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Communion (1995 Series)

Jesus Gave Thanks

Scheduled for January 26

(Mat 26:26-27 NIV)  While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." {27} Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you.

 

We have often read this passage at the time of Communion.  It is, of course, supremely important, but I suggest to you that we have often missed an important part of it.  Notice that before giving the bread and wine to his disciples, he “gave thanks.”

 

One of the first things we teach a child is to say “Thank you.”  It is probably the first of the social graces, but some of us have yet to master it.  We are told in the Scripture to give thanks “in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  I remember the old story about the soldier who was about to face an artillery bombardment:  “For what we are about to receive, Oh Lord, may we truly be thankful.”  I’ve never been shot at in anger, but I think I’d have a hard time being thankful for being shelled.

 

How then, can Jesus be thankful in these circumstances?  Surely He knew that He was going to the cross.  Yet, in the face of the agony of the cross and the death to follow, he “gives thanks.”  Some might think this just a matter of form, of politeness, of ritual -- a custom, nothing more.  I think not.

 

The form he was following was that of the Passover.  It looked back to the deliverance of Israel from Egypt;  it also looked forward to the sacrifice on the cross.  God created the first use -- with its giving of thanks -- with the second use in mind.  It is therefore appropriate that Jesus gave thanks at this time.  We sometimes forget that Jesus was completely human, as well as completely God.  I submit he gave thanks for these reasons:

 

·         First, it set for us an excellent example.  Every time we eat this bread and drink this cup we should give thanks for what the Lord has done.

·         Next, he gave thanks in that his hour had finally come.  There is a sense of anticipation here.  Jesus came to be the sacrifice;  the mission was almost complete.

·         Finally, he gave thanks on behalf of us -- the people who needed him.  It is no sin to thank God on behalf of your friends..  Indeed, we are commanded to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.  Our greatest friend did just that with us.

 

For us, there is an even greater reason to give thanks:  our salvation.  With his blood we were purchased;  with his body we were freed.  Surely, then, “give thanks” is the least we can do.

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