When Jesus Gave Thanks

Bible Book: 1 Thessalonians  5 : 18
Subject: Thanksgiving; Gratitude; Praise
Introduction

I read a cute thanksgiving riddle the other day. It goes like this: "What do you get if you cross a praying mantis with a termite? An insect that will say grace before eating your house!" Corny, I know, but some people only pray perfunctory prayers over meals and never really spend much time in deep and true gratitude for all the blessings of God. Someone said, “We ought to have 364 days of thanksgiving and only one day to gripe and complain.” It’s a good thought, but it isn’t likely to happen.

I’ve been wondering, as Thanksgiving Day approaches, on what occasions and under what circumstances did Jesus give thanks? We generally give thanks at moments of blessing or at times of remembrance. In the time of some divine benefit we may be thankful, and of course we may not be thankful. When we are reminded of some divine favor we are usually prompted to praise the Lord. Some people, however, even take the most important gifts from God for granted. I hope that is not true of any of us in this service today.

In this worship service, we are going to take part in the Lord’s Supper. This act of remembrance was established by our Lord to assist us in remembering the incredible gift of grace provided through His blood and body at the cross. Without the sacrifice of Jesus, where would we be? Lost and hopeless. Since this gift is so amazing, why did Jesus think it necessary to create an ordinance of remembrance around this subject? He did it because He knew us better than we know ourselves. He knew how forgetful even those who have received forgiveness can be.

You see, some people thank God out of habit, without much thought or true thankfulness in their words or actions, especially when it comes to something like their salvation. This thought set my heart to wondering, just when did Jesus give thanks? What prompted our Savior to thank the Heavenly Father?

In looking at the New Testament record, I discovered that Jesus gave thanks under three specific conditions. I want to share them with you, for they are pictures of the type of thankfulness we should have toward our Heavenly Father. Before we take part in the Lord’s Supper today, it will serve us well to consider this subject.

I. Thankful for the Father's Listening Ear - John 11:41

Jesus gave thanks because He knew that the Father heard Him when He prayed. This may seem a little strange coming from the lips of our Lord but it is truly revealing of the nature of Christ.

When you are in trouble, you want to talk to someone who will listen and really care. You want to talk to someone who can do something about your condition. You want to talk to someone who will act on your behalf.

When you go to a doctor's office, they ask you to fill out forms to be kept in their files. One question that is on every form I have ever had the agony of wading through is this one: Whom should we call in case of an emergency? I have always wanted to answer, "If the doctor can't help me in an emergency, am I really in the right office?" But we know what they mean. They know that there is someone you trust to make decisions in case something happens that requires outside consultation. On a form like that, in a doctor's office, you put down the person you trust the most! On that form, you list the individual you belief knows you, listens to you and has your best interest at heart.

Perhaps you heard the joke about the man who fell off a precipice one day while walking alone in the woods. As he fell, he grabbed on to a branch growing out the side of the cliff. He was suspended in midair over a deep canyon. He could not crawl up and he could not let go. He called out for help but no one came. Then he began to pray, "Lord, help me, help me." A voice from heaven spoke and said, "Let go and I will catch you." The man thought a moment and yelled, "Is there anyone else up there?"

You can be sure of this, God hears the prayers of His children. Jesus thanked His Father for this great gift. I doubt if this is something we are actually thankful for, but we should be. Knowing that He hears us, and will act on our behalf, gives us a peace and confidence in the midst of life's crises. In Jeremiah 33:3 the Lord tells us to call to Him and He will answer us! Isaiah 59:1 tells us that God's ear is not so dull that He cannot hear His children. Thank God that He hears us when we call upon Him. He has told us to come boldly to His throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16), for by His blood the way has been opened for us to do so. He tells us to come to Him, because He is always available to listen to our prayers.

How long has it been since you simply thanked God for hearing your prayers? I’m not talking about thanking Him for answering your prayers; I’m talking about thanking Him for simply listening to you. If I wanted to speak to the governor of my state, it is unlikely that he would be available. I might get a secretary, or perhaps even an aide, but it is very unlikely that he has time for me. He is just a governor! Just think, the Creator of the entire Universe is willing to listen to you! He cares about you. He loves you. You can be sure that He doesn’t love you because you are so absolutely loveable. I appreciate the laughter - we all know we are not that loveable, right? He loves you because His Son provided you with cleansing and forgiveness. His Son opened the way for you to come straight to the Throne Room! When the Father looks at us now, He sees the perfection of His Son. Jesus has given us His righteousness. Oh, dear children of God, how thankful we ought to be!

Jesus was thankful that the Father heard Him, and He is the Son of God. Don’t you think that we ought to be thankful that He hears us?

II. Thankful for the Father's Lavish Hand - Luke 9:16

Jesus thanked the Father on the day he took five small barley loaves and two small fish and fed five thousand people. Jesus was thanking the Father for His lavish provision.

Oh, how God has opened His hand to meet our needs day by day. God is always giving! Note that Jesus produced enough food to feed all the people with a basket left over for each disciple - twelve in all - but He did not provide one for Himself. Jesus was thankful for the Father and we are thankful to the Godhead for always giving us what we need! The air we inhale, the food we eat, the clothes upon our backs, the shelter over our heads, the protection daily from pestilence and blight - all of it comes from His gracious hand. Our family and friends, our brothers and sisters in the local church, our jobs and health - all these blessings and 10,000 beside come from His hand!

Perhaps this type of thankfulness is the kind that we express most often, but I doubt seriously if we really give it a lot of thought. We are so used to having the things we need, that we take most of them for granted. We drive our cars and spend most of time grumbling about the traffic. We seldom spend time thanking Him for transportation and safety.

My wife and I were driving to a hospital to make a visit. We were zipping along on the interstate highway system, and while I drove my wife napped in the passenger seat. When we falls asleep in the car, she does not lay her head back on the seat but allows her head to fall forward. The seatbelt holds her in place and her head bobs up and down with the movement of the car. I sometimes wonder if people see us and say, “Look at that man, he is driving along with a woman drunk in the front seat!” Anyway, we were driving along when I came to a hill and two semi-trucks were ahead of me, with one in each lane. The hill slowed them down and I had to reduce my speed to about fifty miles per hour. It felt like the car was barely crawling along. I mumbled under my breath, “Look guys, one of you should follow the other.” Just then, the Lord spoke to my heart these words: “Are you thankful for this car?” I mean, it was like a voice in my heart. I changed my mumbling and said, “Yes, Lord, I am thankful.” I looked over at my wife who was still napping. We were warm and safe in our car. I felt a sense of conviction about complaining the trucks slowing me down. Just then, one of the trucks wobbled and it appeared that the two of them might hit each other. Then, suddenly, the left from wheel of the truck on the inside lane came completely off. I don’t mean the recap came off or the time came off – I mean the entire wheel came off. It came apart as it bounced with the metal separating from the rubber. The big metal rim that holds the tire on came right at our car. I yelled – I think I said, “Whoa! On No!” Jayne woke up with a jolt and screamed. The metal rim of the wheel bounced right over the top of my car and never touched it. Not one piece of the rubber or metal even brushed our car. The two trucks pulled over and so did I. No one was hurt, with the exception of the feelings of the truck driver who now lacked a left front wheel or tire. As I pulled back onto the highway, Jayne and I stopped to pray and tell the Lord how thankful we were for His protection. We praised for our automobile – which was something I hadn’t done beyond the day that we bought it. Believe me, I gave thanks with feeling and passion.

Do you passionately thank for Him little things? Jesus thanked the Father for a little boy’s lunch. Listen, when we are thankful – I mean really thankful – God can do so much more with what we have!

III. Thankful for the Father's Loving Heart - Luke 22:19

As Jesus met with His disciples for the Last Supper, he gave thanks for the bread and the cup. Remember, these were elements represented His body and His blood. Jesus knew that a dark lonely hill awaited Him, where He would die for our sins, yet He gave thanks. Why? He was giving thanks for the love that prompted this act of sacrifice, and He was reminding us to that we are to ever and always give thanks for the love that held Him to the cross. It was not the nails that held Him there – He could have called ten-thousand angels to set Him free – no, His love held Him there!

The love of God is the greatest gift ever bestowed on mankind. John 3:16 reminds us that it was the love of God that prompted Him to give His only Son for our redemption. We must give thanks tonight that God loved us so much that His Son would give Himself for us. We must thank our God for being who He is and doing what He has done. We are amiss if we fail to thank Him, not only for what He has done, but for what He is doing. Yet, we are urged to thank Him for what He will do. He will keep ever promise He ever made in His Word. Just thinking of what await those who are saved is enough to cause an eruption of praise and gratitude in this service.

Conclusion

In our city it is often that one finds himself at the entrance to a major highway when the traffic is backed up for blocks. You pull up to the highway and looked longingly to see if some kind oncoming motorist, some sweet soul, might allow us into the line of traffic. Thankfully, there is usually someone who will feel sorry for you and allow you to enter, even if the drivers behind that person look like they are going to explode at the prospect of one more car in front of them. As you pull into the line of cars, what do you do? You lift your hand and thereby say, "Thank you," to the kind person who let you out of your trapped position. If you let someone into the flow of traffic and they do not acknowledge it, does it not make you wish that you had left them to flounder by the side of the road? Come on, be honest! You see, gratitude for even such a small blessing on a human level is important. If that be true, how much more is it true that we should be grateful to our God for His Listening Ear, His Lavish Hand and His Loving Heart?

Someone here tonight has never trusted Jesus as your Savior. The Lord’s Supper is not for you. You have never trusted the one who offered His blood and body for your sins, but you can. You can do that right now – right here! As I give the invitation for response, come to Jesus now. He died for your sins. He rose to assure you of eternal life. He is calling you. He loves you.

Let me say a word to those who are already saved. How thankful are you? Better still, how thankful have you been lately? If God is prompting you, if He is convicting you as he convicted me driving down that interstate highway, will you come to Him before we take the Lord’s Supper and passionately thank Him? Someone will, surely there is someone here who feels that you must come. You can do so. Now is the time. Let us sing and let us respond to the Holy Spirit’s voice deep down in our hearts. Come quickly, and immediately following we shall share the Lord's Supper in remembrance of His sacrifice for us.