Why We Observe the Lord’s Evening Meal
“Keep doing this in remembrance of me.”
1, 2. What did Jesus do on the evening of Nisan 14, 33 C.E.? (See opening image.)
NIGHT has fallen, but a full moon bathes Jerusalem in soft light. It is the evening of Nisan 14, 33 C.E. Jesus and his apostles have celebrated the Passover, commemorating Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage 15 centuries earlier. With 11 loyal apostles, Jesus now institutes a special meal
2 Jesus says a blessing and passes unleavened bread to the apostles, saying: “Take, eat.” He takes a cup of wine, again offers thanks, and says: “Drink out of it, all of you.” (Matt. 26:26, 27) Jesus will not pass other food items to them, but he will have much more to tell his faithful followers on this momentous night.
3. This article will deal with what questions?
3 So it was that Jesus instituted the Memorial of his death, also called “the Lord’s Evening Meal.” (1 Cor. 11:20) Regarding it, some might ask: Why commemorate Jesus’ death? What is the meaning of the bread and the wine? How can we prepare for the Memorial? Who should partake? And how do Christians respond to what the Scriptures say about their hope?
WHY WE COMMEMORATE JESUS’ DEATH
4. Jesus’ death made what possible for us?
4 As Adam’s descendants, we inherited sin and death. (Rom. 5:12) No imperfect human can give God a ransom for his life or that of others. (Ps. 49:6-9) By his death, however, Jesus paid the only acceptable ransom price
5. (a) How do we know that God and Christ love mankind? (b) Why should we be present at the commemoration of Jesus’ death?
5 The ransom provision proves that God loves the world of mankind. (John 3:16) Jesus’ sacrifice is evidence that he too loves us. Why, during his prehuman existence as God’s “master worker,” Jesus “was especially fond of the sons of men”! (Prov. 8:30, 31) Gratitude to God and his Son should move us to be present at the commemoration of Jesus’ death, thus obeying the command: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.”
WHAT THE EMBLEMS MEAN
6. How should we view the Memorial bread and wine?
6 When instituting the Memorial, Jesus did not miraculously change the bread and the wine into his literal flesh and blood. Instead, he said of the bread: “This means my body.” Regarding the wine, he stated: “This means my ‘blood of the covenant,’ which is to be poured out in behalf of many.” (Mark 14:22-24) Clearly, then, the bread and the wine were to be viewed as symbols, or emblems.
7. What is represented by the bread used at the Memorial?
7 On that highly important occasion in 33 C.E., Jesus used unleavened bread left over from the Passover meal. (Ex. 12:8) In the Scriptures, leaven at times denotes corruption or sin. (Matt. 16:6, 11, 12; Luke 12:1) Thus, Jesus’ use of unleavened bread was significant because it fittingly represented his sinless body. (Heb. 7:26) So bread of that kind is used at the Memorial.
8. What is represented by the Memorial cup of wine?
8 The wine that Jesus used on Nisan 14, 33 C.E., represented Jesus’ blood, as does the Memorial cup of wine today. At Golgotha, a place outside Jerusalem, his blood was poured out “for forgiveness of sins.” (Matt. 26:28; 27:33) Because the Memorial bread and wine symbolize Jesus’ priceless sacrifice offered in behalf of obedient mankind and we appreciate that loving provision, it is appropriate that we personally prepare for the annual observance of the Lord’s Evening Meal.
SOME WAYS TO PREPARE
9. (a) Why is it important to keep up with the Memorial Bible reading? (b) How do you feel about the ransom?
9 By keeping up with the Memorial Bible reading schedule found in Examining the Scriptures Daily, we can meditate on what Jesus did just before his death. In turn, this can help us to prepare our heart for the Lord’s Evening Meal. * “We look forward to the Memorial,” wrote one sister. “It becomes more special each year. I remember standing in the funeral home . . . looking at my dear dad and coming to a true heartfelt appreciation for the ransom. . . . Oh, I knew all the scriptures and how to explain them! But only when I felt the cold reality of death did my heart fairly leap with joy over what will be accomplished for us by means of that precious ransom.” Indeed, when preparing for the Memorial, we do well to reflect on how Jesus’ sacrifice liberates us from the scourge of sin and death.
10. How might preparation for the Memorial affect our ministry?
10 Preparing for the Memorial might include plans to increase our ministry in some way, perhaps as auxiliary pioneers during the Memorial season. As we invite Bible students and others to the Lord’s Evening Meal, we will find joy in speaking about God, his Son, and the blessings that are in store for those who please Jehovah and praise him.
11. How did some Corinthians partake of the Memorial emblems unworthily?
11 As you prepare for the Lord’s Evening Meal, consider what the apostle Paul wrote to the Christian congregation in Corinth. (Read 1 Corinthians 11:27-34.) Paul pointed out that anyone who partakes of the loaf and drinks from the cup unworthily is “guilty respecting the body and the blood of the Lord,” Jesus Christ. So an anointed one should “approve himself after scrutiny” and only then partake of the emblems. Otherwise, he “eats and drinks judgment against himself.” Because of improper conduct, many of the Corinthians were “weak and sick, and quite a few [were] sleeping in [spiritual] death.” Possibly, some ate and drank so much before or during the Memorial that they were neither mentally nor spiritually alert. Partaking of the emblems in such an unworthy manner brought God’s disapproval on them.
12. (a) To what did Paul compare the Memorial, and what warning did he give partakers? (b) What should a partaker who has committed a serious sin do?
12 Paul compared the Memorial to a meal shared with others, and he warned partakers: “You cannot be drinking the cup of Jehovah and the cup of demons; you cannot be partaking of ‘the table of Jehovah’ and the table of demons.” (1 Cor. 10:16-21) If a person who partakes of the emblems at the Lord’s Evening Meal has committed a serious sin, he should seek spiritual assistance. (Read James 5:14-16.) If such an anointed one has produced “fruits that befit repentance,” then he is not showing contempt for Jesus’ sacrifice by partaking of the Memorial emblems.
13. Why would it be beneficial to pray about our God-given hope?
13 As we personally prepare for the Memorial, we would find it beneficial to give prayerful thought to our God-given hope. No dedicated servant of Jehovah and faithful follower of his Son would want to show disrespect for Jesus’ sacrifice by partaking of the Memorial emblems if he or she actually lacks clear evidence of being an anointed Christian. Therefore, how can one determine whether to partake of the emblems or not?
WHO SHOULD PARTAKE?
14. What bearing does the new covenant have on the partaking of the Memorial emblems?
14 Those who rightly partake of the Memorial emblems are absolutely sure that they are parties to the new covenant. Regarding the wine, Jesus said: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood.” (1 Cor. 11:25) Through the prophet Jeremiah, God foretold that He would make a new covenant that differed from the Law covenant made with the Israelites. (Read Jeremiah 31:31-34.) God has made the new covenant with the spiritual Israelites. (Gal. 6:15, 16) This covenant has been validated by Christ’s sacrifice and has been made operative by his shed blood. (Luke 22:20) Jesus is the Mediator of the new covenant, and loyal anointed ones taken into it receive a heavenly inheritance.
15. Who have been taken into the Kingdom covenant, and what privilege awaits them if they are faithful?
15 Individuals entitled to partake of the Memorial emblems know that they have been taken into the Kingdom covenant. (Read Luke 12:32.) Those who became Jesus’ anointed followers and loyally stuck with Jesus, sharing in his sufferings, were to share his heavenly rule. (Phil. 3:10) Because they are in the Kingdom covenant, faithful anointed ones will reign with Christ as heavenly kings forever. (Rev. 22:5) Such individuals rightly partake of the emblems during the Lord’s Evening Meal.
16. Briefly explain the meaning of Romans 8:15-17.
16 Only those who have the witness of the spirit that they are God’s children should partake of the Memorial emblems. (Read Romans 8:15-17.) Note that Paul used the Aramaic word “Abba,” which means “O Father!” A child might use this word when addressing his father, for it is a term of endearment that combines the intimacy of “papa” with the respectful word “father.” Those who have received “a spirit of adoption as sons” are God’s spirit-begotten children. His spirit bears witness with their spirit, giving them the realization that they are Jehovah’s anointed sons. It is not simply a matter of their losing interest in living on earth. They are certain that they will be Jesus’ joint heirs in the heavenly Kingdom if they are faithful to death. Today, there is only a remnant of the 144,000 footstep followers of Christ, who “have an anointing from the holy one,” Jehovah. (1 John 2:20; Rev. 14:1) It is by means of his spirit that they cry out, “Abba, Father!” What a blessed relationship they have with God!
RESPONDING TO YOUR SCRIPTURAL HOPE
17. What is the hope of anointed ones, and how do they view it?
17 If you are an anointed Christian, the heavenly hope is an important subject of your personal prayers. When the Bible speaks of being ‘promised in marriage’ to the heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, you apply that to yourself, and you look forward to being part of Christ’s “bride.” (2 Cor. 11:2; John 3:27-29; Rev. 21:2, 9-14) When God in his Word expresses his love for his spiritual children, you respond, “That means me.” And when Jehovah’s Word gives instructions to his anointed sons, holy spirit moves you to obey and to say in your heart, “That applies to me.” God’s spirit and your spirit thus join in bearing witness that you have the heavenly hope.
18. The “other sheep” have what hope, and how do you feel about it?
18 On the other hand, if you are part of the “great crowd” of “other sheep,” God has given you the earthly hope. (Rev. 7:9; John 10:16) You want to live forever in Paradise, and you find joy in meditating on what the Bible says about future life on earth. You look forward to enjoying abundant peace while surrounded by your family and other righteous ones. You eagerly await the time when food shortages, poverty, suffering, sickness, and death no longer plague mankind. (Ps. 37:10, 11, 29; 67:6; 72:7, 16; Isa. 33:24) You yearn to welcome those who are resurrected from the dead with the prospect of living forever on earth. (John 5:28, 29) How thankful you are that Jehovah has blessed you with the earthly hope! Though you do not partake of the emblems, you attend the Memorial as an expression of your appreciation for the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
WILL YOU BE PRESENT?
19, 20. (a) How can your God-given hope become a reality? (b) Why will you attend the Lord’s Evening Meal?
19 Whether your hope is earthly or heavenly, it can become a reality only if you exercise faith in Jehovah God, Jesus Christ, and the ransom. By attending the Memorial, you will have an opportunity to reflect on your hope and on the great importance of Jesus’ death. So make it your aim to be one of the millions who will attend the Lord’s Evening Meal after sunset on Friday, April 3, 2015, at Kingdom Halls and other locations around the world.
20 Attending the Memorial may deepen your gratitude for Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. Listening attentively to the discourse may move you to show love for your neighbors by sharing with them what you have learned about Jehovah’s love and his grand purpose for mankind. (Matt. 22:34-40) By all means, be present at the Lord’s Evening Meal.