“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24
The season is upon us in which it is not uncommon to find our Facebook feeds highlighting daily gratitude lists. November often brings with it a shifting towards Thanksgiving, naturally, and along with it, we often begin to assess our lives and note those things for which we are grateful. Perhaps for many of us what tops our thankful list this year is that 2020 is drawing to its close. Yet what would happen if we shifted our perspective and began to note all that has transpired during this outlier of a year for which we can be thankful? We need look no further than Jesus Himself to witness one who gave thanks hours before the darkest night of His human life–and He knew full well all that awaited Him in the coming hours.
Jesus was Jewish, and as a Jewish man, He observed the feasts and festivals that were set forth in the Old Testament. Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover and to partake of the Passover meal with His disciples. During this meal, Jesus instituted the new covenant, which would become known to us as the Lord’s Supper. It was first observed that night prior to the death of Jesus by Jesus Himself. The disciples could not fully understand or grasp the significance of what was transpiring at the time but, no doubt, they reflected on it and recognized it in the days that followed. As Jesus picked up the bread, He gave thanks, and then said, “This is My body, which is given for you” (Luke 22:19). Jesus also gave thanks over the cup that represented His blood of the new covenant that He would shed both for them and for every single one of us (see Luke 22:17-20 & I Cor. 11:23-26). Jesus fully understood that it was His body broken and His blood shed, and He gave thanks. The Greek word used for “gave thanks” in Luke 22 is “Eucharisteo.” It means: “thankful, grateful, well-pleasing. To show oneself grateful, be thankful, give thanks.” (Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible). It also encompasses the Greek root word “charis,” meaning “grace,” and its derivative “chara,” meaning “joy.” Jesus offered His own body to be broken and His blood poured out as gifts for us, and He was thankful to do it. It pleased Him to do it. How much more, then, should our hearts be full of thanksgiving to Him?
After Jesus partook of the very first “Lord’s supper,” He gathered His disciples and they began to journey to the Mount of Olives. On the way there, He and His followers most likely were singing songs that were traditionally sung at Passover. Psalm 118 is one of the final psalms sung during Passover. The first verse of the psalm begins with a call to praise, “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.” The psalm ends with the exact same words. Tucked in there at verse 24 we find these words: “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Close your eyes and imagine Jesus and His disciples walking together to the Mount of Olives, singing those words. Jesus Himself singing that today is the day the LORD made; I will rejoice and be glad in it. Jesus gave thanks, and Jesus rejoiced in the very day that would bring Him unimaginable pain and agony because He loved us. He loved us then. We were on His mind and in His thoughts that day, and because He knew that His suffering would bring us to Him for eternity, He rejoiced, He gave thanks, and He was glad for that very day. How much more, then, should we lift our eyes from ourselves onto Him and His goodness and love for us? Shifting our thoughts towards Jesus and His abundant grace and off of our circumstances is the first step in recognizing all of our blessings.
If there is not one thing for which you can find yourself thankful or grateful during this season of life, be thankful that Jesus came, that Jesus loved us beyond measure, and that He made a way through His death, burial, and resurrection, to bring us to Him. God will begin to open your eyes to the abundance of blessings that He has richly bestowed upon us. Jesus was thankful on the very day of His suffering and death. I remember an old hymn we used to sing when I was a child. The lyrics were, “Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done.” In early summer, I was challenged to do just that–to count my blessings. I started a notebook of my blessings, my gifts, and began numbering them as I went. June 26, 2020 is the date of the first entry. It’s an ongoing list. The concept of listing my blessings challenges me to open my eyes and look beyond the circumstances to recognize the gift underneath. My entire perspective has shifted. Where I experience lack, I can be thankful because it provides an opportunity for God to provide. When I am folding the millionth load of laundry for the week or unloading the dishwasher for the umpteenth time, I am thankful because God has entrusted to me the humans who made the mess and who I love so very much. Muddy paw prints on the kitchen floor again? I can be thankful that God provided the companionship and comfort of furry canines. Interruptions in my day? I am thankful because they, perhaps, could also be divine encounters. The more I give thanks, the more thankful I become. There is something about counting your blessings that is a dose of reality. We are blessed abundantly and not merely in the tangible realm. God’s goodness and grace to us cannot be measured, but we can try to note all the things for which to give Him praise. Just this morning, I added entry number 717 into my notebook. I hope to continue this practice and fill up notebook after notebook until I close the final page of the chapter of my life. Jesus gave thanks on the day of His death, for the day of His death. Friend, if nothing else, 2020 has offered us a respite from the frenzied, frenetic pace of life. May we never return to that and may we have learned to truly slow down, count our blessings, look up, and give thanks. Eucharisteo–this word now etched in my skin on the inside of my right wrist to always remind me to be thankful–what joy abounds when we are thankful!