Wednesday, November 23, 2022
1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I love this week of the year. If I had to rate it, it would be in the top 50 or so. Actually it would be in the top three. For as long as I can remember from childhood, Thanksgiving week has always been the time of my fondest and deepest family memories. My kids all make fun of me for this and will understand when I say, “This is so special.” At some point during the Thanksgiving dinner I will probably say that with tears in my eyes. One year one of my sons imitated me early in the meal and everyone roared with mocking laughter. I love my family!
This morning, as I started to put together a list of all the reasons the New Testament provides for us to be thankful, I stopped at the third one I came to. I guess I will go into that list deeper tomorrow, but for today God stopped me and made a connection with me.
Think back to when Jesus was just hours away from His crucifixion. He’s in the upper room with His disciples, and He’s telling them the details of His suffering that is at hand. Then, in a symbolic gesture incredibly deep with spiritual truth, Jesus takes the bread. Let’s read how Matthew relates it to us in his Gospel.
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’”
Two times Jesus gave thanks. He was thankful for the bread and thankful for the cup of wine. But His thankfulness goes far deeper than mere habit or courtesy of praying before a meal. In fact, they were already eating, so any blessing of the food had already taken place.
Just think what the bread represented in the plan of God and in the understanding of the Son. The bread was symbolic of His body – the physical body that would soon endure excruciating pain and suffering. He would be spit upon and struck, beaten and bloodied, crowned and crucified. His body would suffer more than we dare to imagine but not more than we ourselves deserve.
The cup of wine represented the blood of Jesus. Once shed on the cross it would become the once-for-all covering for our sin. Every sacrifice for sin required the shedding of blood – the expelling of the source of life from the physical being. Jesus knew that on the cross His blood would be spilled out. He knew that the weight of sin would crush His heart and His chest cavity would fill with blood as He took His last breath and gave up His life for ours. He foresaw the spear thrust into His side so that His blood could be shed to meet God’s righteous requirements and provide eternal forgiveness.
Yet, seeing it all with His infinite mind’s eye and knowing the suffering that was ahead, Jesus gave thanks!
I am in awe of my Lord! I am ashamed of myself. I complain. I grumble. I criticize. I find fault. I want change. I want to be more like Jesus. Jesus gave thanks!
I think I’ve discovered a connection. Being thankful is the product of a surrendered heart. Self-centered hearts aren’t thankful. Jesus was fully surrendered to the will of the Father, so He could be thankful for every step He was directed to take, even suffering ones. He had His eyes fixed on the finish line, not the competition of the race. It is in full surrender that thankfulness abounds.
“Jesus, forgive us for being self-willed and not surrendered. Forgive us for complaining and criticizing when we could be content in knowing that You are in control. May we express gratitude rather than grumbling. May we learn to be thankful before, during, and after suffering as was Jesus.”