Have you ever wondered what Jesus was thankful for?
I’ve been thinking about the Thanksgiving holiday, here in the United States, which is in just a couple of days from now. If you’re reading this or listening to the podcast episode below after Thanksgiving, I hope you’ll still find some helpful ideas. Being grateful to God is always an empowering thing to do, no matter what time of year it is. And it’s a good time to ponder what Jesus was thankful for.
In getting ready spiritually for Thanksgiving, I’ve realized that even with all the challenges and struggles from this past year, there is still much to be grateful for. There have been so many personal blessings this year, big and small. But sometimes it’s the little things, that I am simply the observer of, that mean so much: the joyful laughter of a small child, moonlight on the wet grass, a blue jay, radiant in the morning sun.
Each Thanksgiving I try to think of a fresh way to think of being grateful and reaffirm why gratitude is even important in the first place.
Gratitude is important because it connects us with God. It’s about acknowledging our relationship with the divine and that God is the source of all the good, all the blessings, in our lives.
The Jesus mindset
One of the things I am most grateful for this year is the increasingly clear focus in my life of the importance of living with the mindset of Jesus. So, in thinking about all I have to be grateful for this year, I got to wondering what Jesus was grateful for. And how did he express that gratitude?
I would imagine Jesus lived in a constant state of gratitude to God. He was always quick to point out to his followers that he could only do what he did because of his relationship with God.
But there are only four specific times when the gratitude Jesus expressed was recorded in one of the four Gospels. Some are reported in more than one of the Gospels.
Here’s what I discovered. As you hear how Jesus expressed gratitude, think how you can follow his example.
What was Jesus thankful for?
Jesus gave thanks four times (that we know of).
The first time we see Jesus expressing thanks is in Luke 10 (This is also found in Matthew 11).
Jesus has been teaching, preaching, and healing, all over the place. There were certainly people who believed on him as a result, but there were many who didn’t. And Jesus refers to several cities in particular which weren’t very receptive to who he was.
Jesus rebukes Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum for not accepting him or his message, even after seeing him heal so many people. (See Luke 10:13-21 in the Bible references below.)
He then thanks God
At that same time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and he said, “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way. Luke 10:21 NLT
I used to only see one thing here Jesus was grateful for, that God had revealed to the childlike, i.e. his disciples and other of his followers, these spiritual things: who he was and the healing power which comes with it. But it dawned on me one day that Jesus is actually thanking God for two very different things.
He first thanks God that these deep spiritual truths have been hidden from those who are “wise and clever” in their own eyes. Then he thanks God for revealing the truth to the childlike hearts.
Jesus gave thanks for two opposite things
Why was Jesus grateful for the wise and clever not receiving the truth?
It’s easy to be grateful to God when things work out the way you want them to or even better than you could have imagined. But how do you find something to be grateful for when people reject your God-given purpose and message, when you face opposition, defeat, or setback?
When you’ve been rejected, misunderstood, and mistreated it’s seems more natural to have a pity party.
But at some point you have to dis-invite yourself from that scene and shift your thoughts to more a more spiritual perspective.
Gratitude is often the way out. This is the prayer of rejoicing in the Spirit.
There’s not always something to rejoice over in human circumstances, but there is always something to rejoice over in the Spirit.
This is exactly what Jesus does.
He vents his frustration, just as you and I would, but then he turns directly to God and finds something to be grateful for. And it’s not just some random gratitude list. He specifically mentions these two things.
Jesus gave thanks for what?
So, why would Jesus thank God for hiding the truth from some people? Wasn’t he supposed to minister to everyone? Wasn’t he here for the salvation of all mankind?
Yes, of course. But your heart has to be ready, prepared, to receive the truth Jesus came to bear witness to.
The hearts of the childlike folks were ready. They knew they needed something beyond themselves; they knew they needed God. They took to heart the teachings of Jesus and saw his healing works. It convinced them that this hillside preacher from Nazareth was not just some ordinary guy out to tell a few good stories and promote his own agenda.
They began to hope and glimpse that he was the fulfillment of their deepest longings for the Messiah to come.
But the wise and clever were not ready for the message. They were like the people whom God rebukes because they trust in their own wisdom: “Your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray.” (Isaiah 47:10 NLT)
Why Jesus was grateful the wise didn’t understand him
If you give a full-size hammer to a three year old, you shouldn’t be surprised if he hurts himself and wreaks havoc on his surroundings. He’s not ready to use this tool. Give him a plastic, toy hammer first and let him get used to the principle of using it. As he gets older, he can use a real one.
I think Jesus is thanking God for hiding the “grown-up hammer” from these spiritual toddlers.
They were not mature enough in humility and spirituality to understand and use Jesus’s message appropriately. They would have turned it into a doctrinal debate or an intellectual exercise using the human mind to try and make sense of what Jesus said.
People still do that today. Truth is not a product of an intellectual exercise of the human mind. Truth is a revelation from God.
Don’t get me wrong. I think the reasoning process of the human mind can be very helpful and is often a component of understanding God’s truth. But it must be subordinate to and used only in companionship with what God reveals to us.
Are you grateful when people don’t accept the gospel?
If you are a preacher or an evangelist or share your faith with people, have you ever thanked God when people didn’t believe the gospel you just preached?
Until recently I had not done this. But now I see the wisdom of Jesus shining through this type of gratitude. He was grateful that unprepared hearts didn’t accept his message, because it might end up being just an exercise of the human mind, the intellectual gerbil wheel that spins round and round but gets nowhere spiritually.
What if those folks who were worldly wise had believed and joined up with Jesus before their hearts were humble and ready?
Can’t you just see them thinking they knew better than he did how to get his message to the people, how to organize things, how to deal with the Pharisees?
They were smart people. They knew the ways of the world, but they didn’t understand the ways of God and listening for His direction in every situation, especially if it went against what they thought was right.
Jesus didn’t want these kind of people as aids to his cause and neither do you.
There is much to be grateful for when someone rejects you and your mission. It’s hard to do, but the sooner you are grateful, the sooner the blessings will flow.
Be alert to who is receptive and who isn’t
Jesus preached to everyone who would listen and so should we.
But he said not to give your pearls to the swine. (See Matthew 7:6) He saved his pearls, his deep spiritual insights, for those who were receptive, whose hearts were ready.
Be alert to who is receptive to your God-given message and who rejects it.
The only way and the only “place” you can rejoice and be grateful over this rejection is in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit reveals the deeper things of God and what is going on below the surface of material appearances.
Jesus gave thanks before feeding the 5000
One of the most well-known times Jesus expressed thanks was when he multiplied the loaves and the fish to feed the multitudes. (See Matthew 15:36; Mark 8:6; John 6:11)
In the presence of very little food, hardly enough for one or two families, Jesus prayed and thanked God.
We don’t know the words he used or the specific things he thanked God for. But if he was following his own teachings from the Sermon on the Mount, he wasn’t fretting or worrying over how little food there was for such a big crowd.
He was focused on and seeking first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. What had he promised when you seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness? You’ll be given all you need. (See Matthew 6:33.)
Jesus took what was at hand, a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, and thanked God.
Jesus was always conscious of the kingdom of heaven
How did Jesus’s mindset of focusing on the kingdom of heaven being at hand influence his prayers and gratitude? Maybe Jesus was being grateful that in this kingdom every need is already met.
Jesus was bearing witness to the fact that in the kingdom of heaven, everyone already had everything they needed. He could see there is no lack in the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus must have been so conscious of the presence of the kingdom of God, is it any wonder all that food was supplied?
How can you and I follow Jesus’s example? Can we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness to the degree that we see what is true in heaven is possible here on earth?
As you become more and more aware of what is true in heaven, you can’t help but be grateful for it, and to that degree, you will see it brought forth in your life.
Jesus thanks God before his prayer is answered
The third time Jesus expresses gratitude is just before he raised Lazarus from the grave.
He thanks God for always hearing and answering his prayer. (See John 11:41, 42)
Being grateful is always a powerful prayer. Usually we express our thanks to God after a blessing or a healing. But Jesus sets the supreme example of gratitude by thanking God for hearing his prayer before he has even prayed it and before it is answered.
That takes quite a trust in God and a confidence in how God will respond.
Jesus knew his unbreakable relationship with his heavenly Father. There was not a single doubt in his mind that his prayer would be heard and answered.
Can you and I pray with that same degree of gratitude and confidence that God will hear and answer our prayers?
We have the mind of Christ
Yes, we can. Because “we have the mind of Christ.” (See 1 Corinthians 2:16)
If you pray with your own human mind, with its fears and doubts, you cannot pray as Jesus did.
Instead, pray with the mind of Christ. And see the difference.
We should be in total awe and overcome with gratitude that we do have the mind of Christ, what I call the mindset of Jesus.
This is part of our heritage as a follower of Jesus, to possess and pray with the same “mind which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)
Jesus gave thanks at the Last Supper
The fourth and final time when Jesus expressed gratitude was during the Last Supper when he gave his disciples wine to drink and bread to eat to commemorate his life purpose.
Jesus knew that in just a few hours, he would be betrayed, arrested, put on trial, falsely accused, and crucified. And yet he gave thanks.
When you feel the world is caving in on you and it seems evil forces are united to defeat you, is it possible, in the midst of all that tension, to pause and give thanks?
That’s exactly what Jesus did.
Again, we don’t know specifically what Jesus was grateful for at that moment.
But there was much to thank God for. He had accomplished all God had asked of him. He had preached the gospel to thousands, healed the multitudes, and loved mankind with more love than any other person who had ever set foot on the earth. He had been faithful to God, to himself, to his disciples, and to all mankind.
This was much to be grateful for.
And Jesus could have been just as grateful for what he knew would happen after his death: his resurrection, the 40 days he would have to teach his disciples more about the kingdom of heaven than they had been able to bear until they saw him risen from the grave.
And Jesus must have known how these same disciples, and those who followed in their footsteps, would be emboldened with the Holy Spirit and spread his gospel to the farthest reaches of the world.
There was indeed much to be grateful for.
How can we follow Jesus’s example of giving thanks?
When you are faced with challenges, whether large or small, pause to give thanks for all the blessings of the past, as well as the blessings of the future.
During the Thanksgiving season and the approaching Christmas holidays, I hope you will pause often to express gratitude, not just for the outward blessings in your life, but for the deeper things of the Spirit as Jesus did.
Ponder the ways Jesus expressed gratitude. Imbibe his mindset.
Be grateful with the mind of Christ, not just your little human mind.
Bear witness to the kingdom of heaven at hand and be grateful for its presence. And you will see this kingdom come more and more into your life.
James Early, the Jesus Mindset Coach, is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster. He conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
Luke 10:13-21 NLT (Matthew 11:25)
13 “What sorrow awaits you, Korazin and Bethsaida! For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people would have repented of their sins long ago, clothing themselves in burlap and throwing ashes on their heads to show their remorse.
14 Yes, Tyre and Sidon will be better off on judgment day than you.
15 And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead.”
16 Then he said to the disciples, “Anyone who accepts your message is also accepting me. And anyone who rejects you is rejecting me. And anyone who rejects me is rejecting God, who sent me.”
17 When the seventy-two disciples [some translations say seventy, mentioned in Luke 10:1] returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!”
18 “Yes,” he told them, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning!
19 Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you.
20 But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.”
21 At that same time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and he said, “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way.
Isaiah 47:10 NLT
10 your ‘wisdom’ and ‘knowledge’ have led you astray,
Matthew 7:6 NKJV
6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.
Matthew 15:36 NIV
36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people.
Matthew 6:33 NKJV
33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
John 11:41-43 NIV
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.
42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.””
43When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
1 Corinthians 2:16 NLT
16 we have the mind of Christ.
Philippians 2:5 KJV
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Matthew 26:27 NIV (Mark 14:23, Luke 22:17, 19)
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.