For many of us who celebrate Thanksgiving, one of the key themes that comes to mind is that of American Colonists sharing a feast with American Natives in the “New World.” When survival is on the heart and mind, gratitude for a hospitable land, people, and provision is easier to come by. We are beneficiaries of those who have gone before us. The Thanksgiving feasts of yesteryear lead us to be thankful for gathering with family and friends, around a large bird, stuffing, pecan pie, and football.
Let us pause for a moment and ask, “How can we—who view things through the lens of Christ—not lean in a little closer at the thought of a ‘feast’ and of giving thanks around a ‘table’ filled with family and friends?” A familiar scene from Scripture surely comes to our hearts and minds:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body; which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me’ (1 Cor 11:23-25).
The Lord’s Supper was also the Lord’s Thanksgiving. On the night when he was betrayed by the very people who sat with him, Jesus still gives thanks. How could Jesus give thanks at a time like that when he knew what the night would bring? How could Jesus give thanks for something that was going to bless the very people who were about to betray him that same night?
His love for us and his love for the Father are greater than we can possibly fathom. Thank God Jesus is not like us. When we are faithless he remains faithful. Jesus loves you so much more than you think he does. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
It is fun to imagine what specific thanks Jesus gave to the Father at his Supper. Thanks over the bread and wine? The same bread and wine that he would attach his declarative words to? “This is my body, this is my blood…broken and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Was it thanks over the plan of salvation? Was it thanks over the eternal provision that was to be given for us?
This kind of provision was not like the ones the American Colonists experienced. Their feast provided a temporary sustenance for a temporary mortal existence. In the Lord’s Thanksgiving Supper, we are not served turkey, green bean casserole, and cornbread. We are served Christ. He provides his very self as our sustenance for permanent immortal existence.
How can eating and drinking do such wonderful things you may ask? Just eating and drinking do no such wonderful things. But it’s the words, given here by Jesus himself which do exactly what Jesus says: “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” It’s the words along with the bodily eating and drinking that are the main thing in the Lord’s Supper. Because whosoever believes these words, has exactly what they say: “forgiveness of sins.”
The forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, salvation, and everlasting life are far greater gifts than surviving a hostile Colonial-Era American winter. The good gifts and promises of God are eternal, everlasting and are for you. Because of the good gifts from Christ, we are given the promise of forgiveness of sins. These gifts strengthen our gift of faith in Christ, and God has promised to count it to us as righteousness.
Not only is Jesus giving thanks for this provision, but he is giving thanks for us in our place. When our Thanksgiving is not at the level it should be, when we fail to give proper thanks to God for all of the good things he has done, Christ’s Thanksgiving is also counted as if it is ours. All that the law demands of us, the gospel gives to us as a gift to count as ours. For Christ’s sake, this is most certainly true!
Once again, especially at Thanksgiving, God is the active giver and we are the passive receiver of his gifts. Christ gave thanks and he also gave himself for you. Happy Thanksgiving!