Theme: What We Learn about Jesus from His Prayers
During this Thanksgiving week, we learn how to render thanks to the Lord through the prayers of thanksgiving from Jesus himself.
Scripture: Matthew 14:19
The accounts of Jesus offering a prayer of thanks at meals where he is presiding enables us to reflect on who Jesus is.
1. Jesus is the Creator God. It would be important that Jesus prayed if he were only a man. It would be an example of a piety worth copying. But Jesus was more than a mere man, of course. He is the very Son of God who is therefore also the Creator of everything that is. John wrote of Jesus, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3). When Jesus gave thanks for food, it is an example of a person giving thanks to God for what he had himself created.
2. Jesus was able to provide anything he needed by himself. Even in his human form during his days on earth, Jesus retained the ability to provide everything he could ever possibly have needed miraculously. The devil appealed to this on the occasion of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness when he said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matt. 4:3). Jesus could have done it. In fact, he showed his miraculous power not only to turn stones to bread, but which is even more wonderful—to make bread out of nothing, when he multiplied the fish and loaves on the occasion of the miracle we are considering. It was nothing for him to perform such a miracle, and he could do others like it at any time simply because of who he was.
Yet in spite of the fact that Jesus had made all things originally and was able even in his human form to make all that he needed from nothing by his miraculous power, Jesus still gave thanks for his food.
Why was this? Was Jesus simply acting for the benefit of his disciples so that they, who really did have cause to give thanks, could learn to say grace before meals? Of course not. Jesus was no actor. He was the most authentic person who has ever lived.
Therefore, if Jesus gave thanks, as he did, it was because he truly was thankful. So here is a first lesson: If Jesus, who did not need to give thanks (at least if we look at this in a purely human way) nevertheless did give thanks, how much more should we who depend upon God for the very oxygen we breathe as well as the food we eat—how much more should we be thankful?
And here is a second lesson: We should learn how to give thanks from the Lord’s example. Jesus never did anything from which we cannot learn. Therefore, even in so small a matter as thanking God for his food, Jesus becomes an example to us. What is it that we can learn from his behavior? There are many things, I am sure. Let me list just five of them, which we will look at throughout the week.
1. We should give thanks for even the smallest things. One of the strange corruptions of our thinking as sinful men and women it that we regard big things as important and small things as unimportant, when actually it should be the other way around. If we are thinking of people, we consider the man or woman at the top of the organization pyramid to be the important person and the worker at the bottom to be unimportant. But it is the worker who is actually important. I remember a man who had been trained at the world-renowned restaurant school at Cornell University, telling me that he had been taught that in the restaurant business the dishwasher is the most important person. He has to have a future and be encouraged to believe that he can move up the business ladder. Because if he doesn’t, if he is unhappy and resentful, he will break the dishes and the restaurant will lose money.
The same principle applies in our personal lives. We think that the important things are our expensive possessions: our big house (or second home), our expensive car, our wide-screen television. But those are next to nothing. We can lose them and be no worse off than before. We may even be better off if the loss gives us more time for our families and draws us closer to God. The really important things are the intangible things—the informal times we have with other people, our friends, yes, and even the food we set upon the table—however simple it may be.
Jesus’ food was simple. We never hear of him eating anything other than bread and fish or drinking anything but wine, which would have been a very simple, diluted drink. Jesus was poor, as were his disciples. His food was the simplest kind. Yet Jesus was thankful, and he was an example to us of being thankful for even the smallest things.
I think here of Brother Lawrence, the seventeenth-century French monk who recorded his spiritual experience in the little devotional classic The Practice of the Presence of God. He had been a footman and soldier, but he served out most of his long life in the kitchen of the Carmelite monastery in Paris where he learned to praise God among the pots and pans. He thanked God for this menial work and often prayed, “Lord of all pots and pans and things… Make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the dishes!”
That might be a good prayer for the many faithful men and women who will be working in the kitchens to provide our much more sumptuous meals this Thanksgiving weekend.
What two characteristics of Jesus are revealed through his prayers?
For what reason did Jesus give thanks for the bread he created?
Why should we be thankful for small and intangible things?
Reflection: Might you be better off without some of your larger possessions?
Application: What have you done to help those in need, particularly as we think about this season of Thanksgiving?
Key Point: If Jesus, who did not need to give thanks nevertheless did give thanks, how much more should we—who depend upon God for the very oxygen we breathe as well as the food we eat—how much more should we be thankful?