“…the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you…’” (1st Corinthians 11:23-24)
It is often said that familiarity breeds contempt. In my case, familiarity also breeds blindness. I can step over or walk around something I should pick up, put away, or take to my office so many times that I no longer see it; it just becomes part of a blurry landscape that is just there. I know it is there, I see it multiple times a day but no longer recognize it for what it is. Sometimes though, seemingly out of the blue, my eyes are opened (so to speak) and I do what I should have done long before. That is kind of what happened yesterday as I was preparing for our Thanksgiving Eve Communion service.
I have read Paul’s communion account recorded for us in 1st Corinthians 11 so many times that some details that I should never gloss over have simply blended into the greater landscape of the bread and the cup. I feel incredibly foolish for not paying much attention to it before but suddenly “…and when He had given thanks…” leaped off the page to captivate my attention.
What was He thankful for?! Just a few words previous Paul identifies this night as the night He would be betrayed and by a close friend no less. In just a short time He would be alone in the Garden of Gethsemane praying so fervently and with such passion that He began to sweat drops of blood. He would beg the Father to remove the cross from before Him. Again, what was He thankful for?!
I believe the writer to the Hebrews gives us insight to the thankful heart of Jesus. In Hebrews 12:2 the writer recorded these words, “…who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…” In that moment as Jesus symbolically broke the bread and drank the cup, He offered up thanks to the Father for what the bread and cup symbolized.
On this night, Jesus would fulfill what had been set before Him as the 2nd Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, for all eternity past. This was what He had come to earth to do. He had been born as a baby, lived a perfectly sinless life, had been tested by the Devil to the fullest, had endured rejection and ridicule, all the while veiling HIs glory so that He could be crushed for our iniquities.
In going to the cross Jesus would take our sin and guilt upon Himself while suffering the full cup of God’s wrath that we deserved so that we could have our guilt removed, our debt paid, and our relationship with our Creator reconciled.
The love, grace, and mercy of Jesus is profoundly expressed in the thanks He offered to God to stand in our place and be broken so that we could be made whole.