One of those qualities of the Lord Jesus that you may overlook if you’re not observant is His spirit of gratitude. It’s noticeable on several occasions:
• At the return of the seventy disciples. Jesus had dispatched these followers into the various cities and towns of the surrounding region, instructing them to proclaim the kingdom of God everywhere they went. As they returned home to report what had occurred through their ministry, they were almost too excited to get the words out. To see the joy of Christian service painted across their faces and decorated by their excited words caused Jesus to step back and marvel at the way the Father works through His people: “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will” (Luke 10: 21). To watch Jesus, almost seeming awed Himself at the work of the Trinity, of which He (of course) is a part, is enough to make me want to gaze at God’s work from my lowly vantage point and be amazed more often. More thankful.
• At the tomb of Lazarus. Even before making the official pronouncement for Lazarus to “come forth,” Jesus turned to His Father–pre-answer–and said, “I thank you that you have heard me” (John 11: 41). It’s not hard to thank God after He answers our prayers and we’ve seen the desired outcome. The test of faith and surrender to the will of God is the ability to express thanks before we know how He will respond.
• At mealtime. If your pre-meal blessings are anything like mine, they are too often little more than thoughtless pauses before diving into what is set before you. Not for Jesus. I can only imagine that the blessing He said as He “looked up to heaven” and broke the loaves to distribute to the five thousand was one of deep, personal praise and thanksgiving. (In the Mark 8 account of His feeding of the four thousand, the writer states that Jesus prayed before handing out the bread, and again before handing out the fish–a blessing before each course!)
• When facing suffering. In my mind, the most remarkable instance we have of Jesus giving thanks took place at the Last Supper. Within hours of His betrayal, arrest, and trial, to be followed shortly by His crucifixion, Jesus observed the Passover feast with His disciples. The Jewish ceremony involved not just one, but multiple cups of “the fruit of the vine.” When you combine and harmonize the Gospel accounts, it appears that Jesus paused at least three times during the Passover observance to give thanks: during supper, before taking the cup (Luke 22: 17) before distributing the bread (Luke 22: 19), and after supper, before taking another cup (Matthew 26: 27) Heightening the significance of what some might consider an inconsequential detail, all three of the Synoptic Gospels, as well as the apostle Paul, note the fact that Jesus gave thanks before partaking of the elements (Matthew 26: 27; Mark 14: 23; Luke 22: 17–19; 1 Corinthians 11: 24). He understood that these emblems represented His body and blood, soon to be broken and poured out in horrific fashion for the salvation of sinful man. On a night when from a human perspective He had every reason to be self-absorbed and to give in to self-pity, resentment,
Nancy Leigh DeMoss