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Monday, April 18, 2011

Lord's Evening Meal: Once a year only

Matzo (Photo by Yoninah)
For much of Christianity, Maundy Thursday is the time to emphasize “The Last Supper” of Jesus.  Not so for the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  According to, their counterpart to Maundy Thursday, the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist and Holy Communion is the Lord’s Evening Meal, which is observed only once a year on Nisan 14.

In Exodus 12, the Lord speaks with Moses and Aaron about special days within the Hebrew-calendar first month of Nisan.  On Nisan 10, an unblemished first-year male lamb should be set aside for the Passover (Pesach) sacrifice.  It should be kept until Nisan 14, and then “the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at dusk.”  Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that, since Jesus was the ultimate
sacrificial Lamb, his death occurred on Nisan 14 (on April 1, 33 CE of the Gregorian calendar).  The “Last
Supper” would have therefore been on the evening before (Hebrew-calendar days begin at sunset; thus, this last meal would have still been on Nisan 14.)

Since Jehovah’s Witnesses align the Lord’s Evening Meal with the beginning of Passover, they believe that it should only be observed at that time each year.  The term “Lord’s Evening Meal” is derived from 1 Corinthians 11:20. explains that the bread and wine that Jesus offered can only be symbols of His body and blood since Jesus was still in His earthly body at the time of these initial offerings.  It further explains that the unleavened bread represented a body without sin (since leaven was equated with sin in the ancient Hebrew culture), and the wine represented the blood that “makes valid the new covenant.”

Some interpretations of these events differ sharply from those of the Jehovah Witnesses.  Some point to 1 Corinthians 11 as evidence that such Lord’s Meals were meant to occur far more frequently than once a year.  They say that Paul was not warning about the frequency of the meals, but rather about the solemnity of them.  Some also point to Acts 2:42 and 2:46, which mention the frequent “breaking of bread.”   They say that the term “breaking of bread” refers specifically to “Lord’s Meals” rather than to just any meals.  They
cite 1 Corinthians 10: 16 and 11:24 in support of this.


Copyright April 18, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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