Believe it or not, there are only a few instances in the accounts of Jesus’ life when the Gospel writers tell us that Jesus gave thanks to God. In each of the accounts of Jesus feeding multitudes of people with just a bit of fish and bread, the writers tell us that Jesus gave thanks and then broke the bread to give it to the people. In the accounts of the Last Supper, the writers tell us that Jesus gave thanks before giving the bread and wine to his disciples. Luke tells us that Jesus gave thanks when he broke the bread as he was having supper with the two disciples after his resurrection; those disciples remarked that was when they recognized Jesus.
The only time, however, that the Gospels record Jesus’ words giving thanks is in John 11:41, 42:
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
Then Jesus called to Lazarus, and Lazarus came out of his tomb.
In each of these accounts, we find a connection with the life that comes through Jesus. Obviously, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead to show that God had sent him to give life. This was the teaching we can find in the feeding of the multitudes; when the people came looking for more bread, Jesus said in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life.” In the accounts of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus told his disciples that the bread and wine for which he had given thanks were symbols of his body and blood which were given for them.
Do we give thanks like Jesus? Do we thank God for the life we have in Jesus? Or do we thank God for the things we have in this life? Certainly, we need to be grateful for what we have, and the season of our Thanksgiving holiday reminds us and prompts us to do so, but is that the extent of giving thanks to God?
Think about the way that Jesus gave thanks. As he fed the multitudes, Jesus certainly gave thanks to God the Father for the bread itself, but he certainly had in mind the life that it represented. Being God in the flesh, Jesus demonstrated his authority and power over all of creation, and he created bread that sustains physical life. He did this knowing his identity and knowing God’s plan for mankind, to give eternal life to those who believe. But Jesus’ power and authority went beyond sustaining physical life; he also restored Lazarus’ physical life, and Jesus gave thanks to God for the opportunity to prove his identity and his authority and power to do this.
As we approach God with thanksgiving, not just for the holiday but every time, we ought to remember the life we have because of Jesus. We must remember Jesus, the Son of God who died on the cross to forgive our sins and to give us new life, eternal life. We must remember his power and authority as the Creator and as the Author and Perfecter of our faith. We must thank God that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection not only prove his identity and authority and power but also provide for our life in him.
So not only should we give thanks like Jesus, but we should live thanks like Jesus. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:16, “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” He reminds us that we not only benefit from Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection but that we also participate in it. Whenever we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, when we remember Jesus’ broken body and spilled blood, we give thanks for the sacrifice that gives us life, but we also participate in that sacrifice through faith in Christ. Jesus lived, taught, served, and died to bring glory to God and to give life. We must also give thanks and live out our thanks so that others might glorify God and find life in him.