What Would Jesus Be Thankful For?

Hearty Thanksgiving Greetings!

Since time and Thanksgiving dinner wait for no man, or woman, or child, I will try to be brief in my words today. I want you to be thankful that you took the time to read this post. Hopefully, you’ll find some good thoughts to chew on during your family feasting.

There are so many tasty thanksgiving scriptures to choose from for a Thanksgiving Day post that at first I was overwhelmed.

My inability to “eat just one,” though, led me to ask myself that ultimate, clarifying question:

“ What would Jesus be thankful for ?”

A quick concordance study revealed that Jesus wasn’t really all that thankful. At least not in his words recorded in the gospels. I was surprised to find only two major occasions where Jesus is recorded giving thanks: the feeding of the multitudes (Matthew, Mark, John), and the last supper (Matthew, Mark, Luke). If you’re a fact checker, yes Jesus also thanked God in John 11:41 at Lazarus’ grave, but that was a special case. Let’s look at the two primary events where Jesus said “thank you” to God.

When Jesus fed the multitudes, Scripture says he took the few loaves and fishes the disciples could find, gave thanks for them, and then had his disciples distribute them. Those few loaves and fishes miraculously fed thousands, so generously that one passage says the people ate “as much as they wanted” and all were “filled.” It was not just enough food to get by, but a bountiful feast by the Sea of Galilee. In John’s account, that field is later described as “the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks.”

When Jesus met with his disciples in the upper room to celebrate their last Passover meal together, Scripture says that during the meal he gave thanks for the bread and the cup. He explained that the bread was his body, broken for them, and the wine was his blood, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. He gave thanks for the food as part of the Passover meal, but even more his thanks encompassed the spiritual realities that the bread and the cup would represent to his disciples after he was gone.

And that’s pretty much it. Jesus gave thanks those two times. But think about it for a moment. In the first instance, Jesus was thankful for God’s provision of physical food. In the second, Jesus was thankful for God’s provision of spiritual food. All about food. All about God. And then it struck me.

The Pilgrims of Plymouth Plantation celebrated their first feast of thanksgiving, a harvest festival, for two big reasons: first, to thank God for providing the food they needed in a bountiful fall harvest; and second, to thank God for His goodness and mercy in bringing them through their first winter. They gave thanks to God for physical food, and for spiritual food. Just like Jesus. And just like we should.

No matter where we’ve shared the Thanksgiving meal with others over the years, I’ve noticed a kind of universal, de facto, dinner table Christian tradition. Before the eating begins, the question is posed that each person around the table is expected to answer: “What is one thing you are thankful for this year?” Older eaters know the easy answers like family, health, and “blessings” that will keep the relay moving along the fastest; younger eaters are often shy or blurt out whatever is first on their minds, whether friends, toys, trips, pets, or candy. In reality, of course, all eyes are on the table of delectable bounty.

I know I’m meddling now, but this year, why not try asking a new question, or actually two questions: “What physical food from God on this table are you most thankful for, and what spiritual food from God in your life are you most thankful for this year?”

Every kid will champ at the bit to answer the first question, and every grown up will have to ditch their default answers and think just a little harder about that second question. But that’s all good, and the dinner won’t get cold. And if there’s any pushback, just say, “We’re following Jesus’ example this year. Don’t you think that’s a great idea?”

So, have a hearty, joyful, and good Thanksgiving with your family. Be thankful for the bountiful provision of the physical food he has given us to enjoy, and for the promised provision of spiritual food that fills us with gratitude and praise. And thank God for a wonderful family holiday like Thanksgiving!

Now…pass the turkey, please.

Clay Clarkson

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