After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.”
What does it mean to be thirsty?
All of us have had the sensation at one time or another, and most of us have mistaken the sensation of thirst for something else.My children were famous for that.They would come to me when they were young all hot and sticky from running around outside and say “Mom, I starving!”They knew their body needed something, but they hadn’t been able to name it as “thirst.”It’s pretty common isn’t it?Our bodies are made up of almost 70% water.By the time we have the sensation of being thirsty, scientists say, we are already a quart down.Isn’t it amazing that we need a physical reminder to help us recognize our own needs?
Jesus talked a lot about being thirsty, such as when he spoke to the woman at the well.If you remember that story, Jesus asked the woman to give him a drink.The woman responded, “How is it, that you, a Jew, asks a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” Jesus answered, “if you knew who that is saying to you ‘give me a drink’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water… (and went on) Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.” Their conversation continued, but Jesus, through this illustration, demonstrated to the woman her own need, her own ‘thirst’ if you will, for something more than water.She was in need of a savior, but Jesus used a physical sign to help the woman recognize her own need.It’s interesting to me that when Jesus asked the Samaritan woman to give him a drink, he used the same word for thirst in the Greek as he spoke from the cross.
We could hear these words from the cross as Jesus finally showing us his human side.We could interpret these words simply as a part of the humanity of Jesus.After all, He is suffering a physical death, and experiencing all the pains that go with it, and he is simply thirsty.And we can reason this out because this is coming from the same man who remained silent through his trial, silent through the beatings, silent through the last few days of mind-boggling torture, and perhaps, he has finally had enough of the silence and lets his guard down and shows that he is as human as the rest of us.Why not?
But I believe that Jesus, though physically suffering, was not talking only about physical thirst.Look at the verse from the Gospel of John, “After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to complete/fulfill the scripture), “I thirst.”
It’s the phrase directly before those words that I want to focus on… “And Jesus, seeing that all things were now fulfilled, and in order to make perfect the scripture said ‘I thirst.’” Do you see this?All things were complete, in other words his mission on earth fulfilled; the work he had to do on earth is now finished.And if we look back on Psalm 22 and Psalm 69, we can even make a connection to the scriptures that Jesus is referencing in that phrase.
But I believe that Jesus, always the teacher, always the one to point the way, always the one to help us recognize our own needs and the needs of others, had an additional purpose for choosing those words.I believe that Jesus was giving one final reminder, one final plea from the cross, for us to recognize what his mission was all about.I believe Jesus was giving us one last word... one last way to recognize our own need for a savior, one last way to recognize that we are all truly thirsty.
You see, we humans have a way of thinking that we don’t really have any needs, or at least needs that anyone else can or should help us with.We are raised to be confident in our own abilities.... Self assured...we can do it on our own.And we’re socialized to think that if we do have needs, or do need help from someone else that we are weak, or lazy or incompetent.It’s the philosophy behind the American dream isn’t it?If you work hard enough and have enough drive, you can have anything.We have become, in a sense, our own Gods.Jesus, in those two words, just as with the woman at the well, directs us to think about our need for a savior; for our own thirst for living water.
And not only do we need help to recognize our own thirst, we need help to see those around us who are thirsty.Who among us, if we were at the foot of the cross that afternoon and heard our Lord and savior say he was thirsty wouldn’t rush over to Jesus to give him a drink?It would be the greatest honor, wouldn’t it?What a privilege to help our Lord when he was in need by giving him a drink to soothe his parched throat and lessen some of the agonizing pain he must have been in.
Yet, Christ tells us that we have that opportunity to serve him that drink every day.In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us of the last judgment, when the king will say to the righteous, “Come, you that are blessed by my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for 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, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
But the righteous answered, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry, or thirsty, or naked, or sick, or in prison?”And the Lord answered them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are in my family, you did it to me.”
So… Jesus tells us… we have the opportunity every day to care for Him in the way in which we care for each other.Yet we walk by people every day who are thirsty, we walk by people everyday who are hungry, and sick and naked and in prison and helpless and hopeless.Have we missed seeing Christ in them?Have we forgotten that when what we do unto the least of these, we do to him?
I’m not casting any judgement here because I do it myself!In fact, I’m great at it.What’s more, I can even be in the middle of doing “God stuff” and still miss the message.I can be in my car with the stereo blasting and the windows shaking cause the gospel music is so loud… I’m rockin and praisin and thanking God for everything.And I’m driving right by homeless people on the street.I’m riding right by the hospital and the prison and the unwed mother shelter and the soup kitchen.
And that’s why this message from the cross is so beautiful.There is no condemnation... there is no judgement... there is no shaking of the head in disgust, even though Christ knew we would fail at this over an over again.In the beauty of that last moment, and out of the depths of His own physical suffering, when all his work on earth was done, there comes one simple plea from the cross.“I thirst!”And it comes to us todayfrom “the least of these… from the welfare mother… from the victim of abuse… from the oppressed... from the disabled... from the victims of war and famine and poverty…
Jesus softly saying“don’t forget:All those I have created are all around you… all those in my family are part of your family… there are people out there who need your help!From the mouth of the man who spent his life and his ministry as a servant, comes one final plea for us to love and serve others!Don’t forget... there are people who need your money!Don’t forget, there are people out there who need your time, or your skill or your friendship or your ear or your presence, or your love! Those of you who hunger and thirst for righteousness yourselves... reach out... I thirst.