It's strange to think about Jesus giving thanks. After all, Christians believe he was the God in flesh. It seems odd for him to thank his Heavenly Father for anything. But Jesus did give thanks.
When he fed the 5,000, he gave thanks for the five loaves and two fish. I wonder why? I know I would have been filled with anxiety: "Father, don't fail me now!" Jesus had such a sense of himself and his power that he approached the challenge with gratitude.
Would my approach to challenges change if I approached them with gratitude instead of anxiety? What if I started each day by giving thanks for what I have been given, instead of focusing on what I lack?
One of the oddest times Jesus gave thanks is recorded in Matthew 11: "I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants." Before this, Jesus spoke about cities that wouldn't listen to his message. I think he is giving thanks to God that even though smart people can make things so complicated they are hard to understand, the good news that God loves you can be understood by any child.
What if I stopped worrying so much about what I don't understand about God and savored what I do understand about God? How would my life change if I spent time focusing on the amazing reality that God loves me? What if God's love was the basis for trying to understand everything else about him?
After they rolled away the stone from Lazarus' tomb, and before Jesus told Lazarus to come out, he prayed a prayer of thanks: "Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me." Jesus thanks his Father for listening, which is a little like me thanking you for breathing. Listening is what our Heavenly Father does. Jesus then offers the odd phrase that he's praying this prayer of thanks so people believe. Jesus knew people needed to understand the source of the miracle about to happen.
Do I tell God "thank you" enough for being who he is? God could have been cruel, deceitful and heartless. God is not. An old song said, "Not because of what you've done, but because of who you are " Maybe Thanksgiving is a time when I can speak my thanks out loud so others can believe.
When Jesus interrupted the Passover to introduce a new covenant meal, he gave thanks for the bread and the cup. He did this knowing full well what waited for him the next day. Why did he give thanks for the symbols of his own body being broken and his own blood being poured out? Could it be that Jesus so trusted his Heavenly Father's plan, he could be grateful in the face of pain? Could it be that Jesus was able to give thanks because he knew whatever he faced, His Heavenly Father would on the other side of the pain?
What if I became like Jesus? What if when faced with a crisis, I gave thanks that God would be there before the crisis, during the crisis and after the crisis?
Jesus paused to give thanks to His Heavenly Father. If it was important enough for him to do, shouldn't it be important enough for me to do, too?
Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church.