Living a perfect life as God incarnate, the Lord Jesus must have filled His days with constant thankfulness to the Father. I was surprised, then, to discover that the Gospels record only three occasions on which the Son of God gave thanks. But although the record of His thanksgiving is sparse, that which the Spirit of God was pleased to record is rich in instruction.
The miracle of the five loaves and two fish. The significance the Word of God places on this miracle cannot be doubted because all four of the gospels record it in detail. It is one of the most dramatic scenes described in the New Testament—the large crowd of five thousand men plus women and children seated in groups of fifty, the discovery of the little boy with his lunch of bread and fish, the presentation of the small offering to the Lord, the graphic breaking of that little lunch bit-by-bit by the Lord and handing it to the twelve disciples who walked through the crowd distributing the food, and the remarkable collection of twelve baskets of leftovers. But what does John mention after his initial description of the miracle when he explains that some of that crowd tried to follow the Lord Jesus after He left? He doesn’t describe the tableau; he doesn’t even mention the miracle. He states that the crowd had come from Tiberias “where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks” (John 6:23). Of all the things he might have mentioned, he chose to mention that the Lord had given public thanks to His Father for the loaves and fish. It appears that the Holy Spirit desired us to know that the Lord Jesus Christ had a thankful heart. Additionally, it would seem that the Lord wanted those He fed to know that He lived a life directed by and dependent upon the Father. His public expression of thanks gave clear testimony to that reality.
The miracle of the raising of Lazarus. The second occasion on which it is recorded that the Lord gave thanks occurred when the Lord miraculously raised Lazarus from the dead. John writes that when the stone had been removed, “Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me’” (11:41). Apparently, the Lord had prayed a prior prayer to the Father that John did not record requesting His Father’s approbation and help in the performing of this miracle. In addition to His personal expressed appreciation for the answer to prayer His Heavenly Father had provided, we also discover directly from the Lord’s own mouth a second reason for His audible thankfulness: “I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me” (11:42). Once again, His offered thanks affirmed that He was the Christ sent from God, the promised Messiah who had come to do the Father’s will, which was that He die in order to save His people from their sins. The prayer was not offered so that they might merely know about Him but that they might believe in Him.
The institution of the Lord’s Supper. The final recorded instance of the giving of thanks by the Lord Jesus occurred in the upper room as the Lord Jesus ate the final Passover meal with His disciples before His suffering and death. Luke describes the events in the following words. “And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, ‘Take this and share it among yourselves’ . . . And when He had taken some bread and 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’” (22:17, 19). Doubtless, His disciples would soon remember this object lesson in thankfulness, when they recalled that their Lord had been truly thankful for the bread and wine, even knowing that they represented what He was about to face for them—the breaking of His body and the pouring out of His blood. When the disciples would come face-to-face with their own fiery trials, they could recall the great trust and thankfulness that the Lord had displayed on the eve of His crucifixion and be encouraged to stand—with thanksgiving—for the Lord.
If our Creator and Lord could humbly give thanks to the Father, what about you and me?
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