Why the Lord’s Evening Meal Has Meaning for You
JESUS CHRIST instituted the Lord’s Evening Meal on the last night of his human life. That was Thursday evening, March 31, and Jesus died on Friday afternoon, April 1. Since the days of the Jewish calendar ran from the evening of one day to that of the next, the Lord’s Evening Meal and Jesus’ death both occurred on Nisan 14, 33 C.E.
Why did Jesus institute this meal? What is the significance of the bread and the wine he used? Who should partake? How often should this meal be observed? And how can it have meaning for you?
Regarding the Lord’s Evening Meal, Jesus told his apostles: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” According to another rendition, he said: “Do this as a memorial of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:24; The New English Bible) In fact, the Lord’s Evening Meal is often referred to as the Memorial of Christ’s death.
Jesus died as an integrity-keeping upholder of Jehovah’s sovereignty and thus proved Satan to be a lying taunter for charging that upright humans serve God with selfish motives only. (Job 2:1-5) His death made God’s heart rejoice.—Proverbs 27:11.
By means of his death as a perfect human, Jesus also ‘gave his soul a ransom in exchange for many.’ (Matthew 20:28) In sinning against God, the first man forfeited perfect human life and its prospects. But “God loved the world [of mankind] so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Yes, “the wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Romans 6:23.
“Received From the Lord”
Shedding light on the commemoration of Christ’s death are the apostle Paul’s words: “I received from the Lord that which I also handed on to you, that 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.
Since Paul was not present with Jesus and the 11 apostles on Nisan 14, 33 C.E., this information was evidently “received from the Lord” by inspired revelation. Jesus instituted the Memorial “in the night in which he was going to be handed over” by Judas to Jewish religious foes, who got the Romans to impale Christ. Those entitled to partake of the emblematic bread and wine would do so in remembrance of him.
Observe It How Often?
What is meant by Paul’s words: “As often as you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives”? Faithful anointed Christians would partake of the Memorial emblems “often” until they died, later to be resurrected to heavenly life. Before God and the world, they would thus often proclaim their faith in Jehovah’s provision of Jesus’ sacrifice. For how long? “Until he arrives,” said Paul, evidently meaning that these observances would continue until Jesus’ arrival to receive his anointed followers into heaven by a resurrection during his “presence.” (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17) This is in harmony with Christ’s words to the 11 loyal apostles: “If I go my way and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will receive you home to myself, that where I am you also may be.”—John 14:3.
Should Christ’s death be commemorated daily or perhaps weekly? Well, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Evening Meal and was killed on the Passover, which commemorated Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage. In fact, he is called “Christ our passover” because he is the Lamb sacrificed for Christians. (1 Corinthians 5:7) Passover was held only once a year, on Nisan 14. (Exodus 12:6, 14; Leviticus 23:5) This suggests that Jesus’ death should be commemorated only as often as the Passover was—annually, not daily or weekly.
For several centuries many professed Christians commemorated Jesus’ death once a year. Because they did so on Nisan 14, they were called Quartodecimans, meaning “fourteenthers.” Concerning them, historian J. L. von Mosheim wrote: “The Christians of Asia Minor were accustomed to celebrate this sacred feast, commemorative of the institution of the Lord’s supper, and the death of Jesus Christ, at the same time when the Jews ate their Paschal lamb, namely on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month [Nisan]. . . . They considered the example of Christ possessing the force of law.”
Significance of the Emblems
Paul said that Jesus “took a loaf and, after giving thanks, he broke it.” That crackerlike loaf baked of flour and water without leaven (or, yeast) had to be broken for consumption. In Bible symbolism, leaven denotes sin or corruption. Urging Corinthian Christians to expel an immoral man from the congregation, Paul said: “Do you not know that a little leaven ferments the whole lump? Clear away the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, according as you are free from ferment. For, indeed, Christ our passover has been sacrificed. Consequently let us keep the festival, not with old leaven, neither with leaven of badness and wickedness, but with unfermented cakes of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8) As a bit of sourdough leavens the whole lump, or batch, of bread, so the congregation would become unclean in God’s eyes if the sinful man’s corrupting influence was not removed. They needed to get the “leaven” out of their midst, just as the Israelites could have no leaven in their houses during the Festival of Unfermented Cakes that followed the Passover.
Regarding the unleavened Memorial bread, Jesus said: “This means my body which is in your behalf.” (1 Corinthians 11:24) The bread represents Jesus’ perfect fleshly body, concerning which Paul wrote: “When [Jesus] comes into the world he says: ‘“Sacrifice and offering you did not want, but you prepared a body for me. You did not approve of whole burnt offerings and sin offering.” Then I said, “Look! I am come (in the roll of the book it is written about me) to do your will, O God.”’ . . . By the said ‘will’ we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.” (Hebrews 10:5-10) Jesus’ perfect human body was sinless and served as a ransom sacrifice for humankind.—Hebrews 7:26.
After praying over the cup of unadulterated red wine, Jesus said: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood.” (1 Corinthians 11:25) Another rendition is: “This cup means the new covenant ratified by my blood.” (Moffatt) Just as the blood of sacrificed bulls and goats validated the Law covenant between God and the nation of Israel, so Jesus’ blood poured out in death made valid the new covenant. Mention of that covenant helps us to identify legitimate partakers of Memorial emblems.
Who Should Partake?
Jesus’ anointed followers, who are in the new covenant, rightly partake of the Memorial emblems. This covenant is made between God and spiritual Israel. (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Galatians 6:16) But the new covenant will eventually bring blessings to all obedient mankind, and you can be among the recipients of those blessings.
Partakers of Memorial emblems must be in the personal covenant for the Kingdom that Jesus made. When instituting this meal, Jesus told his loyal apostles: “I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom.” (Luke 22:29) The Kingdom covenant made by God with King David pointed forward to the coming of Jesus, the one who would rule forever in the heavenly Kingdom. The 144,000 spiritual Israelites, who will share rulership with him, are depicted as standing on heavenly Mount Zion with the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Upon being resurrected, they will rule with Christ as associate kings and priests. (2 Samuel 7:11-16; Revelation 7:4; 14:1-4; 20:6) Only those who are in the new covenant and in the personal covenant with Jesus rightly partake of the emblems of the Lord’s Evening Meal.
God’s spirit bears witness with the spirit of anointed ones that they are His children and joint heirs with Christ. Wrote Paul: “The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children. If, then, we are 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) God’s holy spirit, or active force, creates within anointed ones the assurance that they are destined for heavenly life. They view as directed to them everything the Scriptures say about heavenly life and are willing to sacrifice all earthly things, including human life. Although life in the earthly Paradise would be wonderful, they do not have that hope. (Luke 23:43) A certain and unchangeable heavenly hope not based on false religious views entitles them to partake of the Memorial emblems.
Jehovah would be displeased if a person represented himself as one called to be a heavenly king and priest when he had no such calling. (Romans 9:16; Revelation 22:5) God executed Korah for presumptuously seeking the priesthood. (Exodus 28:1; Numbers 16:4-11, 31-35) So, what if strong emotions or former religious ideas made a person wrongly partake of the Memorial emblems? Then he or she should stop partaking and humbly pray for God’s forgiveness.—Psalm 19:13.
How You Are Affected
A person is not required to partake of the Memorial emblems in order to be covered by Jesus’ ransom sacrifice and receive eternal life on earth. For instance, the Bible gives no indication that God-fearing people like Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Boaz, Ruth, and David will ever partake of these emblems. But they and all others desiring unending life on this globe will have to exercise faith in God and Christ and in Jehovah’s provision of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. (John 3:36; 14:1) The annual observance of Christ’s death serves as a reminder of that great sacrifice.
The importance of Jesus’ sacrifice was shown when the apostle John said: “I am writing you these things that you may not commit a sin. And yet, if anyone does commit a sin, we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one. And he is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.” (1 John 2:1, 2) Anointed Christians can say that Jesus “is a propitiatory sacrifice for [their] sins.” However, he is also a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, making eternal life possible for obedient mankind in the Paradise earth now so near at hand!
By being present for the commemoration of Christ’s death, you will benefit from a thought-provoking Bible discourse. You will be reminded of how much Jehovah God and Jesus Christ have done for us. It will be spiritually rewarding to assemble with those having deep regard for God and Christ and for Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. The occasion may well strengthen your desire to become a recipient of God’s undeserved kindness, leading to life eternal. We heartily invite you to meet with Jehovah’s Witnesses after sundown on April 6, 1993, to memorialize the death of Jesus Christ because the Lord’s Evening Meal can have great meaning for you.