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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Lenten Series: The Fifth Word of Jesus

The last seven words (statements, actually) of Jesus as He hung on Golgotha's cross are among the most encouraging of all Scripture. Here is the fifth of the seven (I expand on this essay during my YouTube recording at this link): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PweYsotqHME&feature=youtu.be

“I am thirsty.”  (John 19:28)

It started in the Garden. The savior prayed with such anguish, His sweat mingled with His blood and dripped to the ground. It was in the Garden that soldiers beat Him with their fists, pulled His beard, spit in His face. Then they dragged Him into the city and shuffled Him from Pilate to Herod, and back again to Pilate. They whipped Him without mercy, without hardly giving Him time to catch His breath. Then they pressed a crown comprised of thorns into His forehead. Blood oozed into His eyes and tracked down His cheeks. Mocking soldiers then laid the cross across His shoulders and forced Him to carry it to the hill, the hill that looked like a skull. The hill where He would die.

“I am thirsty.”

After all He’d suffered by the time they’d nailed Him to the cross, I do not doubt He was thirsty. I do not doubt thirst consumed Him.

As Jesus groaned through parched lips, someone dipped a sponge in vinegar and gall and brought it to His mouth (Matthew 27:34). The vinegar they offered Jesus was weak wine commonly used in Palestine to quench thirst. Gall was a bitter liquid with narcotic and anesthetic properties. Soldiers often gave it to prisoners about to be crucified as a way to dull their senses so they wouldn’t fight against the nails being hammered into their limbs. Sometimes friends gave it to those hanging on the cross to lessen their agony.

When Jesus tasted the gall He turned away. He would not drink the drug. He would finish the Father’s plan to its fullest course and its fullest cost. A short while later, someone gave Him the plain vinegar.

“I am thirsty.”

Although nailed to the cross, Jesus was the Lord of Heaven. The King of the Universe. He never needed to thirst. Or hunger. Or suffer pain. Yet He demonstrated by His life and by His death a ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness.’ Even on the cross, He would accomplish His Father’s will. That is why His death – and His thirst – serves as an illustration for us.

In his Confessions, St. Augustine wrote, "God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.” And the psalmist wrote: As a deer pants for the water, so my soul pants after thee (Psalm 42:1).

Restlessness. Thirst.

We who belong to Christ through our faith and baptism “have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer [we] who live, but Christ lives in [us]” (Galatians 2:20). When the Holy Spirit enters our lives He always creates within us a restlessness for God. A hunger for God. A thirst for God. If we are not restless for God, if we do not increasingly hunger and thirst for Him, we ought to wonder why.

“I am thirsty.”

Many things at first seem to quench our spiritual thirst, but in the end serve simply to anesthetize us to it. The Holy Spirit spoke of those counterfeit thirst-quenchers as “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life” (1 John 2:16). But counterfeits can never fully satisfy. The only place to quench our God-designed thirst, our God-designed restlessness, is at His fountain, devoting ourselves to a daily drinking – a lifelong drinking – from that fountain through reception of the Sacraments, daily prayer, Scripture study, and humble obedience to the Holy Spirit.

“I am thirsty.”

Nothing but spiritual drink will ever satisfy our spiritual thirst. Nothing.

God created us that way.

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