26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Monday is Thanksgiving day here in Canada. Families and friends will get together to celebrate the day, eat lots of food, play games, watch sports, and just generally have a good time. In many of these gatherings, there will be that obligatory activity in which everyone gathers around in a circle, and then take turns telling what they are thankful for. And, typically, among the things for which people will say they are thankful are: family, friends, health, employment, food, one’s country, freedom, and God’s gracious provisions and providences.
Every time Thanksgiving rolls around, whether the Canadian one in October or the American one in November, my mind is always drawn to the verses quoted above. Jesus sits down (reclines) for a Passover meal with his disciples. All three synoptic gospels tell us that before he distributed the bread and the wine, he gave thanks for them. Has this action ever struck you as somewhat ironic—that Jesus gave thanks for the bread and wine which he declared to be symbols of his broken body and his poured out blood? Does that not seem, at least in some measure, to be ironic? On the night before his death by crucifixion, Jesus gave thanks for the very elements that would symbolize that death, that would represent what happened to his body and blood in that crucifixion. As well as being both ironic and intriguing, this would also seem to be quite sobering. Perhaps, if Jesus were to be a guest at our Thanksgiving celebrations, and if he were to sit in on our “What are you thankful for?” circles, perhaps, when it was his turn, this is what he would give thanks for, the bread which symbolizes his body, and the wine that symbolizes his blood. This also raises another question, which gives me cause to wonder. If you were in one of these Thanksgiving celebrations, and you knew that the very next day would be the day of your death, and a cruel death at that, what would be your answer to the question when it was asked, “What are you thankful for?”
On the night he was betrayed, on the eve of his death and crucifixion, Jesus gave thanks.
October 8, 2016