Posted on November 26, 2014
#81: In Everything Give Thanks
I’m not a “bandwagon” kind of girl. If everyone is raving about something, I tend to shy away from it. But this past year, I made an exception when I read a perspective-changing, heart-shaping book, the best-seller One Thousand Gifts—a present from my son and fellow book-lover Jimmy. (Thanks, Son!)
In her own distinctive style, author Ann Voskamp sets out, on a suggestion from a friend, to write a list of a thousand things for which she’s thankful. Through happy times and troubled times, through bounty and hardship, through births and deaths, Ann makes a literal daily practice of 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” In the process she realizes how destructive ungratefulness has been in her life, and she experiences the transforming power of eucharisteo.
Eucharisteo is the Greek word for giving thanks. If the word rings familiar to you and you have a church background in certain denominations, you might recognize it as the term for Communion—the Eucharist. So how did the word for thanksgiving become so closely connected with the Lord’s Supper? Get your Bible and let’s find out.
Read Mark 14:12-26. Then take a look at the same event recorded by other inspired writers in Matthew 26:17-30 and Luke 22:7-22.
Jesus sent Peter and John into Jerusalem to make preparations for the Passover meal—the feast of Unleavened Bread. He gave them very specific instructions and signs. “A man carrying a jar of water [unusual, as carrying water was women’s work] will meet you.” They were to follow the man to a house, then ask the house’s owner for use of a furnished upper room. There they were to get everything ready.
When evening came, Jesus and the Twelve met in that upper room and began the age-old ritual Jews had been observing for roughly 1500 years. They were all intimately familiar with the order of the meal’s courses, each of which had a meaning of its own. They’d observed the Passover yearly since they were born.
They had grown up with the feast’s retelling of Israel’s miraculous exodus from Egypt. (It’s found in Exodus 12. Have you read about it? Do you know the story behind the Passover?) Each year they had tasted the bitter herbs that made eyes tear up at the bitter memory of their ancestors’ slavery under Pharaoh. Each year they had eaten the Passover lamb, remembering the lamb’s blood on the doorposts of their ancestors’ houses that had signaled the death angel to “pass over” that dwelling. Each year they’d eaten the unleavened bread, made without yeast because their ancestors had been instructed to be ready to leave Egypt at a moment’s notice with no time for yeast to rise. (Besides, yeast had long been representative of sin—Matthew 16:5-12, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8—and was not to be a part of this holy feast.) Each year they’d sipped the four cups of wine, each with a special significance. Yes, they knew the sequence well.
They didn’t know that this year’s feast would be their last traditional Passover, as the Lamb of God was about to be slain once for all (1 Corinthians 5:7b, Hebrews 9:12, 27-28), changing everything. The “yeast” of sin had been fermenting in the heart of one of their own number; within a few hours Judas would hand Jesus over to His enemies.
But Jesus knew. Jesus knew exactly what was coming. Just as He foreknew how Peter and John would find the upper room, just as he foreknew Judas’ betrayal, so He foreknew that this would be the last meal He would share with His friends. “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,” He told them. His heart was heavy with what was about to unfold.
It’s easy to miss a powerful detail in the story of that evening in the upper room. Taking the bread in His hands he gave thanks (eucharisteo) and broke it, saying, “Take it and eat of it; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, gave thanks (eucharisteo), and said, “Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood.” Do you see it? Knowing what was coming, foreseeing the physical and spiritual agony of becoming sin-filled, He took the emblems representing His own death and gave thanks—making the Communion service a profound example of 1 Thessalonians 5:18’s “…in everything give thanks.” The Eucharist, The Thanks-giving.
Christ Jesus gave thanks that night for the plan of redemption that would save us at extreme cost to Himself. He loves us that much.
Tomorrow, we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Whether your past year has been full of blessings or troubles or some of each, remember the example of Jesus and think about 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything eucharisteo for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Then from the heart, give thanks.
© Diane McLoud 2014