On Good Friday afternoons at my church, parishioners are invited to come and give testimonials that springboard from the last words of Jesus. In 2016, I was invited, and I got John 19:28-29:
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil 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.
Below is my testimony.
Jesus is thirsty. To the Jews watching, waiting for a miracle, or waiting for him to die, he was right on cue. It was the line from Psalm 69: “for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” They had the vinegar jar ready.
Let me remind you what Psalm 69 is about:
Insults have broken my heart,
so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none;
and for comforters, but I found none.
They gave me poison for food,
and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
Let their table be a trap for them,
a snare for their allies.
Let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
and make their loins tremble continually.
Pour out your indignation upon them,
and let your burning anger overtake them.
Now waít a minute. Does this sound like Jesus to you? Is “I’m thirsty” supposed to be a shorthand lament that includes calling down the wrath of God? That doesn’t sound like the Jesus I know.
What about that other time Jesus was thirsty? Was the Samaritan woman there at the cross? Did she hear him say “I’m thirsty” and remember when they first met, by the well, and Jesus asked for some water to drink? John tells us the story:
So he came to a Samaritan city …, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. … The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ … Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’
The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’
Jesus said to her, ‘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. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’
That was the promise.
But here’s that amazing man, who walked all over Judea, who worked all kinds of miracles, who healed so many people — here he is, flogged, stabbed, and nailed to a cross for a bloody, excruciating death.
Ever notice how the hymns and Gospels songs all talk about the cross, but leave out the flogging? The Bible doesn’t say how many lashes, or what was used to hit him, but you know it was painful.
And then the thorns. There are some amazing classic paintings of Jesus, and just looking at those spiky thorns and the blood running down his face makes you cringe.
Then the nails in his hands and feet.
And don’t forget getting stabbed with spear and the blood and water running out.
Could anyone more than a few feet away even hear him when he said “I’m thirsty?” This is a long way from asking for a drink of water after a long walk on a hot day. He’s truly thirsty, his body weak and dry from internal bleeding or just sheer loss of blood.
Have you been there? Completely wrecked? Beaten down by life, by choices you made … remember Jesus chose not to refute his accusers…have you been hurt to the core, too full of pain to feel anything, just barely the strength for a desperate cry for help?… I’m thirsty.
I bet most of us have been there. There may even be a few of you who reached out for help, and like Jesus, got something else, not what was needed. Maybe your cry for help fit in nicely with someone else’s agenda.
In that moment of pain and thirst, this is where we meet Jesus. When we have reached the bottom, when the Psalms have all the right words of pain and anguish and despair, when we’re truly thirsty. Then Jesus is there for us. He’s been there, done that, and he’s here to give us that living water, that faith that we are not alone, that the darkness will not claim us, that death will not claim us.
“those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” [John 4:14]
“‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’ [John 8:12]
Are you thirsty? You are in the right place.