In just four days we will gather with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving—a day to give thanks. My love for Thanksgiving has changed through the years. Now that I am older I love Thanksgiving because it gives us an opportunity to get together with family and be reminded of all of God’s many blessings that He has lavished upon us during the past year. I’ve always loved Thanksgiving, but my love for the day has changed through the years.
When I was younger I looked forward to Thanksgiving because I had two grandmothers, who, if the Food Network had been around while they were still alive, they would have been absolute stars! There was nothing that they couldn’t cook. Their turkey and dressing was indescribable, I couldn’t get enough of their candied yams, their fruit salad with real whip cream was so good, and their pies…oh their pies! I can still taste them. We’ve still got great cooks in our family, but there was just something different about my grandmothers. Maybe it was because I was young, and had an insatiable appetite.
I’m sure that if you were to list your favorite parts of Thanksgiving you would include food and family. I was reading the winning Thanksgiving essays of grade school kids this past week and I have to say, they are kids after my own heart. I’ll just read one, an essay from Ethan Saaty, a 5th grader from Stevenson Ranch Elementary who writes like he’s on staff with the Food Network.
Thanksgiving! It is a wonderful time to appreciate and give. My favorite part of this wonderful holiday is the glorious food, from the delicious turkey to the delicious delicate pumpkin pie. I go to my Aunt Elaine’s house for a party for Thanksgiving. We have bowls of warm, creamy gravy, a delectable cranberry sauce, with out-of-this-world sliced ham. The turkey: It was roasted on the outside and a light pink on the inside. The juices flow through your mouth like a river. The pumpkin pie is homemade, warm, rich and sweet with a crunchy pale crust and a dark orange around it. The texture is just right, soft but a little bit rough. The tastes flow through you, making your taste buds sing. We also had an amazing salad with thick, sweet sauce drizzled over it with onions, sliced carrots and crunchy croutons. The food at Thanksgiving is delectable, so make sure to enjoy it.
There is no doubt in my mind that Ethan will one day end up writing for Southern Living or Bon Appetite magazines! The kid must be hanging out with Bobby Flay or Andrew Zimmern—there is no other way to explain how he writes so colorfully and descriptively about food!
Well, it doesn’t really matter if you have a Thanksgiving feast like Ethan or you end up with a Happy Meal from McDonald’s on Thanksgiving Day, the food you eat will only sustain you for a little while. In the time that we have together this morning I want to share with you a meal fit for a King, a meal that will sustain you like no meal you’ve ever eaten in your life! Let’s read our Scripture together and then we’ll see what we can learn.
27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him. 31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” 33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” 34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” (John 4:27-38 NIV)
Next Thursday is Thanksgiving. I usually spend the Sunday before Thanksgiving teaching on one of the Psalms of Thanksgiving. As I was reading this Scripture it seemed to provide some great lessons for those of us who will gather around tables filled with food on Thursday. Let’s keep it real. This Thanksgiving there will be lots of people filled with food, but once the last morsel of food is eaten and the table is cleared, many will still be empty. Full, but empty.
In our story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman we learn in John 4:6 that Jesus was tired from the long journey from Judea. It was about noon, the sun was blazing, Jesus was tired and hungry, so His disciples went into town to get some food while Jesus waited at the well of Jacob. You know what happened next. Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well and her life was changed.
As the disciples were coming back from town with food they saw Jesus speaking to the woman and were stunned. Rabbis never spoke publicly with women, any woman, and certainly not a despised Samaritan woman. The disciples arrived at the well just in time to see the woman drop her water pots and run back towards her town. The disciples had lots of questions running through their minds, but none of them said a word about the situation. Finally, one of the disciples spoke up and said, “Rabbi, eat something.” (vs. 31) Then Jesus said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” (John 4:32 NIV) The disciples turned to each other and whispered to one another, “Could someone have brought him food?”
Jesus’ disciples, like the woman at the well, and Nicodemus in John 3, were clueless about what Jesus was talking about. Nicodemus wondered if Jesus meant that a man must enter his mother’s womb again, when Jesus said, “You must be born again.” The woman at the well thought that maybe Jesus had found some kind of magical water that would forever quench a person’s thirst when Jesus said,
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14 NIV)
And now, we find that those who were closest to Jesus, His disciples, didn’t have any more understanding about what Jesus was talking about than the Samaritan woman or Nicodemus. Instead of realizing that Jesus was teaching them a powerful spiritual truth, they wondered if someone had brought Jesus food.
Jesus must have overheard them because we read in John 4:34, 34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” I’ve noticed through the years that there have been lots of books about eating healthy and dieting based on biblical principles. There’s The Daniel Plan Cookbook based, I assume, on the prophet Daniel’s diet while he was in captivity in Babylon. If you will remember, Daniel refused to eat from the king’s table, he preferred to maintain his kosher diet, and got special permission to do so. Then there is the book, Made for Paradise, which is described as “God’s original plan for eating healthy, physical activity, and rest.” My friend, you can eat the cleanest food on the planet, maintain the strictest of diets, lose weight, exercise daily, and still find yourself starving to death for meaning and purpose in life.
When Jesus spoke about having food that His disciples knew nothing about, He wasn’t speaking about some secret food or some special diet plan, He made it clear to them, and to us, what He was talking about when He said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” Jesus was focused on doing His Father’s will above all else and in doing God’s will Jesus found a source of sustenance that can’t be found in any restaurant, experience, or accomplishment in the world.
Jesus spoke often about His passionate desire to do His Father’s will. Let me show you a few places. Let’s stay in the Gospel of John because we can find three more instances of Jesus speaking about doing His Father’s will. The first instance in the very next chapter, John 5:30.
30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. (John 5:30 NIV)
In John 6:38, Jesus could not be more clear in stating His purpose and mission when He says,
38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. (John 6:38 NIV)
In John 8:29, we learn that doing God’s will was not simply a desire for Jesus; it was something He consistently did without fail throughout His life. Jesus said,
29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” (John 8:29 NIV)
“Always do what pleases him.” Really? Always? That’s what God’s Word teaches and I have no reason to doubt it based upon one experience of Jesus’ life. Because I know the details of one experience Jesus had during His life I will fully accept what Jesus claims about always doing His Father’s will. The story I’m referring to is one lonely night Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus knew that the Cross was before Him. He knew that He had done nothing to deserve the cruel, horrific suffering that He would undergo following His arrest. The mockery of those He came to die for. The beating with the cat o’ nine tails until His back was a mess of bloody, fleshy ribbons. The nails driven through His hands and feet. Never would an innocent man die such a gruesome death, yet our Savior and God, died just such a death. He knew everything that was before Him as He prayed in the Garden, yet He prayed,
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 NIV)
“Yet, not as I will, but as you will.” Those are the most telling words of Jesus’ life. How many times did He utter those words throughout His life? We have no way of knowing the answer to that question, but surely this was not the only time. Think of the times He was ridiculed, run out of town, and then think of those who did those things to Him. Who were they? They were those whom He had come to redeem.
Let me ask you a question. How does it make you feel when others talk behind your back? How does it make you feel when those around you make it known that you are not wanted?
Rebecca knew that she was all alone. She was only 12 years old, but some girls at her school had made it clear to her that she was a loser and unwanted. They sent her messages saying, “Why don’t you go kill yourself” and “You should die!” It went on for more than a year. Her mom pulled her out of school, but that didn’t stop the girls who hated her. Her heart was broken and her world collapsed when Rebecca climbed an abandoned concrete plant tower and jumped to her death outside of Tampa.
Some who know that they are not wanted, that those around them want nothing to do with them, take drastic measures like Rebecca, but there are others who simply say, “Ok, then I’m done with you.” And wouldn’t it have been understandable if Jesus would have done just that?! Not only did He not turn away from us, but He found joy in doing His Father’s will. Charles Spurgeon wrote,
Mark our Master when he goes about doing good. The task is not irksome to him. There are some men who if they distribute to the poor, or if they comfort the fatherless, do it with such reserve, with such coldness of spirit, that you can perceive that it is but the shell of the man that acts, and not the man’s whole soul. But see our divine Lord. Wherever he walks, you see his whole self in flame. His whole being at work. Not a single power slumbers, but the whole man is engaged. How much at ease he seems among his poor fishermen! You do not discover that his thoughts are away in the halls of kings; but he is a fellow with them, bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh. He walks in the midst of publicans and harlots, and he is not ill at ease; not like one who is condescending to do a work which he feels to be beneath him; he is pleased with it, his whole soul is in it… His vocation becomes his delight. His Father’s service is his element. (Spurgeon, C.H. Jesus About His Father’s Business. March 4, 1860)
Is the demeanor of our glorious Lord and Savior the attitude we carry about as we seek to live out God’s will? Maybe there is even a more basic question that needs to be asked, “Do we really desire to live out God’s will?” Is knowing and doing God’s will the passion of our lives? Is it the joy and delight of our souls? I’ve heard some say to me that if they only knew God’s will then they would do it. I understand that we don’t have a clear understanding of God’s perfect will for our lives for the rest of our days, but there is enough written in God’s Word to keep us focused and give us direction for today and each new day to come. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12 NIV) That’s pretty straightforward don’t you think? How are we to love one another? Just like Jesus has loved us. This is God’s will for you and me.
When Jesus and His followers arrived at the house for the Passover meal, He took a towel and a basin of water, and washed the feet of His disciples. It wasn’t His place to do such menial work, work that was really the job of the lowest slave in the household. After Jesus finished washing the feet of His disciples, He spoke to them and said,
14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. (John 13:14-15 NIV)
He set us an example. The example that has been set for us is not so much for us to literally wash one another’s feet as it is to serve one another. In what ways are we to serve others? In any and every way possible. This is God’s will for you and me. Now, I’m no prophet, but I can tell you God’s will for you and me simply by going to God’s Word. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus said,
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 NIV)
The world is watching. Let them see your good deeds so that they may praise our glorious God. This is God’s will for you and me. I could share literally hundreds of Scriptures with you, but let me just share one more. Let’s stay in Matthew 5. Jesus said,
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… (Matthew 5:43-44 NIV)
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Once again, that’s pretty straightforward isn’t it? We have to admit, this is not our normal way of treating our enemies is it? Absolutely not! Yet, this is God’s will for you and me. It’s really a cop out to say, “If I only knew God’s will I would follow it.” I’ve just shared God’s will for each and every person who claims to be a follower of Jesus. Is our passion to follow God’s will? Is our “food,” the nourishment of our souls, to do God’s will?
There is another aspect of God’s will that was so important for Jesus, that gave Him such nourishment and sustenance, and that was “to finish.” Jesus said,
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34 NIV)
This commitment to finish is something that we modern-day followers of Jesus sorely lack. We are great at starting. We hear a passionate speaker, read an inspiring verse from God’s Word, or hear a story of how someone has been used by God to touch another person’s heart and our spirit is stirred to the point to where we are willing to get involved in the Lord’s work. Time rocks along, our enthusiasm wanes, people are not as appreciative as we had hoped, other opportunities which seem more appealing, more fun, come along and we begin to call in sick, postpone our commitment, and eventually we are just another member of the “First Church of The No Show Jones.” Finish! Our Lord set us the example. In John 13:1 we read,
1 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (John 13:1 NIV)
Jesus loved them to the end, until His final breath. As Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying to the Father, He prayed,
1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. (John 17:1-4 NIV)
We can learn much from the last sentence I read to you. Jesus said, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” He went from the Garden to the Cross and there hanging on the Cross, Jesus said, “It is finished!”
Oh, my brothers and sisters, I urge you to finish. He has called you as His own, now grow in the grace of the Lord, grow in your obedience to the Lord, and grow in the work He has given you to do.
I had lunch with a young friend of mine. I didn’t know what we were going to talk about, but he had asked to meet with me. When I arrived he said that he and his wife had been talking and they felt called to give back. I asked him how they wanted to give back? He said they wanted to go on a mission trip and they would like for me to help them find some place, some ministry, where they could help. They were willing to take a week’s vacation and travel anywhere in the world to serve. I said, “I can do that, but I want to ask you a question. Why would you want to take a week out of your life, go serve where there is a need, and then come back home and resume your normal activities? Wouldn’t it be far better to find some need here in town and commit to serving among those people every week for the rest of your life?” He asked where there might be an opportunity to do that here in town? I told him about The Learning Center and the kids in our community who need help with their homework. He said, “That sounds like something I would really like to do. Let me visit with my wife.” I said, “Now, I want you to know that if you believe the Lord is calling you to serve in this way then you have to put that commitment above all else. You will have friends call you and invite you to do something fun on the night you’ve committed to serve—you have to tell them you are busy. There will be a great ball game that will come around on the night you’ve committed to serve and you have to say, ‘I’ve got work to do.’” You can’t serve when it is convenient. You have to know that it is the Lord’s business you are called to.”
I got a text from my friend after his first night of helping the kids in The Learning Center. He said, “That was the best experience I’ve had since I can’t remember. I’m hooked! Thanks bro. I enjoyed it so much that I almost feel selfish.” Serving the Lord, seeking to do, to live out His will is not draining, it’s life-giving!
I don’t know a person who, if they were asked, “What do you feel after Thanksgiving dinner?” wouldn’t say, “Full!” I hope and pray that each of you have a wonderful, memorable Thanksgiving, but if you want a meal fit for a King then you will never find it in filling your plate with scrumptious food. You will only experience it as you live out the Father’s will and desire to finish the mission He has called you to in this life.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
November 21, 2021