Nisan 14—A Day for Remembering
“Keep doing this in remembrance of me.”—1 CORINTHIANS 11:24.
1. How did Jesus conquer the world?
“TAKE courage! I have conquered the world.” With such words of comfort and encouragement, Jesus strengthened his 11 faithful apostles the night before he died. Jesus had proved himself to be a world conqueror! He had successfully resisted every attempt of his Adversary, Satan the Devil, to break his loyalty to Jehovah. And now, with death on a torture stake facing him in a few hours, he was confident of maintaining his course of faithful integrity right to the very last.—John 16:33; Hebrews 12:2.
2. Why did Jesus institute “the Lord’s evening meal”?
2 This event of universal importance took place nineteen hundred and fifty-two years ago on the 14th day of Nisan, the first lunar month of the Jewish sacred calendar. This day would be one that was never to be forgotten by his devoted footstep followers. To ensure that his loyal followers would never overlook the significance of what was then to take place, Jesus instituted a special commemorative evening meal, described by the apostle Paul as “the Lord’s evening meal.” Under divine inspiration Paul relates that on this occasion Jesus commanded his disciples then present: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:20, 24) If you are concerned with being one of Jesus’ followers, do you appreciate why he commanded that, what it calls on you to do, and what it can mean for your future?
A Memorable Day
3. Why, and under what circumstances, was Nisan 14 first made a day for remembering?
3 This was not the first time in man’s history that Nisan 14 had been set aside as a day for remembering. In 1513 B.C.E., Jehovah, through his servant Moses, commanded the Israelites: “This day [Nisan 14] must serve as a memorial for you, and you must celebrate it as a festival to Jehovah throughout your generations.” What prompted the celebration back then? Jehovah himself answered: “It is the sacrifice of the passover to Jehovah, who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when he plagued the Egyptians.”—Exodus 12:14, 27.
4. What important issues were involved in Israel’s deliverance from Egypt?
4 That awesome deliverance in Egypt of every Israelite firstborn, involving both man and beast, took place on that night of Nisan 14. It was the culmination of nine preceding blows against the demon gods worshiped by the Egyptians, underscoring Jehovah’s previously stated purpose given to haughty Pharaoh: “In fact, for this cause I have kept you in existence, for the sake of showing you my power and in order to have my name declared in all the earth.” A few days later Jehovah’s name and power were further manifested when he delivered millions of Israelites and a great mixed company at the Red Sea, while drowning the flower of Pharaoh’s armies. Little wonder that Moses and the sons of Israel sang: “Let me sing to Jehovah, for he has become highly exalted”!—Exodus 9:16; 15:1.
5. What purpose was served by the Passover celebration?
5 After the Israelites became settled in the land promised to their forefather Abraham, the Passover was to be celebrated nationally once each year in Jerusalem, in obedience to the command at Deuteronomy 16:1-8. Jehovah thus arranged that Nisan 14 should always stand out in the minds of his typical people. What purpose would this serve? It was to be a day for exalting Jehovah’s name, for remembering his great acts of deliverance. So centuries later the significance of the Passover would be uppermost in the hearts and thoughts of Jesus’ parents who, we are told, “were accustomed to go from year to year to Jerusalem for the festival of the passover.” According to Jewish custom, their son Jesus would be with them.—Luke 2:41, 42.
6. For what reasons was Jesus anxious to keep the Passover of 33 C.E. with his faithful apostles?
6 Following Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan and the start of his ministry, he likely would continue to celebrate the Passover with Mary, his earthly mother, and her sons, his half brothers. However, for Nisan 14, 33 C.E., Jesus arranged to celebrate the feast with his 12 apostles. Luke’s account tells us how Jesus felt about this occasion: “I have wanted so much to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer!” (Luke 22:15, Today’s English Version) Why such a great desire on Jesus’ part? Because he knew the significance of the events shortly to take place on that memorable day that had started at sundown. Jesus also knew that such events would far eclipse those that happened back in 1513 B.C.E. They would exalt Jehovah’s name more than ever before and would lay the basis for the ultimate blessing of all the families of the earth. Also, he had much to tell his disciples before he died, instilling courage in them to remain his loyal followers. The detailed Gospel accounts allow us to listen in, as it were, on what Jesus said and did.—John 12:31; 17:26.
What Occurred? What Did It Mean?
7. (a) What events during Jesus’ last Passover meal led up to his instituting the Memorial of his death? (John 13:1-30) (b) Describe Jesus’ procedure in setting up the Lord’s Evening Meal.
7 While the meal was in progress, Jesus got up and washed the feet of his disciples, thus setting a perfect example in humility. Then Jesus said, “One of you will betray me.” Shortly afterward, he turned to Judas and said, “What you are doing get done more quickly.” John’s account relates: “He went out immediately. And it was night.” (John 13:21, 27, 30) It was after this that Jesus instituted the Memorial of his death. Let us hear how eyewitness Matthew describes what happened: “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.”—Matthew 26:26-30; see also Mark 14:22-26, Luke 22:19, 20, and 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.
8. Why is it so important to understand the meaning of Jesus’ words and actions in instituting the Memorial?
8 What was the full meaning of what Jesus said and did on that occasion? Paul emphasized how important it is for all of Christ’s anointed followers to appreciate this, saying: “Consequently whoever eats the loaf or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty respecting the body and the blood of the Lord.” Surely none of the anointed would want to be ‘unworthy’ in Jehovah’s eyes, resulting in his adverse judgment. Further, the “great crowd” should want to be counted worthy as companions of the anointed remnant. So, with the approach of another Memorial on Thursday, April 4, 1985, it is timely that all of us reexamine this matter together in detail.—1 Corinthians 11:27.
9. (a) Why is the rendering of Jesus’ words, “This means my body” more correct than, “This is my body”? (See footnote.) (b) What special meaning did Jesus put on the loaf? (c) On the wine?
9 Jesus said, “This means my body.”a In saying these words, Jesus put a special meaning on the loaf—it was a symbol of his own sinless fleshly body that he gave “in behalf of the life of the world.” (John 6:51) Similarly, when he said respecting the cup of wine, “This means my ‘blood of the covenant,’ . . . poured out . . . for forgiveness of sins,” he was using the fermented wine in the cup as a symbol of his own blood. This blood was to be the basis for putting into operation “a new covenant.” His shed blood was also going to be a means of providing “forgiveness of sins.”—Matthew 26:28; Jeremiah 31:31-33; Hebrews 9:22.
10. What does partaking of the bread and wine imply?
10 What, then, is implied on the part of those who partake of the bread and the wine during the Memorial celebration? The act itself demonstrates to the partakers, and to onlookers, that they have already benefited from the ransom sacrifice of Christ Jesus, but in a special way and for a special purpose. How does this work out? On the basis of their faith in Christ’s sacrifice and their dedication to Jehovah, God credits them with the merit of Jesus’ human sacrifice. For what purpose? So that they can have imputed to them human perfection and thus have a righteous standing before God. Jehovah then begets these by his holy spirit and they become his spiritual sons. They are now in a position to sacrifice their right to live on earth in return for a heavenly inheritance. All of this has taken place before they share in the Lord’s Supper.—Romans 5:1, 2, 8; 8:15-17; James 1:18.
11, 12. (a) What two additional things are indicated by drinking the wine? (b) Explain the covenant that Jesus makes with those who partake.
11 Consider now what else is implied by drinking the wine. Although Jehovah has imputed righteousness to his spiritual sons and has adopted them as sons, they are still in the imperfect flesh. They are yet prone to sin and they recognize this. In drinking the wine, they thereby acknowledge their daily dependence on the blood of Christ Jesus, which has been “poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins.”—1 John 1:9, 10; 2:1.
12 There is still something else, however, that is implied by drinking the wine. The partakers testify that they have been brought into the “new covenant” that Jehovah long ago foretold through the prophet Jeremiah. This covenant was made operational by the blood of Jesus. The parties to that covenant are Jehovah God and his spiritual sons, who collectively make up spiritual Israel. Each member is chosen by God. Jesus is the Mediator of the covenant, by which he assists those 144,000 covenant members to become part of the seed of Abraham. (Jeremiah 31:31-34; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 8:10, 12; 12:22-24; Galatians 3:29) These are also the ones that Jesus takes into a ‘covenant for a kingdom.’ As a result, they will eventually be used along with their King Jesus Christ to channel Jehovah’s blessings of life to all the families of the earth.—Luke 22:28-30; John 6:53; Revelation 5:9, 10; Genesis 22:15-18.
13. What are the things that should now be remembered on Nisan 14?
13 Truly, as we examine the full meaning of Jesus’ words spoken on this day for remembering, we are forcibly reminded of Jehovah’s love in making the provision of his dear Son. We are also reminded of Jesus’ love in providing his life as a ransom for all believing mankind. (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 Timothy 2:5, 6) However, there are other precious truths that Jesus discussed with his followers that evening. Of the Bible writers, only the apostle John records this very intimate conversation.
Glory, Love, and Unity
14. (a) How is Jehovah glorified by each Memorial celebration? (b) What part does love play in remembering Jesus, and what self-examination should this prompt in the minds of all participants?
14 Jesus said: “Now the Son of man is glorified, and God is glorified in connection with him.” (John 13:31) Ever since Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, Nisan 14 had been associated with the vindication of God’s name, his sovereignty, and his power. Now, with Jesus’ faithfulness to death and his subsequent glorious resurrection by God’s power, still greater honor and glory were being brought to God’s name. (Compare Proverbs 27:11.) Jesus told his disciples that they would give proof of discipleship by keeping “a new commandment,” to ‘love one another just as he had loved them.’ (John 13:34, 35) The depth of our brotherly love is a reflection of our appreciation for the love that Jesus expressed for us at that time.—1 John 4:19.
15. (a) What hope of life is set before all who partake worthily? (b) How is love for Jesus proved?
15 The hope of one day living in a heavenly home is part of the joy set before those chosen to be corulers with Christ. (Revelation 20:6) Jesus introduces this hope, saying: “I am going my way to prepare a place for you. . . . I am coming again and will receive you home to myself.” (John 14:2-4) What a homecoming awaits all who remain faithful to the end! Hence, Jesus admonishes, “If you love me, you will observe my commandments.” This means all of his commandments, including the command to teach and to make disciples.—John 14:15, 21; Matthew 28:19, 20.
16. (a) How did Jesus stress the need for unity among his followers, and why is this unity so important? (b) To what must all of Jesus’ followers face up, but what helps them to do this?
16 How important it is for Jesus’ followers to be in unity with him and one another! Jesus uses the illustration of a vine and its branches to stress this fact. Unity results in bearing fruit and this, in turn, glorifies the Father. (1 Corinthians 1:10; John 15:1, 5, 8) Persecution and opposition face all of Jesus’ followers. But how faith-strengthening to know that Jesus maintained his integrity as a world conqueror despite all of Satan’s attacks!—John 15:18-20; 16:2, 33.
17. Discuss some of Jesus’ requests in his prayer recorded in John chapter 17.
17 Jesus brings the evening to a close with a heartfelt prayer to his Father. The glorification of his Father takes first place in his petition. He prays that his followers will be protected from the wicked one, Satan, as they remain separate from the world. And he also prays that the same loving unity that exists between him and the Father may continue to grow among his ever-increasing number of footstep followers.—John chapter 17.
18. Considering the total number attending the Memorial in 1984, why did so few partake of the emblems?
18 We have considered only a few of the precious truths and thoughts that Jesus shared with his disciples on that night about 1,952 years ago, but surely these help us to understand why Nisan 14 is indeed a day for remembering. Little wonder it is, then, that last year 7,416,974 of Jehovah’s Witnesses and their friends saw the importance of assembling together to observe the Lord’s Evening Meal. And yet, of that vast multitude, there were only 9,081 who partook of the emblems. Why? Because the vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses today see themselves as part of the “great crowd” that stands “before the throne and before the Lamb.” These look forward to living on planet Earth as their everlasting home, not to living in the heavens where the 144,000 will “rule as kings with [Christ] for the thousand years.”—Revelation 7:9; 20:6; Psalm 37:11.
19. What forms the basis for next week’s study, and why is it important that all should attend?
19 Some questions, however, have arisen regarding the relationship between the Lord’s Evening Meal and the “great crowd” of “other sheep.” (John 10:16) It seems appropriate, then, that these matters be discussed in the following article, so that there will be no misunderstanding on the part of anyone as another Memorial celebration draws near.—1 Thessalonians 5:21.
a Some Bible versions read, “This is my body.” (See King James Version, Catholic Douay Version, The New English Bible, and some modern versions.) However, the Greek word used for “is” is e·stin, in the sense of signifying, importing, representing. (See footnote on Matthew 26:26, NW Ref. Bi.) The same Greek word appears in Matthew 9:13 and Mt 12:7 and in both cases is translated “meaneth” (KJ) and “means” (NE and other modern translations).
Can You Recall—
◻ Who partake of the Memorial emblems?
◻ What important matters should the Memorial bring to mind?
◻ How is daily remembrance of Jesus proved?
◻ What important issue is always associated with Nisan 14?