Questions From Readers
◼ What should be used for the emblems at the celebration of the Lord’s Evening Meal, and how should these emblems be treated?
The yearly commemoration of the Lord’s Evening Meal (the Memorial) is the only celebration that Christians are Scripturally commanded to observe. Jesus instituted it on the night of Nisan 14, 33 C.E., after celebrating the Jewish Passover. In front of him were the various food items used in the Passover meal. Luke’s account says:
“[Jesus] took a loaf, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them, saying: ‘This means my body which is to be given in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.’ Also, the cup in the same way after they had the evening meal, he 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.
God had directed the Jews to use “unfermented cakes” during the Passover. (Exodus 12:8) Thus the ‘loaves’ that Jesus had available were unfermented cakes. They were made of wheat flour without any salt or other seasoning, for they represented the “bread of affliction.”—Deuteronomy 16:3.
Jehovah’s Witnesses today use similar “bread.” In some cases Jewish matzos are purchased and used, with care being taken to obtain matzos that have not been made with extra ingredients, such as onions, malt or eggs. Flat, dry, unseasoned matzos are appropriate. Or an unleavened bread can be made. A small amount of whole wheat flour* can be mixed with a little water. The slightly moist dough is rolled thin and then baked on a flat (slightly oiled) cooking sheet until the bread is dry and crisp.
What about the other emblem? By the first century C.E. the Jews had accepted the use of wine in the Passover meal. Jesus spoke of “the product of the vine” used in that celebration. (Luke 22:18) Some persons claim that Jesus was speaking not of wine but of unfermented grape juice. However, plain grape juice would not have kept unfermented from the fall harvest until Passover in the spring, so Jesus must have meant wine. Red grape wine would fittingly represent Jesus’ blood. Since Christ’s “precious blood” was fully adequate, at the Memorial it would not be appropriate to use a wine fortified or altered with brandy, such as sherry, port and muscatel, or certain other “dessert” wines. (1 Peter 1:19) Nor would it be proper to use a wine with spices or herbs added, such as vermouth and Dubonnet, or many other “appetizer” or “aperitif” wines. Rather, an unsweetened red wine like Chianti, Burgundy or claret is appropriate, or a homemade red wine that is not sweetened, spiced or fortified.
The elders in a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses should arrange beforehand to obtain unleavened bread and red wine, checking to be sure that what they get is suitable. In the days following the celebration of the Lord’s Evening Meal there is no need to view the remaining bread and wine as special or sanctified, for they continue to be just ordinary food products. Also, there is no reason to keep a certain bottle of wine from year to year for the celebration, unless a difficulty in obtaining suitable wine makes that advisable.
Some individuals, when handed the emblems during the Memorial celebration, have acted as if these had special powers. For example, a few persons have deliberately inclined their head toward or smelled the emblems. This is not fitting.
During the celebration of the Lord’s Evening Meal, the bread and the wine are emblematic of Jesus’ fleshly body and his precious blood. (Matthew 26:26-28) Accordingly, as they are passed, each individual should give respectful attention to what the bread and the wine represent. Those in the audience who do not partake can simply hand the plate and glass on to the next person, keeping in mind primarily Jesus’ sacrifice, which can cover our sins and makes available the prospect of everlasting life.—1 John 2:2; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.
Wheat flour is preferable, for that is what the Jews used for their unfermented cakes. But if it is very difficult to obtain wheat flour, unfermented “bread” made from rice, corn or other grain flour could be used.