Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I Thirst

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Thanks to Gary and Blanca for preaching on March 10 from the 5th word of Jesus from the cross: "I thirst."

Blanca's notes are below.  Both messages are available in audio form.

John 19:28-29 and Revelation 21:6-7 
As a child, the story of Jesus was told to me year after year during Holy Week by my grandmother. I was always fascinated and at the same time heart broken to hear about the descriptions of our Lord Jesus’ spiritual, physical and emotional suffering on the cross of Calvary and was for the redemption of our sins. As a child this experience was very traumatic for me to listen to but this was the beginning of our Christian tradition.

Today we come to the 5th saying in the 7 last words of Jesus while he was on the cross. It is two simple words: “I thirst.” We have discovered that each of these words is a word for life, a word for our lives. And, from Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4 to this saying in John 19, John’s gospel – and the book of Revelation, also written by John – is full of “thirst” as a metaphor for life.

“I thirst;” has any one here today ever been feeling sick, close to being dehydrated, asked for water and received old rotten wine that is almost like sour vinegar? Or have you ever tasted some old, fermented apple cider that was almost as sour as vinegar? John 19:28

When Jesus was hanging on the cross taking it upon Himself to absolve the sins of the world, close to His death and almost dehydrated, He asked for water: “I thirst” he said and all He got was a sponge soggy with vinegar. Did the Son of God deserve such treatment?  I have no doubt that if a stranger would ask any one of us for a drink of water; we would give him or her our last bottle of cold water or any other cold drink that will quench their thirst. As found in John 19:28-29; “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now over, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth.”

Raymond Brown’s commentary states that by giving Jesus vinegar and gall, this was “a gesture of cruelty to aggravate thirst”.

Humanity turned their backs on Christ in His time of need when they at that moment could have, at least done an act of kindness for Him, but instead they decided to give Him a horrible drink. This was a despicable act especially when considering all the good that He had done for humanity. If the Roman rulers and the Pharisees would have been less selfish, they would have seen all the good in Jesus and all the miracles that He performed. They were opposed to Jesus who cared for the welfare of the people and He particularly wanted equality for the oppressed while the rulers were simply looking out for themselves and protecting their political positions of power.

And when Jesus asked for water He was given a sour wine and gall. A glass of water would have been so calming to His thirst, as water is so important to the body. I remember when my husband and I went to Cancun, Mexico, for our honeymoon, and in those days the water bottles were not as popular as today and everybody told us “don’t drink the water.” So I took two jugs of purified water with us in the airplane, once that water was gone I started to drink juices and other liquids and believe me nothing could quench our thirst for water.

We all understand our desire of thirst, but here is the remarkable thing: “JESUS thirsts!” He is the one who offered the Samaritan woman “living water” that truly satisfies, that flows out from the core of who we are as followers of Jesus. He is the one who says, in Revelation 21:6-7, “It is done!” I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.  Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.” This same Jesus Thirsts, but for what? He thirsted for the world to believe in Him in order for us to be united with Him in heaven.

Throughout the Gospel, Jesus placed a tremendous emphasis on water starting with His baptism in the Jordan River when he was baptized by John the Baptist. In Jesus’ first miracle he transformed water into wine. He used the water of baptism to dramatize the cleansing of our sins and emphasize the covenant that we have with God through Him.

I had a personal experience with water as I witnessed my 93 year old grandmother, who was healthy up to her last three months and lived through her final five weeks in a coma. During this time, we read the Bible, sang hymns, and prayed throughout the day and evenings at her bedside. She would stare at us and we could see her cheeks get red from time to time so took that as a sign that she knew we were there with her, but two weeks prior to her death these signs faded away. One evening two days prior to her death, one of my aunts had a dream or revelation where she saw a friend of my grandmother’s knocking on her bedroom window asking grandma to come out and grandma said no, I can not get up. The knocking on her window continued, suddenly she saw grandma get up pulling off her white sheets and she started walking into a river where she stopped when the water was up to her waist. When my aunt shared this dream with us, my sister and I both immediately asked, ‘Was grandma baptized?’ We called her pastor to ask the question and he confirmed that there was nothing in the church records indicating that she had been baptized. We knew that my grandma was originally a very faithful Catholic and in her later years she became a member of this evangelical church. As soon as this was revealed, we invited her pastor to come to her home and baptize her. As he poured the first hand full of water on her head, she sat up and said oh every time he poured water on her. She had an expression of gratefulness on her face every time she said “oh”!! It was quickly apparent that she knew that she had been baptized and that eliminated our concern her knowing that her baptism had taken place. Even though she never moved again and she died two days later, we knew that this event depicted the mystery of God, the Son Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us and in the sacrament of baptism.

In my aunt’s revelation, grandma was walking into the river and she stopped as the water came up to her waist. I saw this as a God-given revelation so that my grandma would benefit from God’s Covenant as she indeed believed in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and in the Holy Spirit. So through this revelation she was given the privilege of being baptized, otherwise we would have never known that she was seeking to be baptized. God in His mercy through Grandma’s faith in Christ lead us to the sacrament of baptism for her.

How could we ever understand the mystery of Jesus and the water as He said in His last few minutes prior to His death “I thirst”? Was this a test for humanity as He also did with Peter? Did He even need the water? He is God. Perhaps, my grandma could have been laying there crying out to be baptized since she could not tell us because she was in a coma, but God in His infinite mercy, revealed to my aunt and gave us the blessing of interpretation so that grandma could be baptized by water.

As found in John 3:16, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”.

Jesus thirsts. For what? I believe Jesus thirsts to satisfy our spiritual thirst. Not simply our thirst for a sip of water, or even our desire for pleasure, comfort or fulfillment. He thirsts to satisfy our deepest longing, our greatest desire – something that we often do not recognize in ourselves – our desire for God. St. Augustine wrote, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” We have been dehydrated. We have traveled places where we can’t drink the water. We’ve attempted to satisfy our thirst with addictions or dependent relationships, and even with good and healthy things, but nothing satisfies us like the water of life given by Jesus Christ.

Humanity denied a drink of water for Jesus in His last few minutes just prior to His death. While Jesus, even at this moment, crucified and nailed to the cross gave us an example of love as He died for us. Jesus, the life-giver, now thirsts. Jesus, the life-giver, is now pierced with a spear. And from his side flows water and blood, “a spring of water welling up to eternal life”. John 4:14.

Jesus thirsts to satisfy our thirst. Today I invite you, whether for the first time or once more, to take that water and drink.

Revelation 21:6, “I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.”

And, John 4:14, “but whomever drinks the water I give them, will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Amen.

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