Apr. 1, 2012
Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.
In this passage, Jesus says the shortest of his phrases from the cross: “I thirst.” With death approaching, Jesus’ body shows signs of wear. He has not eaten or drunk since celebrating his last meal with his closest disciples the night before. Literally, he is getting thirsty. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of his words. There’s more than a thirsty man dying on a cross.
If you have ever been with a person who is dying, there comes a point when the person can no longer eat or drink. The swallowing muscles no longer work and it is not possible for the person to drink. At this point, water jugs are replaced with a small glass of water with a stick with a little sponge on the end. This stick with a sponge on it is just a much smaller version of what the soldiers gave Jesus. We see how human Jesus was, that in his dying process, his body went through the same physical process that all human bodies go through.
Earlier in John’s Gospel, we hear about instances when Jesus speaks of water and being thirsty during his ministry. One account happens in John chapter 4 and is the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at a well. Jesus is thirsty and he has no way to get water out from the deep well, so he asks the woman help. She questions why he wants her to give him a drink. This is his reply: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)
He tells this woman that he can give her a drink of water that will allow her to never be thirsty again. He is the one who can satisfy her … and our … hearts when we dry up. When JC is on the cross and dying and says that he is thirsty, he wants us to remember his words to the woman at the well. He wants us, like the Samaritan woman, to get refreshed daily by the water available only from Jesus.
Jesus’ words, “I thirst” from the cross should cause our hearts to break. They should also make us ask ourselves, “What am I thirsting for in this life?” What do I really, really yearn for? We know that people can’t live without water. Too often, our humanity takes over and we long and yearn for something that we think will really make us happy. What Jesus says to us is this: Drink from my cup to find happiness and your soul will always be satisfied. Too often, we look for satisfaction is every other place than Jesus. We pursue every other option and wonder why we’re still not happy. We get mad at Jesus and say, “Don’t you love me enough to help me be happy?” when Jesus has given us everything we already need to be happy.
As Jesus says these words to the cross, I don’t think he was just speaking to the folks gathered around the foot of the cross. No, he’s thinking of you, of me, of all humanity and our need for water. He’s thinking of these words from Psalm 42:1: As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
As Jesus is dying on the cross, he’s thinking of all of humanity and our need for water to live. And he’s promising to offer this water for ever. No, he will not forsake us; he will quench our thirst. As he dies, he wants us to remember of his great desire to fulfill our deepest longings.
Let us pray: Fill my cup, Lord. I lift it up, Lord! Come and quench this thirsting of my soul. Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more; Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole! Amen.