Questions From Readers
◼ Why did Jesus institute the Memorial with only the apostles and not other disciples who would be taken into the new covenant?
This question seems to be based on the mistaken thought that Jesus gathered with his apostles that evening to institute the Lord’s Evening Meal with the Christian congregation of anointed ones already in the new covenant. Rather, on Nisan 14, 33 C.E., the Christian congregation had not yet been formed, and Jesus came together with his apostles for the annual Jewish Passover meal.
Of course, Jesus had disciples other than the 12 known as apostles. The year before his death, he sent out 70 disciples on a preaching tour. After his resurrection, “he appeared to upward of five hundred brothers at one time.” And there were “about one hundred and twenty” disciples gathered on the day of Pentecost. (1 Corinthians 15:6; Acts 1:15, 16, 23; Luke 10:1-24) But let us consider the group with Jesus when he instituted the annual celebration known as the Lord’s Evening Meal.
Luke 22:7, 8 gives the time frame, saying: “The day of the unfermented cakes now arrived, on which the passover victim must be sacrificed; and he dispatched Peter and John, saying: ‘Go and get the passover ready for us to eat.’” The account goes on: “You must say to the landlord of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you: “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the passover with my disciples?”’” So that evening Jesus was with the 12 for a Jewish celebration. He told them: “I have greatly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.”—Luke 22:11, 15.
From its start in Egypt, the Passover was a family celebration. In instituting the Passover, God told Moses that a sheep was to be slaughtered for each household. If the family was too small to consume an entire sheep, a neighboring family could be invited to share the meal. Thus, it is logical that for the Passover of 33 C.E., most of Jesus’ disciples would normally have gathered with their own families for this meal.
But Jesus “greatly desired” to share what was to be the final valid Passover, and the final night before his death, with his closest followers, who had traveled with him during much of his ministry. At the end of that Passover meal, Jesus told them of a new celebration that was to be held by all his followers in the future. The wine of that yet future Christian celebration would represent the blood of “the new covenant” that was to replace the Law covenant.—Luke 22:20.
On the evening of Nisan 14, 33 C.E., however, the new covenant was not in effect, for the validating sacrifice—Jesus—had not been offered. The Law covenant was still in force. It had not yet been nailed to the stake. Furthermore, it would not be evident until the day of Pentecost that the old covenant with natural Israel had been replaced by the new covenant with spiritual Israel.—Galatians 6:16; Colossians 2:14.
Hence, neither the 11 faithful apostles nor any of the other disciples were in the new covenant that evening. And Jesus was not showing any disapproval of the other Jewish disciples by letting them gather with their families to celebrate the Passover.