Jesus thanked His Father for the hell that He would endure on the cross because He knew that it would result in the redemption of those that the Father had given to Him. In short, the three things for which Jesus expressed thanksgiving were all bound up in the work of redemption. In this, Jesus teaches us that above all the things that we should be thankful for–not just on one day in November, but every day of our lives–is the redemption that we have in His blood, the forgiveness of our sins.
Believers often meditate on the love, the joy, and the peace of Jesus. However, most of us probably do not give enough attention to the thanksgiving of Jesus. One of the things that we can be certain of–concerning all of the sinless perfections of incarnate Son of God–is that Jesus expressed full and unceasing gratitude to His Father for every provision, every kindness, every protection, every soul-strengthening support and every miraculous act that the Father worked through Him during His earthly ministry. Without doubt, Jesus is the most thankful person who ever lived. And yet, while we may safely be assured of this, there are only a few instances in which the Scriptures tell us about the thankfulness of Jesus. This should strike us as strange, given all that the Scriptures teach us about our own need to be thankful.
Thankfulness–and a sinful lack of it–is one of the foremost teachings of Scripture. Though there are so many other passages, consider the teaching of Psalm 107, Luke 17:11-19 and 2 Timothy 3:2 in this regard. So, what are we to make of the fact that there are actually very few instances in Scripture that reference the thankfulness of Jesus? And, what can we then learn from the Scriptural record of the instances of His thankfulness? In his sermon “The First and Last Supper,” Sinclair Ferguson points out that Jesus’ emotional life was not always evident to us because He did not “let His emotions all hang out.” He explained:
“If you read through the Gospels you will learn a great deal from the Gospel testimony to the character and attractiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Occasionally, you will see His inner emotional life coming to expression. Occasionally, in a deep sense of truly righteous anger. On occasion, in the tears that flow from His eyes. And very rarely in the way our modest Lord Jesus Christ did not let His emotions all hang out.”
While there is a reservedness on the part of Jesus in revealing all of His emotions, the Gospel writers have recorded several instances in which Jesus verbalized thanksgiving to His Father. They can be found in Matt. 11:25; 15:36; 26:27; Mark 8:8; 14:23; Luke 10:21; 22:17, 19; John 6:11, 23; 11:41 and I Corinthians 11:24. What is remarkable about these instances of thanksgiving is that they can all be placed into one of three categories; and, each of these three categories are bound up in or related to the work of redemption. In short, Jesus’ thankfulness teaches us to pour out our own hearts in thanksgiving to God–above all, for the redemption that He has freely given to us in the Son. Jesus’ prayers of thanksgiving fall into one of the following three categories:
1) Thankfulness for the miracles that served the purposes of redemption. The Apostle John leaves us the record of Jesus offering thanks to God prior to performing two of His most noteworthy miracle–the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:11), and the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:41-42).