I Thirst -- Good Friday Meditation

The Crucifixion, Tadeo di Bartolo - Art Institute of Chicago

Good Friday in 2020 will not be business as usual. I will be sharing a meditation on the Sixth Word from the Cross in an online series of messages sponsored by the Academy of Parish Clergy. The Sixth Word is "It Is Finished!" The word that precedes it is "I Thirst." Below is one of the messages I shared some years in the past when I was in Santa Barbara. I share it as a way of moving into the word I will share today. That word will appear here later this afternoon.

John 19:28-29

Parched lips! A dry throat!  Difficulty breathing! Hanging on a cross on a hill far away, Jesus cries out: “I Thirst!”     

You know thirst.  A long race, a difficult hike, a long conversation.  What you want is a cup of water, something to soothe the ache you feel in your throat.  

There is no way to truly know the depth of Jesus’ thirst, but we can get an idea.  

We contemplate his thirst, and as we do, we hear these words in the back of our minds: “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”  (Ps. 42:1). This is a thirst that neither Mountain Dew nor Crystal Springs can quench.  It is one that is more than physical, it is spiritual and it can be quenched only by the living waters, the waters that flow from the heart of God.  

This fifth word, a simple word, is a sign of humanity. After hours of tortuous attempts to breathe, with his strength ebbing, knowing that only a few more breaths are possible, Jesus says to any who would hear, but most of all to the Father:   “I thirst.”

As we hear these words, our minds travel back to a conversation at a well in Samaria. Jesus was thirsty then also, and he asked a woman standing at the well, a Samaritan woman, a despised woman, for water to quench his thirst.  This request for water leads to a conversation about a different kind of water.  Jesus offered her living water, water that will satisfy her thirst eternally. This is the kind of water that the soul longs for, a “spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (Jn. 4).

On the cross, the man who cries out in thirst, is the one who offers us living water.  This is the water that quenches our thirst for God.  Augustine famously said: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”  Spiritually our thirst is not assuaged until it drinks from the springs of heaven until we experience first hand the touch of the Spirit.  Jesus says to us: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.”   Yes, for out of the heart of the believer will “flow rivers of living water” (Jn. 7:37-39).

As Jesus cries out for something to quench his thirst, someone grabs a branch of hyssop, dips it into a bowl of sour wine and places it on his lips.  It’s not much, but it gives him strength to utter a further word. 

In another gospel, Jesus speaks of the day of judgment.  On that day Jesus will say to the righteous, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me . . .  The righteous will answer, when did we see you and does this for you?  And Jesus will answer: Truly I tell you, just as you did to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Mt. 25:35-40).

Someone, maybe a disciple, maybe his mother, maybe a soldier standing at the foot of the cross, reached out in an effort to relieve his thirst.  In our thirst we seek out the one who offers living water, and as we drink of this water, we find that the love of God begins to flow from us.  Having tasted the living water, the relationship with the living God, we reach out and we touch the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, with the love of God. 

And Jesus thirsts no more!


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