- Rick LoPresti
What was Jesus thankful for?
There is much confusion over doctrine. This is true comparing different religions and different denominations of one religion. Christians have almost too many denominations to list and compare. Muslims have Sunnis and Shiites. Hindus have Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism and Smartism. Even the Jews have Hasidic, Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. However, among many kinds of religion there is one value that consistently appears - thankfulness. Scientific studies show that thankful people are happier than others. The famous saying “count your blessings” expresses the power of focusing on the good things in life over the bad things and appreciating what we do have rather than what we don’t have. In the United States, the fourth Thursday of every November is set aside as a holiday to give thanks to God. Thankfulness is clearly a Biblical virtue. There are too many quotations to cite here, but one great example is the one of ten lepers which was a Samaritan that was healed who went back to thank the Lord (Lk 17:12-19). We, as people created in the image of God, understand thankfulness. Who wants to give something to or do something for an ungrateful person?
Jesus is our great example (Jn 13:15, 1Pet 2:21). There is no one better to pattern ourselves after. So, when it comes to thankfulness, what was Jesus thankful for in the Bible? Of course, we are talking about this as it pertains to His humanity. In His divinity, He has no one to be thankful to, because He is the blessor rather than the blessed (Lk 17:9, Heb 7:7). He does reward good and bad; but He is the source of all good, so He cannot thank Himself (Jam 1:16-17). So, let us look at times when Jesus in His humanity thanked the heavenly Father and see what insight we can gain about Him from that. He gave thanks when He broke bread to feed the 5,000 (Jn 6:11 & 23), and again at the feeding of the 4,000 (Mt 15:36). He gave thanks when He broke bread with the disciples at the last Passover supper before He died. He gave thanks for the bread (Lk 22:19, 1Cor 11:24), and for the cup (Mt 26:27, Mk 14:23, Lk 22:17). He gave thanks that God had hidden the things of the gospel from those who trusted in their own wisdom and revealed them unto “babes” - the supposedly unlearned (Mt 11:25). He also thanked the Father that His prayer was heard at the tomb of Lazarus just before He raised him from the dead (Jn 11:41).
While there are many things that could be said about each individual incident, there is one common thread among them all. Each time Jesus was being thankful, it was not for receiving something for Himself. It was for receiving something He was giving to others. At the feedings of the 5,000 and 4,000, He was multiplying small food provisions so that many could be fed. At the last supper, He was symbolizing the giving of His flesh and blood for our sins (Mt 26:28). He gave thanks that His disciples who were not among the religious elites of their day received the revelation of His identity and the gospel He came to teach. Even when He was thankful for the answered prayer at the tomb of Lazarus, it was not for Himself but for those who stood by so they could believe (Jn 11:42).
When we give thanks whether it is to God or another person, it is always for some benefit we have received. How ironic is it that even when we are showing appreciation, there is still an element of selfishness involved? Jesus is the most selfless person that ever lived. He is God manifested in the flesh (Jn 1:1-3 & 14, Jn 14:7-11, 2Cor 5:19, Col 2:9, 1Tim 3:16). As such He needs nothing (Ps 50:7-14). He is the Creator of all things (Jn 1:3 & 10, Col 1:16). He is the beginning and the end (Jn 1:1-2, Col 1:18, 1Jn 1:1, 1Jn 2:13-14, Rev 1:8, Rev 3:14, Rev 21:6, Rev 22:13). The word beginning here is the Greek word arche, which means beginning, origin, the person or thing that commences, the first person or thing in a series, the leader, that by which anything begins to be, the origin, the active cause. He is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2). He is the first and last (Rev 1:11 & 17, Rev 2:8, Rev 22:13). The Greek word first here is protos, which means first in time or place in any succession of things or persons, first in rank, influence, or honor, chief, principal, first, at the first. He is the I AM of Exodus 3:14 (Jn 8:58).
When Jesus was giving thanks, He was thankful someone else was being blessed and receiving something good. Thus, He supremely exemplified the scripture that records His own words: “It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35)”. We are challenged by His example to be more selfless and rejoice not only when we are blessed, but when others are (Rom 12:15); and to have the mind that Christ did and “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others (Phil 2:4)”. We can even take it one step further and not only do this for those we love, but for our enemies (Mt 5:38-48, Rom 12:14-21). That is what Jesus did (Rom 5:6-10).