Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology

Thanksgiving Sermon on John 6:23

by Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This Thanksgiving Day sermon was preached on November 28, 2002

John 6:1-15
vs 23
"Give Thanks"
Thanksgiving Day 2002


Topic: Thanksgiving
Index: 1457
Date: 11/2002.101
Title: Say "Thank-You"

A woman boarded a bus. Every seat was filled. She was tired and carried several packages. Noticing her plight, a man stood up and graciously offered his seat. The woman was so shocked she fainted.
After she was revived, she looked up at the man who had relinquished his seat and said, "Thank you." Whereupon he promptly fainted.
The point of this humorous story is that many people don't bother saying "thank-you" anymore. This is a sad because thankfulness is good for the soul.

The Bible teaches that a thankful attitude joins heaven and earth; whereas, an ungrateful attitude keeps heaven and earth, the spiritual and the material, separate. When we are thankful, we recognize that food, shelter, and all other necessities come to us because of the mercy of Almighty God. Thankfulness turns our hearts towards heaven. Thankfulness is one of the things that lifts us above the level of beasts.

I Jesus Gives Thanks
A In our Scripture reading we see a crowd of more than 5,000 people overwhelming Jesus and His disciples. Jesus taught them and healed their sick. At the end of the day when they became hungry, he took five small barley loaves and two small fish and miraculously multiplied them; there was enough to feed all the people and still have 12 baskets of leftovers. It was a splendid miracle. Jesus' popularity skyrocketed because of it; in fact, John tells us the crowd intended to make Jesus king by force.

B On this Thanksgiving Day we want to take note that before passing out the food Jesus gave thanks. His thanks is, in fact, a prominent part of the story; John tells us this twice. The Bible tells us that after the five small loaves and two fish were given Him, Jesus "took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted" (vs 11). Even more striking is John's account of the next day. John tells us that,
(Jn 6:23) ... some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.
In reminding us of Jesus's miracle, the Gospel writer wants to make sure we realize it happened after Jesus had given thanks.

What's the point? The Bible clearly wants us to realize that Jesus was a thanker He thanked God for the food He was about to give to the hungry crowd. We might think that He, of all people, didn't have to do this. After all, Jesus was and is and always will be God. And, every good thing, as we know, comes only from the hands of God. So we see God the Son, through Whom all things were made, giving thanks to God the Father. What an intriguing picture of one person of the triune Godhead thanking another person of the triune Godhead.

C The story in front of us is not the only time we see God the Son giving thanks to God the Father. Another instance is when Jesus established the Lord's Supper. In Luke 22 we are told that when Jesus took the bread at the Last Supper, He gave thanks before passing it around; the same was true for the wine He gave thanks just before giving it to the disciples. In his record of the institution of the Lord's Supper Paul makes the same point:
(1Cor 11:23-25) For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, (24) and when he had given thanks, he broke it ... (25) In the same way, after supper he took the cup ...

II Thanks Shows The Spiritual Dimension of Things
A Why did Jesus do this? Why did He give thanks to God the Father? Jesus gave thanks because He could see beyond the material to the spiritual. Jesus gave thanks because He could see beyond the bread and fish to the God Who provided the bread and fish. To Jesus, even the smallest morsel of food was not trivial but pointed back to its Maker and Giver. This is true not only for bread and fish but for every good thing that we might enjoy. All things point beyond themselves to their Maker and Giver. By giving thanks, Jesus shows us the intimate connection between the spiritual and the material.

B This runs contrary to two things today. First, this runs contrary to the many neighbors we have who never see anything spiritual in life; neighbors who see life completely one-sided; neighbors who see material things as the sum total of life.

Second, this runs counter to the many people who put a wall of separation between the material and the spiritual. According to these people cars, bicycles, forks and knives, tomatoes, steak, turkey, milk, broccoli, oatmeal, gameboys, and computers are totally separate from religion, faith, prayer, God, and worship. Religion is religion, says these people, and the only place it belongs is in the church; there is no place for it in education, in government, in business, even in our personal lives. Religion is religion, says these people, and the only time it can or ought to be practiced is Sunday morning in church; certainly it ought to play no role in public life.

Even the Babylonians whom Daniel lived among knew better than to believe such foolishness. They correctly believed that all of life is religious. Thus, the foods eaten at their meals were first offered to the gods. And, every meal was dedicated to the worship and glory of these same idol gods. The rule in Babylon was this: whether you are eating or drinking or doing something else, all is to be done to the glory of Babylon's gods. This we, as Christians, can applaud. We too believe that all of life is religious and that the material and spiritual are always related. I think of the words of the Apostle Paul:
(1Cor 10:31) So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

C Jesus takes food in His hand, and by giving thanks He announces that the food is from God. In giving thanks Jesus invites us to see the spiritual behind the material. In giving thanks Jesus invites us to break out of the pattern which says God has nothing to do with day-to-day life or day-to-day concerns.

Jesus' thanksgiving shows us that, whether we admit it or not, our lives are tied to and in and with God. Jesus' thanksgiving shows us that everything we have and everything we receive is connected with God.

III Thanks Makes the Ordinary Sacred
A Why did Jesus do this? Why did He give thanks to God the Father? The second answer we can give is that in giving thanks Jesus was making the ordinary sacred. It wasn't just bread and fish in His hands. Later on today it isn't just a piece of pumpkin pie or turkey on your fork. It isn't just a computer on your desk or a car in your garage. After you have given thanks it is something holy, sacred, a gift from God Most High.

This truth is best stated by the Apostle Paul in his first letter to Timothy:
(1Tim 4:4-5) For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, (5) because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
According to Paul, our thanksgiving makes the ordinary sacred.

B What does it mean to be sacred? In the Old Testament anything that was sacred was dedicated to the service of God. Jericho was sacred, she was devoted to God that's why it was so wrong for Achan to take the silver and gold. Samson was sacred that's why he could not cut his hair or drink any wine. The ark was sacred that's why it was so wrong for Uzzah to reach out his hand to steady it and keep it from falling. The goblets and other utensils of the Temple were sacred that's why they could never be used for profane or ordinary uses.

In the New Testament this is also true anything that is sacred is dedicated to the service of God. Us, for instance. We are God's holy people dedicated to His service, His honor, His glory.

As I said before, in giving thanks for the bread and fish Jesus was making them holy, treating them as holy, to be used for His honor and glory and in His service. In giving thanks for life's blessings we are making them holy and dedicating them to God's service and for His name's sake. Which means that all that we have, if we are Christians, are to be used in the service of God: our time, our money, our homes, our cars, our toys, our games, our furniture, even our families we give thanks for them all and dedicate them all to the glory of God.

IV For What We Give Thanks
A On this Thanksgiving Day we want to give thanks. On this Thanksgiving Day we want to join the material world to the spiritual. On this Thanksgiving Day we want to dedicate to God what has been given to us. Like Jesus we want to give thanks.

First of all, we should thank God for life. He has made us and formed us. Only in Him do we live and move and have our being. Only in Him do we have the ability to think and enjoy and respond and wonder. Only in Him can we jump and run and play and learn. Only in Him can we eat and sleep and love. So we thank God for life.

Second, we should thank God for health. Many of our members suffered health problems this past year. It seems it is only when we face sickness that we appreciate health and strength.

Third, we should thank God for providing for our physical needs. Yes, some of us could have more things or better things; even so, we have food, clothes on our bodies, a roof over our heads, and a car in the garage. These are common material things, but they do not come by chance. We know they are gifts from the Giver above. We also know that in places like Russia, the Philippines, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Bosnia very few people dare to take these common blessings for granted.

Fourth, we should also thank God for our families. For some people, it is painful to remember family relationships broken by death or divorce. But even as we feel such grief, we can be thankful for those who uphold us and love us still. Our families are precious. Thanksgiving is a time for husbands to thank Almighty God for their wives, and for wives to thank God for their husbands; for parents and children to thank God for each other; for all of us to thanks God for the companionship of friends.

Fifth, and most important, we should thank God for grace and salvation. In Christ God has blessed us with every sort of spiritual blessing. He has taken us who were lost in sin and evil and renewed us to be like Christ. He has removed from us the fear of judgment and everlasting hell fire.

B There are times, of course, when we all are tempted to feel ungrateful. At such times it is good for you to contemplate the good things God has done for you. May I offer this suggestion: when you get home write on a card small enough to fit into your wallet, 10 great things God has done for you. Then, whenever you are tempted to feel ungrateful, pull out that card and start thinking about the mercies you have written down. By thinking about God's past provision, you'll be encouraged to trust in His power to provide and protect in the present.
Topic: Thanksgiving
Index: 1457
Date: 11/2002.101
Title: Count Your Blessings

When Robinson Crusoe was wrecked on his lonely island, he drew up in two columns what he called the evil and the good. He was cast on a desolate island, but he was still alive -- not drowned like all his crewmates. He had no clothes, but he was in a hot climate where he did not need them. He was apart from human society, but he was not starving. He was without any means of defense, but he saw no wild beasts. He had no one to whom he could speak, but God had sent the ship so near the shore that he could get out of it all the things necessary for his basic wants.
Sometimes it is necessary for us to deliberately list all our blessings or else we will have a pity party.

Let us be like Jesus and give thanks. Let us give thanks realizing that this joins the material to the spiritual. Let us give thanks realizing this makes the profane sacred and dedicates it to the service of God. Let us give thanks to God for His many blessings.


The Rev. Adrian Dieleman is the pastor of Trinity Christian Reformed Church in Visalia, California. He is father of three college-aged sons and active in local clergy groups. He is also treasurer of The Genesis Project of Tulare County and may be contacted at Trinity Christian Reformed Church, 6400 W Walnut Ave. Visalia, CA 93277.

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