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Forgetting and Remembering

How Does Communion Help Us to Forget and Remember Some Things?
Pastor Bob Stone, Selected passages

Click here to download complete Powerpoint presentation.

How many of you remember trivia? Some of us have great memories for minutia, but most people don’t, because trivia is not usually important to their lives.

Some events and experiences, on the other hand, are hard wired into our memories because they helped to shape our lives for good or bad. We usually remember things that define us and shape us!


This week we had a memorial service for one of our members. It was a wonderful memory service in which we remembered her character qualities and some of the highlights of her life. But most of all, we remembered how Jesus worked in and through her to have a significant impact on other people’s lives, especially her family. I was very moved by that memorial and the strength of her family, and it was a memory I won’t forget!

Beyond formal hallmark experiences like memorial services or weddings, there are many other experiences and events we all work hard to remember. Parents/grandparents want to remember each age and stage of their children’s lives, and their special vacations and events; so what do we do? (We take pictures...lots of pictures!)

Another thing we do to make sure we remember is to tell stories. Many older people tell the same stories over and over again because stories are a means to hold on to life and pass on lessons to the next generation.

Our kids used to love having us tell stories about when they were little. Even today, we often remember family experiences and fun times we had together. When we spend time telling a family story, we are remembering what defined us and shaped us, celebrating life and the passing on of life!

With that backdrop, let me ask you to think: What’s written in the hard disk of your brain? Whatever the answer to that question, I am sure we all need to find a way to remember some things and forget others. If we have healthy experiences that have shaped us for good, we need to find a means to remember these celebrations of life and pass them on to others. On the other end of the spectrum, if we are guilt ridden (or maybe even obsessed with some thoughts or experiences we can’t forget), we need to find a way to erase the hard drive.

In order to do that, I believe we need to have a "memory service" and enter into an experience that will help us to remember the right things and forget the wrong things. Many of us have gone to church services for many years and understand the meaning of the elements in the Lord’s Supper/communion. Others don’t really know what the Lord’s Supper is all about, so I’m going to spend a few minutes to explain the significance of communion. I also want us to press in further and apply this table to our lives.


The Setting

To prepare us to share the Lord’s Table, go back with me to the day before Christ’s death. It was Thursday, and Jesus and His disciples were celebrating Passover together.

Jesus knew these moments with His disciples would be the very last He would have with them, and that the disciples’ lives would soon change dramatically. So on His last day with them, He wanted them to remember some things and forget some things.

The Passover is a dramatic moment in history, and Jesus was about to explain that He was the fulfillment of the Passover. In effect he was going to show them that the Passover was a shadow of what He would do and who He was.

As most of you know, Passover was the most important of all Jewish holidays, when they would celebrate how God delivered the Children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. God wanted each Jewish family to remember what happened in Egypt—He didn’t want them to forget.

On the night of the first Passover in Egypt, God had every family take an innocent lamb into its house. At the prescribed moment, the father took the lamb outside to kill it. No doubt he had to explain to his children why he was going to kill the lamb. The father may have shared with the children, especially the oldest son, something like, "God said He’s going to send a death angel through the whole land of Egypt tonight. This angel will kill all the firstborn sons of every household unless we kill this (perfect) lamb and put the blood on the doorpost. If we do that, God says the angel will pass over our house and not kill you. Now son, I believe God is going to do what He said, because there have been nine other plagues he has already completed. So I’ve got to kill this lamb—it’s either you or the lamb."

Then the father killed the lamb and put the blood on the doorpost. The Scripture records that God did what He said He would, so finally after the 10 plagues (the last being the Passover) the people were delivered from slavery and allowed to return to their own land. (The story is found in the book of Exodus.)

In order to remember their deliverance, a yearly Passover was instituted by God. Here are the elements of the Passover:

  • The father killed a lamb.
  • Then they would roast the lamb.
  • After a careful search for the forbidden leaven
  • they had a symbolic supper which included the symbolic elements of
    a roasted lamb
    unleavened bread
    bitter herbs
    and four cups of wine taken at specified points throughout the event
  • ritual hand washing
  • the retelling of the story of the first Passover in Egypt
  • the breaking of bread
  • the third cup of wine
  • the singing of the Hallel (Psalms 113-118)
  • and the final cup of wine.

With the explanation of the Passover as a backdrop, let’s return to the night Jesus is with the disciples and they are celebrating the Passover too.


The Lord’s Table

After they had finished eating the lamb…

After they had remembered God’s power, His strength, His ability to deliver…

At the time of the breaking of the bread and the third cup of wine…

(It is assumed the Lord’s supper was associated with the breaking of bread and the third cup of wine. The singing of the Hallel—Psalm 113-118—was completed with the 4th cup, probably the hymn of Matthew 26:30. "When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives." The New Bible Dictionary, Tyndale, Wheaton Illinois, 1982, page 882.)

Jesus looked at them and in effect said, "I’m afraid you’re going to forget who I am and what I did for your lives." As we look at this scene, we could wonder how it’s possible that these 11 people could forget Jesus. (By the way, Judas has left by this point.) How could they forget the One who walked on the water, who calmed the storm, who healed the sick and raised the dead.

Would they really forget Him—what He did and why He did it? (The answer is yes!) Jesus knows what it’s like to be human, that not only the disciples but all of us have this incredible ability to forget what’s very important in our lives. We also remember things that aren’t important at all—even destructive things—so He says, "because you’re going to forget, I want to create a new memory for you."

Luke 22:19 has the exact words: " this in remembrance of me."


The People of Israel Forgot Some Things

Remember God had some experience with His people, so Jesus knew His disciples would forget, just like the children of Israel did in the Old Testament. Many verses remind us of their tendency and our propensity to forget:

Deut. 32:18—" forgot the God who gave you birth."

Judges 3:7—"The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs."

They forgot the Lord; they forgot who took care of them, who loved them, who watched over them. All through the Old Testament God said, "You need to remember…" but they forgot.

Psalm 78:11—"They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them."

Psalm 106:21—"They forgot the God who saved them, who had done great things in Egypt."

They forgot His watchcare, deliverance and love. They forgot His presence; they forgot His protection. They forgot how much He loved them and watched over them every day and protected them from countless things they didn’t even understand.—Jeremiah 23:27; 50:6; Hosea 2:13; 13:6.

Let me illustrate how we are just like them. In your own mind, rehearse the things God did for you today and yesterday. (Can you quickly state the things God did for you?) Think of the obvious:

  • He woke you up.
  • He gave you a beautiful family and friends, opportunities at work and school.
  • He gave you breath, health, food, clothes and a place to live.
  • He protected you.

In essence, Jesus looked at these men and said to them, "You are going to forget what you need to remember; and you are going to remember some things you need to forget." At the Passover table, Jesus took two elements that were already part of the dinner.


Believers In Jesus Need to Remember Some Things

First, He took the bread and put incredible meaning into it.

Luke 22:19 tells us, "And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’" In other words, Jesus said to them, "This bread is now a picture of My body which is for you." He broke the bread and passed it around the table—just like they did at Passover.

What a powerful moment it was, as they as they touched and held the bread in their hands. Today, the message for us is the same; the bread is a picture of Jesus’ body. The body of Christ represents the humanity of Christ. Jesus, who was God, come down to this earth to be like us and with us. It is this profound truth that God wants His disciples to remember then and now.

If I could paraphrase the Lord’s concerns, this is what Jesus is communicating through the bread:

  • You are going to forget that I really became human.
  • You may be tempted to think that I was a ghost.
  • Some may say to you I was just in your imagination, or I wasn’t really God in the flesh.
  • But you need to remember that I, God, came to this earth to be with you and to love you because you matter to Me.
  • I want you to remember that I came to earth. I didn’t send an angel, I didn’t send an ambassador. I wanted to be with you, so you would know you weren’t alone and you were important to Me."

So as they took the bread, Jesus said to them, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’"

Second, He takes the cup.

First Corinthians says in 11:25—"In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’"

As with the bread, Jesus was communicating to them, "This cup is the picture of my blood." Remember, the disciples didn’t know Jesus was going to die the next day, but Jesus knew. The disciples didn’t know they were going to watch as Jesus’ blood flowed out of His body. If I might paraphrase again, He says:

  • This cup is a picture for you to remember, because I’m going to die in your place.
  • I’m going to die for your sins, your failures, your brokenness.
  • All the imperfections in your life I’m going to die for, so you can be forgiven and you can have an eternal relationship with Me.
  • But do you know what? You’re going to forget that.

This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."

  • By taking this bread and this cup on a regular basis, you will have a wonderful way to remember my covenant, or my promise to you.

The application of this table to us can be very profound if we extend its meaning beyond the obvious. We tend to remember what we should forget, holding on to memories when it would be better for them to be deleted from our minds. Right now, for example, I’ll bet you can remember one of the last times you embarrassed yourself. (This is no stretch for me. I do it all the time.) Most of us can say, "Oh yeah, I really embarrassed myself the other day when I...." Whatever the reason, we often keep rehearsing those events and give ourself a bad time as we remember them. It isn’t hard for us to remember the times we embarrassed ourselves and the times we failed.

Can you remember when you:

  • exploded in anger
  • said something foolish or too harsh and hurt someone
  • willfully committed a sin recently

We sort of grind ourselves up with the memories of our failures. Look at the screen, however, and see what God says about our confessed sins and failures.

God is the Great Forgetter

God knows what to remember and what to forget! For example:

Psalm 103:12 " far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."

Isaiah 1:18 "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool."

Isaiah 38:17 "Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back."

Isaiah 43:25 "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more."

Micah 7:18 "Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry for ever but delight to show mercy."

Micah 7:19 "You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea."

Jeremiah 31:34 "...I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."

Hebrews 8:12 "...I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."

These are some of the most exciting verses in all the Bible—will we remember them, or forget them? We must remember, when we confess our sin to Him (1 John 1:9) He not only forgives us, He forgets what we try to remember. When it comes to our forgiven sins, God chooses to be absentminded

God says, "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more"—Hebrews 10:17. But that is not all. God not only forgets the right things, He remembers the right things, too!

Here are a few of the verses that remind us of some things God remembers and chooses not to forget.

Genesis 9:15 "I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life." 16] "Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."

Isaiah 44:21 "Remember these things, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I have made you, you are my servant; O Israel, I will not forget you."

Ezekiel 16:60 "Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you."

Isaiah 49:15 "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!"

According to these verses, tell me what God remembers and does not forget.

God is the Great Rememberer

God remembers to love us and watch over us and He forgets our sins and lawless acts.

What does God’s forgetting and remembering say to us? It reminds us we can do the same thing. Oh, we argue with ourselves: "I can’t just forget the times I have failed. Surely God is not saying I just need to live in denial... as if I have never sinned. How can it possibly be that God can forgive and forget all of our iniquities?"

Don’t miss this simple, but profound answer: God can forgive and forget because Jesus died for our sins and paid for our sins! Therefore, the amazing truth is, we too can forgive ourselves and move toward forgetting because we see that Jesus paid the price for the sin. After we have confessed our sin, any continuing agony or guilt does absolutely no good. It is totally unnecessary and only destroys us! It says, in effect, "Jesus, you didn’t do enough and I need to add to the price paid for my sin by holding on to my guilt."

If you have ever had any debt paid off, you know what it means to be free. Once the debt is paid, I don’t think there is anyone who would continue to pay the payment, even though there is no bill coming in. Am I right? When I pay my house off, what would you think of me if I continued to send in the payments and wrote on the check, "I’m so used to sending in this payment I can’t stop?" You would be saying, "Bob has lost it.")

Obviously, when the debt is paid, there is no need for further payment. That’s what Jesus is saying here:

  • If you have confessed your sins to me...
  • I will forget all of your sins and failures because I have paid for them.
  • Every time you have embarrassed yourself...
  • Every time 1) you got angry; 2) got quick with your tongue; 3) got loose in your life;
  • I died and paid the penalty for it.
  • Therefore I have removed your sin from My memory.

And Jesus is inviting us to do the same thing. We can continue to pay for our failures, weaknesses, broken places and inadequacies. Or we can remember God’s grace, love, forgiveness and how He has washed us clean. It is not God’s intention for us to remember His grace and our failures at the same time.

So we’ve got a huge choice today: what are we going to hold onto and let go of?

Back to the Lord’s Table:

So when we come to this table and take the piece of bread and the cup, God is saying, "I want you to forget some things in your life that have worn you down and out. On the other hand, I want you to remember some things that will build you up and strengthen your life."

Next time you come to the Lord's Table, I want you to contemplate the meaning of the bread. I want you to decide whether you’re going to hold on to the truth that Jesus loves you and He came to be with you, or hold on to the lie that you are alone and God doesn’t care about you.

I want you to remember Jesus came in the flesh to be with us. (He is Immanuel—God with us.)

Prayer for the Bread:

"Lord, as your children we hold this bread in our hand, and it is easy to think of some things that we’ve got to remember and some things we have to forget. Lord, I want us to forget about the lie that says we are alone and you don’t care about us. In addition, I want us to remember the nails in your hands and feet which tell us in very concrete terms we are loved by You with an everlasting love, a love that endures forever.

We need to remember You adore us and always have our best interest in mind, and therefore, we can trust You with our lives. We are thrilled to remember Your presence in us and with us. Oh Lord, as we take this bread, what a great picture to remind us that You walked this earth to be with us so we could know You in a personal way." Amen.

The bread is a picture of the body of Christ given for you. Take and eat it!

As you hold the cup in your hand, remember:

Jesus died in our place and paid the penalty for all the wrong in our life, so we don’t have to. If you have asked Him into your life, you can come right into the presence of God any time you have a need. You have a home in heaven and need not be afraid of death.


Since you have put your sins behind us by confessing them, you don’t have to carry your sins with you like a backpack that weighs you down. Jesus, in effect, is saying to you, at this table of grace I want you to confess your sins, and then I want you to forget your sins—to remember them no more.

It doesn’t matter how far you have run, and it doesn’t matter how bad you are or were, God’s grace overwhelms anything you have done. So as you hold the cup in your hand, I want you to remember some things and forget some things. Take a few moments to pray and say, "God, I need to remember some things here and to forget some things here."

Prayer for the Cup:

"Lord, we are so thankful we can come to this table and remember your grace, your love and your kindness. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts that we can forget where we have failed and fallen down, and the times when we were foolish and thought we could go it alone. Lord, we have been so foolish at times, but because of Your grace, we need to forget that. Help us to recall what we should remember about the cross, and forget what we should forget about our own sin and failure. Thank you. Amen."

Jesus took the cup and reminded us,

"This is a picture of My blood, which is for you." Take and drink the cup.