Home » »Unlabelled » I Thirst #JourneyLent
Friday, April 3, 2015
Rev. Dr. Roger Paynter
After this, when Jesus knew all that was now finished, he said ( in order to fulfill the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
To those around the Cross, Jesus’ thirst has nothing unusual about it. No doubt all three victims were rasping for drink and Jesus is lucky enough for someone to use a cluster of hyssop branches to push a sponge full of sour wine up to his mouth. Of course he was thirsty.
But the thirst that John wants us to understand has no ‘of course’ about it. Jesus never reveals his thirst until he is on the brink of his own death. When Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said, “I am thirsty.” It was not that Jesus knew that everything had been done, so now he could gain some final relief. No, Jesus’ thirst is itself the final expression of his revelation, and the moment when his thirst is sated brings everything to its climax.
The climax of his whole life is found in the quenching of his thirst. In that moment, his mission is fulfilled and he lets go of life. ‘When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.’
John does not tell us what this thirst means (and everything in John means something deeper) because to do so would be to short-circuit our own response. If we cannot discover this thirst within ourselves, if this thirst does not touch the intuition of our hearts, then it rests on the surface of the story...just a matter of Jesus’ dry mouth in the hour of his death.
What could our hearts tell us about this thirst?
‘Ecce homo’...Behold the man.
Jesus is humanity in its thirst for union with the mystery of our Origin, the all-encompassing Life we name so inadequately, God.
We quickly give our own thirst all sorts of other interpretation. This thirst, we say, is really nothing more than displaced sexual longing or wishful thinking or childish regression or evasive fantasy. We believe we can find solutions for our thirst in the satisfactions of our version of the ‘good life.’ We can make sure life is just ‘normal’, with no drama, in hopes this will numb the thirst. Or our thirst sends us in pursuit of wealth or power or fame or a multitude of other misleading answers, all promising more than they could possibly deliver.
Jesus chose to live without any blurring of the thirst for God and without the pretense that other people or the good life can assuage it. He lived openly, consciously, and with an immediacy of thirsting for God. He opened up a space within his life large enough for the desire for God in all fullness. He lived to that point where desire for God finally came into its own as the very meaning of his humanity. Jesus is thirsty for God without any qualification. Jesus is all desire without restriction. And with this sentence, “I thirst,” John wants us to understand that Jesus’ desire is to be our desire, free of the constraints with which we rein it in.
The Church has long proclaimed Jesus as fully human, fully divine, and John’s Gospel starts with the idea that he is ‘The Word made flesh, the embodiment of God.’ Therefore, the thirst of Jesus also discloses the surprising truth of a thirsty God.
There is nothing radical about proclaiming the love of God. Anyone can say such a thing. Even Hallmark cards tell us God loves us. Far too often, God is that kindly uncle who looks upon us with an indulgent smile. But the Divine Love that is seen in Jesus’ cry of thirst is NOT benevolence, but desire. Desire that is a burning thirst. A feverish desire for US. A scorching desire so intense that it is the last cry of the Beloved for all the world! In this cry, two thirsts have converged into a single reality of being one. The Son and the Creator are One; God’s thirst for humanity is quenched and our thirst for God is quenched in return.
In this moment, nothing more remains to be done. All has been fulfilled. Indeed, “It is finished.” ‘Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.’
And it is enough.....
Questions: Are we willing to go below the surface of our lives and discover the great thirst we are given for God? Are we willing to go below the surface of our lives and learn of the deep desire God has for us? Can we embrace the truth of Gerald May when he declares, “Our thirst FOR God is a gift FROM God?”
Easter awaits. But only the truly thirsty will be quenched by the overflowing Love of the Risen Christ. May we be prepared to drink deeply!