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Preventing Spiritual Amnesia

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Matthew 26:26–29; Mark 14:22–25; Luke 22:17–20

The one critical truth we must always cling to and keep before us is the Lord Jesus’ death in our place and for our benefit. Just hours before He went to the cross, the Lord gave us a unique way of remembering that mighty work.


Following World War II, there were more than 200 Frenchmen who returned to Paris suffering from amnesia. They had been prisoners of war and had suffered through a horrible ordeal of starvation and torture. In most cases, their identities were quickly established from Red Cross records or with the help of fellow prisoners. But after all efforts were exhausted, there were still thirty-two unidentified soldiers. The doctors who were treating these men knew their chances for recovery would be impossible unless they were reunited with their friends and relatives.  

They decided to publish photographs of the men on the front page of newspapers around the country and announce a date when anyone having information should come to the Opera House in Paris. On that day, a huge crowd gathered inside the opera house—it was standing room only. Then in a dramatic moment, the first soldier walked out onto the stage, stood in the spotlight, and slowly turned completely around so that everyone could get a full view of him. Before the hushed audience, he said—as instructed—“Does anybody know who I am?” Can you imagine such a sorrowful, anguished question? Does anybody out there know who I am? Well, all these men were reunited that day with their families.

Has it ever occurred to you that people today are racing around, basically attempting to answer that same question: “Does anybody know who I am and where I really belong?”

If you are a Christian, the gospel has answered that question for you. You were a sinner, separated from the God who created you and loved you enough to send His Son to die for you so that you could be saved. And now by faith in Christ alone, you are a Christian—a member of God’s family. That is who you are. You belong to Him.

The trouble is, we still battle a unique form of spiritual amnesia—it is like we keep forgetting that we belong to Him. And the Lord is about to deal with that here in the Gospel of Luke in chapter 22. Jesus is with His disciples in the upper room to observe the Passover. In a matter of hours, He is going to be crucified.

His substitutionary death in payment for the sins of the world is central—it is absolutely essential to our salvation. Without Christ’s death and His bodily resurrection, the Christian faith itself is meaningless. The importance of Jesus’ death on the cross is obvious.

The problem is we get caught up in the busy rush hour of life and service—all those troubling concerns that capture our attention and occupy our time. As a result, we tend to forget what is most important!

And Jesus knows that. So, the Lord introduces to His disciples this precious ordinance called the Lord’s Supper, or communion. This ordinance is intended to help us remember Him.

We begin here at verse 14:

When the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (verses 14-16)

The Lord is informing His disciples that this is the last Passover He will eat with them until the establishment of His kingdom on earth, following the tribulation period. When He returns, everything the Passover pointed to—the sacrificial Lamb who would deliver people from their sin and reign victorious—all of that will be fulfilled.

But Jesus introduces something new—something that was not found in the traditional Jewish Passover. Luke records it for us in verses 19-20:

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

Jesus is clearly introducing symbols here. The bread represents His body, and the cup represents His shed blood.

Now it is important to understand that this bread is not His literal flesh and the contents of the cup are not His physical blood. I want to emphasize this because there has been a lot of confusion and mysticism over the Lord’s Supper for centuries. To this day, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that in the hand of the priest, these elements become Jesus’ body and blood. Communion then becomes a repetition of Jesus’ death. Jesus is crucified again—and again and again.

Let me tell you, this makes the death of Christ no more effective than the Old Testament sacrifices, which had to be repeated constantly. It also denies the truth of passages like Hebrews 10:12, which tells us Christ’s death was a single sacrifice—once for all time. His death for our sins two thousand years ago is eternally sufficient to pay for our sins forever. And by the way, you do not need a priest to give you Jesus. You get Jesus once and for all when you ask Him yourself to become your Savior.

The eating and drinking are part of the symbolism of the Passover, when a family ate the sacrificial lamb. Jesus is the final sacrificial Lamb. The idea of eating and drinking Jesus is a symbol that you have accepted Him into your very being—your existence—as a child of God. And beloved, you do not become a child of God every time you have communion. Just as Jesus was crucified once and for all, you are saved once and for all.

You do not partake of this table to become a Christian; it is something you do because you are a Christian. In fact, it is for Christians only. You will note that Jesus waited until Judas had left the room to institute this special ordinance of communion.

So, Jesus Christ is saying to His disciples here, “Listen, after I’m gone, I want you to begin a new practice. Take ordinary bread and wine and partake of them as symbolic reminders of My sacrifice of body and blood. And this is to be done in remembrance of Me.” So, to this day, by way of communion, we are to remember Him and what He has done for us.

Jesus also tells His disciples that this table is not only for remembrance but is also a table of expectation. He says to them in verse 18, “For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

By the way, Jesus calls it, “the fruit of the vine,” not “My blood.” He says, “I’ll not drink of the fruit of this vine—like you disciples do—until my kingdom comes.” So, we are not only remembering what Jesus did in the past but also what Jesus is going to do in the future—set up His kingdom!

Beloved, our greatest problem as we live in this world is not that we will deny the deity of Christ or that He rose from the dead. The greater problem is that we tend to forget what Jesus did and what He is coming to do in the future. We forget we belong to Him when we go into that classroom or boardroom or locker room or dorm room. We make decisions like He is not in the room with us, like we do not belong to His family.

Jesus says, “Do this in remembrance of me.” The Greek word for “remembrance” here is anamnēsis. The negative form of that word gives us our word amnesia—“not remembering.” Jesus says to observe communion to help us get over our amnesia.

Every time you observe the Lord’s Supper, you engage in the process of preventing spiritual amnesia. You remember who you are—a sinner, saved by grace. You remember who He is—the sacrificial Lamb. You remember that you belong to His family. And you remember that He is coming again.

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