The God I Wish You Knew
He Lays Himself Down
The way that people, even church people, understand God is all over the map. To some, God is the violent dictator crushing people under his feet. To others He’s like a capricious child, subjecting the world to His whims. Still others believe him weak and impotent or removed and distant.
This series is designed to help you encounter the God we wish you knew, the God who is personal, present, caring, and powerful, the God who fills the void in your soul.
Imagine for a moment that you are one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, one of his closest friends. For three years you and Jesus have been inseparable.
You’ve listened to His teaching. You’ve watched Him walk on water. You’ve stood in disbelief as He fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. You’ve rejoiced as the sick were healed and have witnessed firsthand this man cast out demons, calm storms, and raise the dead.
What do you find most notable about how Jesus lived his life?
You and 11 others have left everything: your jobs, your homes, your families. Jesus has turned your world upside down, but now you’re watching him as he slowly dies in agony over the course of six hours.
You see the nails driven into his hands, the spikes puncturing His feet. You see the cross lifted up and dropped with a thump in the ground and hear the tearing flesh. You watch him in agony until finally a soldier pierces his side and what remains of his blood comes pouring out.
What do you think it would have been like to be present when Jesus was crucified?
Picture yourself in the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion. Can you imagine ever forgetting what happened? Can you imagine ever allowing the drama, and the emotion, and the passion of that sight and smell and sound to escape your memory? Can you imagine the meaning and the significance of that event ever losing it’s impact on you?
It’s an interesting question, because just hours earlier Jesus says and does something extraordinary with His closest friends. He’s eating the Passover meal with them, the meal that reminds the Jewish people that God delivered them out of slavery in Egypt, and he says to them, “Eat this bread to help you remember Me. And drink this cup to help you remember Me.”
Remember? After being with them almost 24/7 for three years, Jesus is worried they might forget Him?
But that’s exactly what He’s worried about, not in the sense that He would slip their minds not in the sense that they might one day say, “Jesus who?”
He is concerned about a kind of spiritual forgetfulness: the kind of forgetfulness that leads to worship that’s little more than empty rituals and church-life that’s not much more than going through the motions; the kind of forgetfulness that leads to spiritual half-heartedness, unsacrificial servanthood; and passionless faith.
Jesus was concerned about spiritual forgetfulness that leads some of His followers to gradually take detours into sin, and the kind of forgetfulnessthat would lead some to continue to carry their sins, living in guilt, when He died in order for them to be set free, forgiven, and released.
So Jesus takes the bread and takes the cup of the Passover meal and says, “Remember Me.”
How has spiritual forgetfulness impacted your life?
Who we are depends on our ability to remember. Imagine for a moment that you could no longer remember your life: the books you had read, the people you had met, the music you had loved, the places you had traveled.
It would be as if all of the experiences that are such a huge part of who you are had never happened.
In the Old Testament, Joshua leads the people of Israel across the Jordan River into the land God had promised them, and then Joshua tells them to pile up rocks as a memorial. He says, “When your children see this pile of rocks and they ask,’”What’s this pile of rocks doing there?’ I want you to tell them about the time we were crossing the Jordan River and God pulled the waters apart so that we could cross on dry land. I want it to be there as a memorial. I want you to remember.”
Throughout the Old Testament Got speaks about the importance of remembering: “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Remember you were slaves in Egypt and I reached out with a strong arm and delivered you from Egypt. Remember when you see a rainbow that I have promised I will never again destroy the earth by flood.
“When you celebrate the Passover and eat the unleavened bread for 7 days, and your children ask, “Why are we doing this?” I want you to tell them about the time that your lives were spared because of the blood of an innocent lamb so that they will remember.”
God is constantly telling His people to remember… because we so quickly forget!
Share a story with the group about a time when God showed up in your life in a significant way.
There are two kinds of memory problems. The first is that we forget the things we should remember.
We forget our car keys, the names of people we met, how to get to that store we only went to the one time, whether or not we’ve seen a movie, and where we parked.
That Passover meal we just mentioned, the one that was supposed to serve as a reminder of God’s delivering the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Well, they really needed it, because a few days after they left Egypt they ended up dancing around a golden calf, worshipping it!
And that’s not just a them problem, it’s an us problem. The way we react when our children want our attention, the way we respond to those in need, the way we cheat just a little on our tax returns, it’s like we’ve forgotten God.
And so Jesus gives his followers this meal to help them remember. When we remember deeply it’s as if something is alive again, it’s made real again. When you hear that song from your youth, when you smell that perfume your mother always wore, when you walk into your childhood home, when you reconnect with old friends, it’s as if the past is alive again. You don’t just remember: it’s as if you re-experience what happened before.
That’s what Jesus is calling us to in communion.
What are some other ways that we can keep Jesus and His sacrifice at the forefront of our minds?
The second memory problem is that we remember what we should forget.
We can’t forget that we once hurt someone else, that we haven’t been a perfect parent or child or brother or sister or friend, that we have a past that we are not proud of. Even though we have experienced amazing grace, even though Jesus has paid for all of our sins, our wrongdoings, we keep holding onto them, holding on to the guilt and the shame.
The twelve men present with Jesus at that Passover meal, at that first communion, were twelve men who would desert, betray, or deny him in some way or another within the next few hours. And yet Jesus still chose to share this meal with them and to give them this symbol to remind them of Him. Because he knew they would need to be reminded of who He is, of his mercy and grace.
You see, God isn’t just the greatest Remember-er. He’s the greatest Forget-er. He forgives everything we’ve done wrong, not holding it against us.
Have a volunteer read Psalm 103:11-13.
What impact does remembering the things we should forget have on us?
This week, take a piece of paper and write out some of the things you wished were gone from your life, the bad habits, the shame and guilt of things you’ve done wrong, the things that you just wish weren’t with you anymore.
Take that piece of paper, hold it in your hand, and ask God to relieve you of these burdens, to take them away.
And then take that piece of paper and get rid of it. Put it in the paper shredder. Throw it in the fire pit. Rip it up and put it in the trash. Give those things over to God. You no longer have to live with the same and guilt and sin of your past. If you are a follower of Jesus God has forgiven you and wants you to live a new life.
Easter is a great time to invite others who don’t yet know Jesus to come and hear about the incredible love of God and the freedom He offers us. Begin each morning this week in prayer asking God to give you an opportunity to invite someone to church with you this coming weekend.