed in the law of Moses. (Ex. 12:6-8; Lev. 23:5; Matt. 26:18-20) He did not eat the Passover meal on Nisan 15, as most Jews do today. After the destruction of the temple in 70 C.E., Christians had to determine the Nisan 14 Passover date themselves.
At the time when Roman Emperor Constantine made apostate Christianity the state religion (325 C.E.), the Council of Nicaea ordained that the celebration of Easter should always take place on the Sunday that immediately follows the full moon that happens upon, or next after, the day of the spring (vernal) equinox. Usually this equinox date is March 21. Should the fourteenth day from the new moon, which they regarded as the day of the full moon, fall on a Sunday, the celebration of Easter was deferred to the Sunday following. This was in order to avoid concurrence with the Jews and the minority of Christians, termed Quartodecimans, who still celebrated on the fourteenth of Nisan. In this way Christendom has come to have their “Maundy Thursday” always on a Thursday to commemorate Jesus’ Last Supper, and their “Good Friday” always on a Friday to commemorate his death.
At least by 1880 Jehovah’s anointed worshipers had departed from Christendom’s practice of celebrating the Lord’s Evening Meal several times a year and they observed it only on Nisan 14 after sundown. From then till about 1919 the anointed Christians accepted the dates as established by the Jewish calendar for the determining of Nisan 14. They realized that the Jewish calendar listed “Passover” for Nisan 15, after sundown. Nevertheless, these anointed Christians arranged to celebrate the Lord’s Evening Meal on the night of Nisan 14, even as did Jesus. Still, these Christians used the Jewish calendar in accepting the determination of the month of Nisan for each year.
The modern Jewish calendar determines the beginning of their month of Nisan by the astronomical new moon. However, usually it is eighteen hours or more later when the first sliver of the crescent of the new moon becomes visible in Jerusalem. Each year, in recent times, the governing body of Jehovah’s witnesses has determined the actual new moon that becomes visible in Jerusalem, which is the way the first of Nisan was determined in Biblical times. For this reason often there has been a difference of a day or two between the Memorial date of Jehovah’s witnesses and the Nisan 14 date according to the modern Jewish calendar.*
According to our present method of calculation, the Memorial date approximates the nearest full moon after the spring equinox. For example, in 1975 the Memorial date, as calculated fourteen days from the new moon (nearest the spring equinox) visible in Jerusalem, was Thursday, March 27, after sundown. Appropriately, there was also a full moon on Thursday, March 27, 1975. The date for Memorial in 1976, calculated by our present method, falls on Wednesday, April 14, after sundown. The full moon also occurs on this same date. So if, in the future, any of Jehovah’s people should be out of touch with the governing body, they could determine the Memorial date with fair accuracy from local calendars that show the first full moon after the spring equinox. The celebration would then take place after sundown of the day on which the full moon occurs.*
What should be done if there is an emergency on the night of the Lord’s Evening Meal? What if there is a violent storm or other major disturbance that would make it impossible for the local congregation to come together at the appointed time? In such cases, it might be well for the brothers to meet in small neighborhood groups or in family groups, if necessary. In this way they gather together to be reminded of the significance of the Memorial emblems of unleavened bread and wine. For such emergency occasions, one of the dedicated brothers (or a dedicated sister, if no brother is present) could briefly consider the Bible accounts in Matthew 26:17-30; Luke 22:7-23, 28-30; and 1 Corinthians 11:20-31. If a congregation has to meet in small groups, the combined number attending the small groups could be sent in as the report of the attendance for the entire congregation.
As to the emblems, certainly every effort should be made to see that those of the anointed remnant are served the bread and the wine, even if one is ill at home or in the hospital. Only in a very exceptional situation where one of the anointed remnant is unable to partake of the emblems on Nisan 14 may he wish to celebrate the Memorial the fourteenth day of the next lunar month (the day of the next full moon), in harmony with the principle found at Numbers 9:10, 11, and 2 Chronicles 30:1-3, 15, with regard to belated Passover celebrations. In such event of a belated celebration, this should be reported immediately thereafter.
What if more than one congregation will require the use of the same Kingdom Hall? It would be well to schedule the programs to show consideration by giving sufficient time for one congregation to leave the hall and for the next congregation to begin their program. With this in mind, in some cases additional halls have been rented for the Memorial celebration. In these cases, several congregations may find it advisable to combine in one meeting. A combined report could then be sent in, listing the names of the congregations involved.
What was the order of events in Jesus’ day? At the first celebration of the Lord’s Evening Meal, Matthew was personally present. He presents the actual order of things that occurred. Jesus and his twelve disciples celebrated the Passover meal using roast lamb and unleavened bread, to remind the partakers of what happened when the Israelites were delivered from Egypt in 1513 B.C.E. There was no mysticism as to the use of these reminders of the roast lamb and the unleavened bread. (Matt. 26:17-19; Ps. 119:2, 14) After the Passover meal, Jesus exposed his betrayer, Judas, who was then sent away. (Matt. 26:20-25; John 13:29, 30) This left Jesus with the eleven faithful apostles with whom he instituted the new evening meal involving the partaking of the unleavened bread and the cup of real red wine. In each case Jesus offered a prayer of thanks, first for the bread and then for the wine. (1 Cor. 11:24, 25) After Jesus made extended remarks and a prayer, they concluded by singing praises, thereafter departing for the Mount of Olives. This, then, sets the general procedure down to our day.—Matt. 26:26-30; John 13:31–18:1.
Of what do the emblems of bread and wine remind us? The unleavened bread reminds us of Jesus’ body of flesh, how he “suffered in the flesh” (1 Pet. 4:1); how he gave his fleshly body “in behalf of the life of the world” (John 6:51); how he is “the Lamb that was slaughtered” (Rev. 5:12); and how the Law covenant was taken “out of the way by nailing it to the torture stake.” (Col. 2:14) The emblem of red wine reminds us of how Jesus has served as our Ransomer in that we have been delivered by the “precious blood” of Jesus (1 Pet. 1:19); and how his lifeblood was used to validate the new covenant into which his joint heirs are brought (1 Cor. 11:25). While those of the “great crowd” do not partake of the emblems, they are reminded of the benefits of Jesus’ action and of the new covenant through which many benefits result to them. (Rev. 7:9, 10, 14) Truly, Jehovah has arranged for our deliverance through the atoning power of Christ’s sacrifice, not only for the anointed ones but also for all those given the opportunity to gain everlasting life here on earth.—Lev. 16:11; 1 John 2:2.
How is the meeting conducted? At the Memorial gathering a brother who serves as the chairman gives a brief welcome and opens the meeting with a song and a prayer. This is followed by the Memorial talk, given by a capable speaker (one of the anointed where available) selected by the appointed overseers. It would not be well for several brothers each to present a portion of the Memorial talk as in a symposium. It is recommended that the speaker should offer the two brief prayers over the emblems. (Matt. 26:26, 27) Following the serving of the emblems and additional comments by the speaker, concluding comments may be given by the presiding overseer unless he is the one handling the Memorial program. The meeting concludes with a closing song and a prayer.
Only those of the anointed remnant partake of the emblems that are passed around to the audience. Following a brief prayer, the bread is passed first. Next, after another prayer, the wine is served. The bread and the wine are not served together. Those who partake ‘worthily’ should partake of both emblems.—1 Cor. 11:27, 28.
The Bible says that Jesus broke the bread, evidently to serve the apostles reclining on either side of the table. (Matt. 26:26) This is not necessary in our circumstance today, as Jesus was not establishing a ritualistic precedent. There is thus no symbolic significance in the breaking of the unleavened bread. Remember that none of the bones of Jesus’ sinless physical body were broken in death. (Ex. 12:46; Ps. 34:20; John 19:33, 36) The number of cups and the number of plates used depends upon the number of servers required. A section of unleavened bread can be put on each plate used and the wine can be poured into the cups before the meeting begins.
What kinds of bread and wine are to be used? Since Jesus took unleavened bread that was used normally for the Passover, we today use unleavened bread. Some Jewish matzos are made with only wheat flour and water, and such may be used by Christians at the Memorial celebration. But we would not use matzos made with added ingredients, such as salt, sugar, malt, eggs, onions, and so forth.
Some Witnesses may prefer to make a small quantity of unleavened bread out of flour (wheat, rice or other grain) and water. This can be done as follows: Mix one and a half cups of flour with one cup of water, making a moist dough. On a flat surface, well dusted with flour, roll the dough to a wafer thickness, or as thin as possible. Place this on a baking pan or cookie sheet, generously forking small holes in the dough, and form it into a flat loaf. Bake in hot oven until it is dry and crisp.
Wine provided for the Memorial should be real red wine as was used by the Jews in their Passover celebrations. We notice that at Matthew 26:29 Jesus refers to the “product of the vine,” which, at that time of the year, could be only fermented wine. Unadulterated red grape wine is the only appropriate reminder of Jesus’ shed blood. Christ’s blood was sufficient without additives, so the wine used should be just unsweetened, unfortified, red wine. If difficulty is foreseen in obtaining the emblems, then preparations could be made well in advance to obtain them. Since the emblems in themselves are not sacred, after the celebration is over and the meeting dismissed, the bread and wine may be taken home and considered common, to be used at some other time as normal.—1 Sam. 21:4.
Who should partake of the emblems? Only those of the “little flock” are the ones taken into the new covenant and therefore required to partake of the emblems. (Luke 12:32) It was the eleven faithful apostles who, as the small group of prospective anointed ones, comprised the nucleus of those later to be taken into the new covenant on Pentecost day of 33 C.E. (Luke 22:20) The “great crowd,” not being ‘new creatures’ in the new covenant, are not partakers of the bread and wine on this anniversary occasion.—2 Cor. 5:17.
Each one of the anointed who attends the Memorial examines himself beforehand to see if he is worthy to partake and whether he truly has the witness of the spirit. (Rom. 8:16, 24; 1 Cor. 11:27-29) Occasionally there are some former partakers who have come to realize that their relationship to God is not that of an anointed son. They should properly cease partaking, but this would not be an indication that they have become unfaithful. It is just that their personal relationship with Jehovah has become clarified as being one with a earthly hope.
Those counted as partakers are those known as faithful, baptized servants of God. We do not invite disfellowshiped persons to attend. But if such a one is present, there is no reason to be disturbed if he is seated in a row with others and proceeds to partake of the emblems. Such a one is not counted, in any case, as a partaker.
It is always a joy to see so many new ones attending the Memorial celebration. After the program, an occasion for happy fellowship is enjoyed with the new ones and with one another. This joyful fellowship is truly upbuilding and encouraging to everyone. The evening’s program, if it is reflected upon, always gives much food for thought with grateful appreciation to Jehovah, reminding us of all that He has done out of love for us through our Ransomer, Jesus Christ our Lord. (Matt. 20:28; 1 Pet. 3:15) Upon arriving home after the program, a family of Jehovah’s witnesses may spend time discussing the meaning of this significant occasion. All of this helps to bring the family closer together and spiritually enriches them.
The elders make careful plans for an adequate Lord’s Evening Meal celebration for the local congregation. On this one night, in all parts of the globe, the hearts and minds of Jehovah’s dedicated people, the anointed and those of the “great crowd,” being unitedly assembled, give praise to our Sovereign God, Jehovah. They give thanks again to Jesus Christ our Ransomer who demonstrated his great love for us by surrendering his human life for our recovery. Annually the anointed remnant and the “great crowd” delight to commemorate him as the Messianic world conqueror.—John 16:33.
For the same reasons, occasionally the modern Jews find it necessary to add their intercalary thirteenth month at a different time than do Jehovah’s witnesses. On such occasions, then, their Passover date comes to be a month later than the Memorial date of Jehovah’s witnesses.
The Passover and Memorial dates basically fall according to a nineteen-year cycle. For details see Aid to Bible Understanding, page 1677, under the subheading “The Metonic Cycle.” See also pages 1076-1078 for information on the Lord’s Evening Meal.