Thursday, March 20, 2008

I Thirst

Jon Burnham delivered this meditation on John 19:28 for the Tre Ore Service on Good Friday at Salem Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas on March 21, 2008.

As he hanged upon the tree on that Good Friday, Jesus felt the terrible thirst of dehydration that comes to all who suffer from crucifixion. Being the good Jew that he was, even in his deathly delirium, Jesus' mind churned through the Hebrew Bible. He remembered the Psalm of David when was in the Desert of Judah, "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water." (Ps 63:1-3)

Then the lyrics from Psalm 69 seared his broken heart:

Scorn has broken my heart
       and has left me helpless;
       I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
       for comforters, but I found none.

 They put gall in my food
       and gave me vinegar for my thirst. (Verses 20-21)

From childhood he recalled these lines from Psalm 143:

I remember the days of long ago;
       I meditate on all your works
       and consider what your hands have done.

 I spread out my hands to you;
       my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.      
  Answer me quickly, O LORD;
       my spirit fails.
       Do not hide your face from me
       or I will be like those who go down to the pit. (Verses 5-7)

His racing heart then skipped on to the Prophet Isaiah:

"Come, all you who are thirsty,
       come to the waters;
       and you who have no money,
       come, buy and eat!
       Come, buy wine and milk
       without money and without cost. (Isaiah 55:1)

Finally, his parched throat silently moaned this Lamentation:

Even jackals offer their breasts
       to nurse their young,
       but my people have become heartless
       like ostriches in the desert.

Because of thirst the infant's tongue
       sticks to the roof of its mouth;
       the children beg for bread,
       but no one gives it to them.

Those who once ate delicacies
       are destitute in the streets.
       Those nurtured in purple
       now lie on ash heaps. (Lamentations 4:3-5)

With a sense of irony, Jesus remembered how he had told the woman at the well, "Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again. But no one who drinks the water I give will ever be thirsty again. The water I give is like a flowing fountain that gives eternal life."" Funny how things can sometimes get turned around. Right now his fountain felt dried up. Right now those words he had said made no sense to him. It is hard to be rational when dehydration sets in. Now the only flowing fountain he had to offer was his life blood that was spilling onto the ground.

There are many kinds of thirst and Jesus experienced them all as he died upon the cross. He thirsted for human compassion. He thirsted for God. He thirsted for a sip of water. Instead of giving him water, a jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. That's all he had coming on Good Friday. That's all the consolation he received. May God have mercy on us all.