I was reading of Jesus walking on the water in the Gospel of John this morning, and my eye caught a phrase I hadn’t noticed before. John says “Then some boats for Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.” (John 6:23). The people’s recollection of the feeding of the five thousand was not that Jesus asked the Father to multiply the loaves and fishes, but that He gave thanks for the little bread they had before they ate. The people remembered the thanksgiving as the time of provision.
Thanksgiving is an expression of trust. It not only looks backward to what God has done, but forward to what he will do. Gratitude recognizes God as the giver of every good gift, and rests with joy and peace knowing that his past gifts are proof of his present love as well as His future provision. When the good things in our life seem small and the problems look big, that is the time more than any other that we need to give thanks.
There are many who experience the Thanksgiving holiday with a great since of loss, grieving separation from loved ones through death or alienation or lacking the abundance that the day symbolizes. Their problems seem so big that it makes God feel small.
Here’s the point: Jesus was experiencing life that way when He gave thanks and broke bread. Angry Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were plotting to kill him (John 5:16-18); his half brothers wished harm on him and were about to encourage him to go to Jerusalem where they knew the Jewish leaders laid wait (John 7:1-5); He did not have enough food to feed the crowd gathered at his table.
Still He gave thanks.
Jesus connects the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand to a promise when He says “I am the bread of life”. Jesus is our one essential for life and well-being. We will still struggle against the torrents of the storm that threatens to consume us, but we know that He can calm the storm and take us safely to shore.
The Lord’s supper is often called the Eucharist, a time for thanksgiving. It is a memorial to what Jesus, the bread of life, has done for us. It is a symbol of his presence with us, and a promise that we will with him at a table he is preparing for us in the new earth.
Perhaps you find yourself where Jesus was today: rejected by those you love, lacking abundance of food, isolated, hurting, or afraid. This day is an opportunity for you to be like Jesus and give thanks for the little that you have. God will honor that trust, give you His presence, and walk with you into the future.