‘Discerning What We Are’—At Memorial Time
“If we would discern what we ourselves are, we would not be judged . . . that we may not become condemned.”—1 CORINTHIANS 11:31, 32.
1. True Christians definitely want to avoid what, and why?
THE last thing that a Christian wants is to be judged adversely by Jehovah. Displeasing “the Judge of all the earth” could lead to our ‘becoming condemned with the world’ and losing out on salvation. That is so whether we hope for life in heaven with Jesus or for endless life in an earthly paradise.—Genesis 18:25; 1 Corinthians 11:32.
2, 3. In what matter might we be judged adversely, and what did Paul say about this?
2 In 1 Corinthians chapter 11, the apostle Paul addressed an area in which we might come into judgment. While he directed his comments to anointed Christians, his counsel is important to all, especially in this season. Our discerning what we ourselves are can help us to have God’s approval and not be judged. In discussing the annual celebration of the Lord’s Evening Meal, Paul wrote:
3 “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 Corinthians 11:23-26.*
4. What will take place on the evening of April 10, 1990?
4 After sundown on April 10, 1990, Jehovah’s Witnesses will celebrate the Memorial of Christ’s death. Usually, the group assembling will be one congregation; thus there will be room for people who are not yet Witnesses. What will the meeting be like? There will be a Biblical talk. Then, following prayer, the loaf will be passed. Another prayer introduces the passing of the cup. Rather than all of this being according to a formal ritual or rigid procedure, the number of loaves or cups and the way they are passed is arranged in accord with the local situation. The main thing is that the items be made available to all attending, even though most will simply pass them on without partaking. What things, though, are passed, and what do they mean? Moreover, what should we consider beforehand so as to discern what we ourselves are?
“This Means My Body”
5, 6. (a) Jesus did what with a loaf? (b) What sort of bread did he use?
5 We have read what Paul “received from the Lord” as to the Memorial. There are also accounts by three Gospel writers, one of whom was present when Jesus instituted this celebration. (1 Corinthians 11:23; Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19, 20) These accounts say that Jesus first took a loaf, prayed, and then broke it and distributed it. What was that loaf? Correspondingly, what is used today? What does it mean or represent?
6 On hand were items from the Jewish Passover meal, one being unleavened bread, which Moses called “unfermented cakes, the bread of affliction.” (Deuteronomy 16:3; Exodus 12:8) This bread was made with wheat flour without using leaven, salt, or seasonings. Being unleavened (Hebrew, mats·tsahʹ), it was flat and brittle; it had to be broken to eatable size.—Mark 6:41; 8:6; Acts 27:35.
7. What do Jehovah’s Witnesses use for bread during the Memorial?
7 Jesus used unleavened bread in the Lord’s Evening Meal, so Jehovah’s Witnesses today do likewise. Regular Jewish matzoth serve this purpose if they are not made with added ingredients, such as malt, onions, or eggs. (Matzoth containing those supplements would hardly match the description “bread of affliction.”) Or the congregation elders may have someone make unleavened bread from a dough of wheat flour and water. If wheat flour is not available, unfermented bread can be made with flour from barley, rice, corn, or another grain. The dough is rolled thin and baked on a lightly oiled cooking sheet.
8 Such bread is appropriate because it does not contain leaven (yeast), which the Bible uses to represent corruption or sin. Paul counseled concerning an immoral man in a congregation: ‘A little leaven ferments the whole lump. Clear away the old leaven, that you may be free from ferment. Christ our passover has been sacrificed. Let us keep the festival, not with leaven of badness and wickedness, but with unfermented cakes of sincerity and truth.’ (1 Corinthians 5:6-8; compare Matthew 13:33; 16:6, 12.) Unleavened bread is a fitting symbol of Jesus’ human body, for he was “loyal, guileless, undefiled, separated from the sinners.” (Hebrews 7:26) Jesus was there present in his perfect human body when he said to the apostles: “Take and eat this [bread], it means my body.” (Matthew 26:26, A New Translation of the Bible, by James Moffatt) Partaking of the bread means that a person believes in the benefit of Jesus’ sacrifice in his behalf and accepts it. More, though, is involved.
Wine With a Meaning
9. What other emblem did Jesus say should be used?
9 Jesus used another symbol: “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.’” (Matthew 26:27, 28, Moffatt) What was in that communal cup that he passed, and what does it mean for us as we strive to discern what we ourselves are?
10. How did wine find a place in the Jewish Passover?
10 When Moses initially outlined the Passover feast, he mentioned no beverage. Many scholars believe that wine was introduced into the Passover much later, perhaps in the second century B.C.E.* In any event, the use of wine in this meal was common in the first century, and Jesus did not object to it. He used the Passover wine when instituting the Memorial.
11. Wine of what sort is appropriate for use during the Lord’s Evening Meal?
11 Since the Jewish Passover occurred long after the grape harvest, Jesus would have been using, not unfermented juice, but red wine that could easily represent his blood. (Compare Revelation 14:20.) Christ’s blood did not need to be augmented, so plain wine is appropriate, rather than wines fortified with brandy (such as port, sherry, or muscatel) or having spices or herbs added (vermouth, Dubonnet, or many aperitifs). We need not, though, become worried over how a wine was processed, whether some sugar was added during fermentation to make it of average taste or alcohol content or whether a little sulfur was used to prevent spoilage.* Many congregations use a commercial red wine (such as Chianti, Burgundy, Beaujolais, or claret) or simple homemade red wine. The wine and the bread are merely emblems, or symbols; hence, any not used can be taken home and used later simply as other food or beverage items.
12. Jesus explained that the wine has what representative meaning?
12 The fact that Jesus spoke of his blood on Passover night could have called to mind the lambs’ blood back in Egypt. But note how Jesus actually made a different comparison, saying: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf.” (Luke 22:20) God had earlier made a covenant with the nation of fleshly Israel, and it was inaugurated with the blood of animal sacrifices. There was a correspondency between the blood of those sacrifices and Jesus’ blood. Both were involved in God’s inaugurating a covenant with a nation of his people. (Exodus 24:3-8; Hebrews 9:17-20) A feature of the Law covenant was that fleshly Israel had the prospect of making up a nation of king-priests. (Exodus 19:5, 6) However, after Israel failed to keep Jehovah’s covenant, he said that he would replace “the former covenant” with “a new covenant.” (Hebrews 9:1, 15; Jeremiah 31:31-34) The cup of wine that Jesus now passed among the faithful apostles represented this new covenant.
13, 14. (a) Being in the new covenant means what? (b) What is signified by a person’s partaking of the emblems?
13 Christians taken into this new covenant come to form a spiritual nation of king-priests. (Galatians 6:16) The apostle Peter wrote: “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 Peter 2:9) It is clear what salvation they receive—life in heaven as corulers with Jesus. Revelation 20:6 confirms this: “Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; . . . they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.”
14 In fact, after Jesus directed the apostles to partake of the emblematic bread and wine, he told them that they would ‘eat and drink at his table in his kingdom, and sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.’ (Luke 22:28-30) Consequently, partaking of the Memorial emblems means more than simply believing in Jesus’ sacrifice. Every Christian must accept the ransom and exercise faith if he is to gain everlasting life anywhere. (Matthew 20:28; John 6:51) But partaking of the emblems signifies that one is in the new covenant, selected to be with Jesus in his Kingdom.
Need to Discern at Memorial Time
15. How did Jesus introduce a new hope for God’s servants?
15 As the previous article explained, prior to Jesus’ time God’s loyal servants had no hope of going to heaven. They looked forward to gaining everlasting life on earth, mankind’s original home. Jesus Christ was the first to be resurrected as a spirit, and he became the first one from mankind to be taken to heaven. (Ephesians 1:20-22; 1 Peter 3:18, 22) Paul confirmed this, writing: “We have boldness for the way of entry into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, which he inaugurated for us as a new and living way.” (Hebrews 10:19, 20) Who would follow, after Jesus opened that way?
16. The future holds what for those who partake of the bread and the wine?
16 The night Jesus instituted the Lord’s Evening Meal, he told his loyal apostles that he was preparing a place for them in heaven. (John 14:2, 3) Recall, though, that Jesus also said that the ones partaking of the loaf and the cup would be in his Kingdom and sit on thrones to judge. Would that be only the apostles? No, for later the apostle John learned that other Christians too would conquer and ‘sit down with Jesus on his throne,’ and together they would become ‘a kingdom and priests to rule over the earth.’ (Revelation 3:21; 5:10) John also learned the total number of Christians who are “bought from the earth”—144,000. (Revelation 14:1-3) Because this is a relatively small group, a “little flock” compared to all who have worshiped God down through the ages, special discernment is needed at Memorial time.—Luke 12:32.
17, 18. (a) Some Christians in Corinth fell into what habit? (b) Why was overindulgence in food and drink so serious? (Hebrews 10:28-31)
17 Paul brought this up in his letter to the Corinthians at a time when some apostles were still alive and when God was calling Christians “to be holy ones.” Paul said that a bad practice had developed among those there who were obliged to partake of the emblems. Some had meals beforehand at which they ate or drank too much, making them drowsy, dulled in their senses. As a result, they could not “discern the body,” Jesus’ physical body represented by the bread. Was that so serious? Yes! By partaking unworthily, they became “guilty respecting the body and the blood of the Lord.” If they were mentally and spiritually alert, ‘they could discern what they were and would not be judged.’—1 Corinthians 1:2; 11:20-22, 27-31.
18 What did those Christians need to discern and how? Primarily, they had to appreciate in heart and mind their calling to be among the 144,000 heirs of heavenly life. How did they discern this, and should many today believe that they are part of this small group God has been selecting since the apostles’ day?
19. What revealing situation prevailed during the 1989 Memorial?
19 Actually, only a very small minority of true Christians today discern this about themselves. At the celebration of the Lord’s Evening Meal in 1989, over 9,479,000 assembled in congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the earth. About 8,700 professed to have the hope of being ‘saved for the heavenly kingdom.’ (2 Timothy 4:18) The vast majority—yes, millions of other loyal, blessed Christians who assembled—discerned that their valid hope is to live forever on earth.
20. How are those of the 144,000 made aware that they have been called? (1 John 2:27)
20 At Pentecost 33 C.E., God began selecting the 144,000 for heavenly life. As this hope was new, not held by God’s servants before Jesus’ time, how would those selected know or be assured of this hope? They discern this by receiving the testimony to it given by God’s holy spirit. That does not mean that they actually see the spirit (it is not a person) or have some mental view of the spirit communicating with them, nor do they hear voices from the spirit realm. Paul explains: “The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children . . . We are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified together.”—Romans 8:16, 17.
21. (a) How do the anointed know that they have the heavenly hope? (1 Corinthians 10:15-17) (b) What kind of individuals are the anointed, and how do they modestly testify to their hope?
21 This testimony, or realization, reorients their thinking and hope. They are still humans, enjoying the good things of Jehovah’s earthly creation, yet the major direction of their life and concerns is on being joint heirs with Christ. They have not come to this outlook through emotionalism. They are normal individuals, balanced in their views and conduct. Being sanctified by God’s spirit, though, they are convinced of their calling, not having persisting doubts over it. They realize that their salvation will be to heaven if they prove faithful. (2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 2:10-12) Understanding what Jesus’ sacrifice means for them and discerning that they are spirit-anointed Christians, they modestly partake of the Memorial emblems.
22. What will most of those attending the Lord’s Evening Meal discern?
22 Most of those who will obediently assemble on April 10 do not have that hope, for God has not anointed them with spirit, calling them to heavenly life. As we noted, God began selecting the 144,000 back in the apostles’ day. But upon the completion of that calling, it is to be expected that others coming to worship him would have the hope held by Moses, David, John the Baptizer, and other faithful ones who died before Jesus opened the way to life in heaven. Thus, millions of loyal and zealous Christians today do not partake of the Memorial emblems. Such Christians discern what they are before God in the sense that they perceive their valid hope. They benefit from Jesus’ blood and body by having their sins forgiven and then gaining endless life on earth.—1 Peter 1:19; 2:24; Revelation 7:9, 15.
23. Why will the Memorial be a joyful celebration? (Compare 2 Chronicles 30:21.)
23 Let us, then, look forward to the happy celebration on April 10. It will be a time for using discernment but also a time for joy. Joy for the small number with heavenly hope who rightly and obediently will partake of the loaf and the cup. (Revelation 19:7) Joy also for millions of happy Christians who that evening will observe and learn and who hope to remember forever on earth that meaningful celebration.—John 3:29.
“On the night in which He was delivered up the Lord Jesus took bread; giving thanks, He broke it and said: ‘This is my body which is for you; do this as my memorial.’ Similarly He took the cup when supper was over, and said: ‘This cup is the new covenant, sealed by my blood; every time that you drink it, do it as my memorial.’”—An Expanded Paraphrase of the Epistles of Paul, by F. F. Bruce.
One scholar offers this opinion as to why wine was added: “[The Passover] was to be no longer a solemn annual mustering of male adults; it was to become the occasion for family festivity, in which the drinking of wine found a natural place.”—The Hebrew Passover—From the Earliest Times to A.D. 70, by J. B. Segal.
From ancient times salt, egg whites, and other substances have been employed to clarify or bring out the color and taste of wine, the Romans even using sulfur as a disinfectant in wine making.
What Is Your Answer?
□ Why is unleavened bread passed during the Memorial, and what does it symbolize?
□ What is the cup passed during the Lord’s Evening Meal, and what does it represent?
□ Why is discernment called for in connection with the Memorial celebration?
□ Why are you looking forward to the upcoming Memorial?