“After giving thanks, he broke [the loaf] and said: ‘This means my body which is in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.’”—1 CORINTHIANS 11:24.
1, 2. What might some of the apostles have been thinking before Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem?
‘THE sky is clear now, and we can see the crescent of the moon. Last night, watchmen in Jerusalem must have seen it too. Once the Sanhedrin knew about this, they announced that the new month, Nisan, had begun. Then signal fires or messengers spread the news quickly. Even people here have heard the news. Surely, Jesus will want to leave for Jerusalem so that he can be there before the Passover.’
2 Perhaps these were the thoughts of some of the apostles when they were with Jesus before his final trip to Jerusalem. At that time, they were in Perea, on the other side of the Jordan River. (Matthew 19:1; 20:17, 29; Mark 10:1, 32, 46) Once the Jews knew when Nisan 1 would be, they would wait another 13 days and then celebrate the Passover after sunset on Nisan 14.
3. Why are Christians interested in the date of the Passover?
3 The date of the Lord’s Evening Meal, which corresponds to the Passover, will be after sundown on April 14, 2014. That will be a special day for true Christians and interested people. Why? Because of what we read at 1 Corinthians 11:23-25: “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.”
4. (a) What questions might you ask yourself about the Memorial? (b) How do we know on what date the Memorial will be observed each year? (See also box “Memorial 2014.”)
4 The Memorial is the only event that Jesus told his followers to observe each year, and you will surely want to be there. Before then, ask yourself: ‘How should I prepare for the Memorial? What are the emblems that are used at the Memorial? What will happen there? Why are the Memorial and the emblems important to me?’
The Memorial is the only event that Jesus told his followers to observe
THE EMBLEMS THAT ARE USED AT THE MEMORIAL
5. What did Jesus tell the apostles to do to prepare for the Passover?
5 When Jesus told the apostles to get a room ready for the Passover meal, he did not tell them to decorate the room. Instead, he probably wanted a simple, clean room with enough space for himself and his apostles. (Read Mark 14:12-16.) The apostles would also get everything needed for the meal, including unleavened bread and red wine. After the Passover meal, Jesus spoke about the bread and the wine. These are the two emblems that would be used to observe the Memorial.
6. (a) After the Passover meal, what did Jesus say about the bread? (b) What sort of bread is used at the Memorial?
6 The apostle Matthew was there and later wrote: “Jesus took a loaf and, after saying a blessing, he broke it and, giving it to the disciples, he said: ‘Take, eat.’” (Matthew 26:26) The “loaf” was unfermented bread, the same bread that was used for the Passover. (Exodus 12:8; Deuteronomy 16:3) This bread was made from wheat flour and water. It was unleavened, meaning that no leaven was added, so the bread did not rise. It also did not have any seasoning, such as salt. It was plain and dry like a cracker, and it was easy to break into pieces. Today, before the day of the Memorial, congregation elders may ask someone to make this kind of bread. It should be made from wheat flour and water and might be cooked on a pan with a little oil. Jewish matzoth without added malt, eggs, or onions can also be used. In places where it is hard to find wheat flour, flour made from rice, barley, corn, or a similar grain can be used.
7. What was in the cup Jesus used at the Lord’s Evening Meal? What kind of wine may be used at the Memorial?
7 Matthew also said that Jesus then “took a cup and, having given thanks, he gave it to them, saying: ‘Drink out of it, all of you.’” (Matthew 26:27, 28) Red wine was in the cup Jesus used. How do we know that it was not fresh grape juice? Because the grape harvest had been over for a long time. Wine was not a part of the first Passover meal in Egypt. But Jesus did not say that it was wrong to drink it at the Passover. He even used some wine during the Lord’s Evening Meal. So Christians today also use wine at the Memorial. What kind of wine should be used? The wine used at the Memorial should not have anything added, such as brandy or spices. Nothing needed to be added to Jesus’ blood to make it more valuable. So plain red wine is used. It could be homemade, or it could be a wine such as Beaujolais, Burgundy, or Chianti, which can be bought at a market.
WHAT THE BREAD AND THE WINE MEAN
8. Why are Christians interested in what the bread and the wine mean?
8 Something the apostle Paul said shows that Christians other than the apostles were to observe the Lord’s Evening Meal. Paul wrote to the brothers in Corinth that Jesus “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.’” (1 Corinthians 11:23, 24) Because Christians today are commanded to observe the Memorial once every year, they are very interested in what the bread and the wine mean.
9. What wrong belief do some have about the bread that Jesus used?
9 Some religious people point out that Jesus’ words were actually: ‘This is my body.’ So they believe that there was a miracle and that the bread became Jesus’ body. But that is not what happened.* (See footnote.) Jesus’ body and the unleavened bread were both there in front of the faithful apostles. Clearly, Jesus was saying that the bread meant his body. Jesus often used comparisons like this in his teaching.—John 2:19-21; 4:13, 14; 10:7; 15:1.
10. What does the bread at the Memorial mean?
10 The bread that the apostles could see and would soon eat meant Jesus’ body. At one time, true Christians believed that the bread meant the congregation of anointed Christians, which the Bible calls “the body of the Christ.” They believed this because Jesus broke the bread into many pieces but none of his own bones were broken. (Ephesians 4:12; Romans 12:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17; 12:27) But after more research, they realized that the bread means Jesus’ human body. The Scriptures often speak about how Jesus “suffered in the flesh” and was even put to death on a torture stake. So the bread at the Memorial means the human body that Jesus sacrificed for our sins.—1 Peter 2:21-24; 4:1; John 19:33-36; Hebrews 10:5-7.
11, 12. (a) What did Jesus say about the wine? (b) What does the wine at the Memorial mean?
11 Knowing what the bread means helps us to understand what Jesus then said about the wine. We read: “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.’” (1 Corinthians 11:25) Many Bibles say something similar to the version by Robert Young: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” (Bold ours.) Was the actual cup Jesus held the new covenant? No. Jesus was talking about the wine that was in the cup. What did Jesus say that the wine meant? It meant his blood that he would sacrifice.
12 In Mark’s Gospel, we read Jesus’ words: “This means my ‘blood of the covenant,’ which is to be poured out in behalf of many.” (Mark 14:24) And in Matthew, we read that Jesus’ blood would be “poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28) So the red wine means Jesus’ own blood. Jesus’ blood provides a ransom so that our sins can be forgiven.—Read Ephesians 1:7.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE MEMORIAL OF CHRIST’S DEATH?
13. What happens at the Memorial of Christ’s death?
13 If you will attend the Memorial with Jehovah’s Witnesses for the first time, what can you expect? The Memorial will be at an attractive, clean location where there is enough room for everyone to be comfortable and to enjoy the meeting. There may be some simple flower arrangements, but you will not see a lot of decorations, and it will not be like a party. A qualified elder will give a clear, respectful talk based on what the Bible says about the Lord’s Evening Meal. He will explain that Christ died as a ransom so that we may live. (Read Romans 5:8-10.) The speaker will also talk about two hopes explained in the Bible.
14. During the Memorial, what two hopes will the speaker talk about?
14 One is the hope of ruling in heaven with Christ. Only a small number of Christians, such as his faithful apostles, have this hope. (Luke 12:32; 22:19, 20; Revelation 14:1) The other hope is the one that most loyal Christians have. Their hope is to live forever on a paradise earth. The earth will finally be the way God wanted it to be, which is what Christians have always prayed for. (Matthew 6:10) The Scriptures describe the wonderful life that they will enjoy forever and ever.—Isaiah 11:6-9; 35:5, 6; 65:21-23.
Jesus’ blood provides a ransom so that our sins can be forgiven
15, 16. At the Memorial, what is done with the unleavened bread?
15 After explaining these two hopes, the speaker will say that the time has come to do as Jesus did at the Lord’s Evening Meal. There will be unleavened bread and red wine on a table next to him. The speaker will read a Bible account that describes what Jesus did with the bread. He may read Matthew’s account, which says: “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.’” (Matthew 26:26) Jesus broke the bread into pieces so that he could pass some to the apostles on each side of him. At the Memorial on April 14, you will see unleavened bread on plates.
16 Before the plates are passed, a brother will say a brief prayer. There will be enough plates so that the bread can be passed around to everyone in a short time and in an orderly way. This is done without any special ritual and in a way that is practical for the location. Few or perhaps no one will eat the bread, just as in most congregations at the Memorial in 2013.
17. At the Memorial, how is Jesus’ direction about the wine followed?
17 Next, the speaker will read what Jesus did with the wine: “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.’” (Matthew 26:27, 28) Following Jesus’ direction, another prayer is said and then the red wine is passed to all in the audience.
18. If few or no one eats the bread or drinks the wine, why is it still important to be at the Memorial?
18 Only those who will rule with Christ in heaven will eat the bread and drink the wine. So most people at the Memorial will simply pass the bread and the wine to the next person. (Read Luke 22:28-30; 2 Timothy 4:18) Even though most Christians do not eat the bread or drink the wine, it is still important for them to be at the Memorial. Why? By being there, they show how highly they value Jesus’ sacrifice. During the Memorial, they can think about all the blessings that the ransom can bring them. For example, they have the hope of being among the “great crowd” who will survive “the great tribulation.” Because of their faith in Jesus’ sacrifice, they will be righteous in God’s eyes, as if they had “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”—Revelation 7:9, 14-17.
During the Memorial, we can think about all the blessings that the ransom can bring us
19. What can we do to prepare for and benefit from the Memorial?
19 How do Jehovah’s Witnesses around the earth prepare for the Memorial? Several weeks before the date of the Memorial, we invite as many as possible to attend. In the days before this special meeting, we read the Bible accounts about what Jesus did and what happened in the days before the Lord’s Evening Meal in the year 33. We make plans in advance to be at the Memorial. We get to the meeting early so that we can welcome visitors and not miss any part of the program. All of us, members of the congregation and visitors, will benefit if we follow along in our Bible when the speaker reads and explains the Scriptures. Most important, by attending the Memorial, we show that we are deeply thankful for Jesus’ sacrifice and are obedient to his command: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.”—1 Corinthians 11:24.
A German scholar named Heinrich Meyer said that the apostles would not have thought that they were actually eating Jesus’ body and drinking his blood, because “the body of Jesus was still unbroken (still living).” He also said that Jesus used “simple words” to explain what the bread and the wine meant and that Jesus would not have wanted his apostles to misunderstand him.