Thursday, March 29, 2018

Holy Week 2018 | The Seven Last Words from the Cross Part 5: I Thirst



Holy Week 2018 Seven Last Words from the Cross Reflection | Maundy Thursday


“I Thirst.”

John 19:28-29

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 
29 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.


Fifth Reflection Reading

John goes to extra trouble to show how Psalm 22 is fulfilled in Jesus' actions: the Crucifixion was planned in the mind of God from the beginning. In John, Jesus is not only aware of this fulfillment of Scripture; He is also consciously enacting it even from the Cross. Psalm 22 contains these words: "My strength is dried up like a postherd (like baked clay), and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; thou dost lay me in the dust of death." So when He says "I thirst," John explains that he says it "knowing that all was now finished (to fulfill the Scripture)."

When the Lord Jesus says "I thirst," He is speaking, not only from His very real mortal weakness, but from His sovereign control of His own mission. This is the Son of God speaking, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Even in the midst of His helpless condition, He is manifestly aware of His divine destiny. This is the way that John has portrayed the Lord throughout his narrative, from beginning to end. In chapter 10 of John's Gospel, Jesus says, "I lay down My life for (My) sheep. ... No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from My Father" (John 10:15, 18). The Crucifixion is not an accident, not a mistake. It is the deliberate self-offering of the Good Shepherd for you and me. And so when Jesus says "I thirst," it is to show that He is fulfilling His purpose according to the plan of God from the beginning for us. The One who gives the calm of lakes and pools, the freshness of brooks and streams, the majestic depths of seas and oceans, the glory of pounding surf, and the might of Niagara, the One from whose being flows the gift of the water of eternal life – this is the Good Shepherd who is dying of a terrible thirst on the Cross in our place. He is doing this for His lost sheep.

+ Fleming Rutledge, The Seven Last Words from the Cross

Laying down His life is absolute obedience, abandonment, loss of control, committing all to the Father. Jesus is eager for this. "I thirst" is essential to His not stopping short of going all the way in the abandonment of self.

"The cup the Father has given Me," Jesus says, "am I not to drink it?" He thirsts to drink the cup to its final dregs. It is true that in the Fourth Gospel He trusts that the Father will not finally abandon Him. "I am never alone because the Father is with Me." But that trust is vindicated only after the cup is emptied. The glory of the cross is precisely in the free abandonment that lets everything go. So I think we make no mistake when we hear Psalm 22 in the words "I thirst."

+ Fr. Richard John Neuhaus

Jesus’s thirsting and His suffering in accordance with the prophecy in Psalm 22 is a reminder that this Jesus is Israel’s son. Israel’s suffering, her abandonment, comes to a climax in the cross of Jesus. Finally in this “I thirst” we see the end of Israel’s Christ-haunted sufferings. And the end of each of ours.

Jesus’ obedience for us matters, and it is an obedience that costs. He has a cup to drink, but it is the cup of death and justice for us. We know the costs from His prayer in Gethsamane that this cup be removed. But the cup cannot be removed if we are to be saved from the dryness and decay that is our lives. And the work of the Son, the thirst of the Son through the Spirit, is nothing less than to pour God out for our thirst for Him. We were created to thirst for God (Psalm 42) in a “dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63). Our response to those who ask how we can ever come to worship Jesus is to simply ask, “Do you not need to eat and drink?” Our God, our thirsty God, is the One capable of saying to us: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me, and let the one who believes in Me drink" (John 7:37).

+ Stanley Hauerwas, Cross-Shattered Christ 

Reflection Song

In My Place
By Michael Bleecker
2008 A.D.

In my place, He stood condemned.
He who knew no sin
Became sin for us
That we may become His righteousness.

Bearing all my sin and shame,
The punishment and blame,
He conquered the grave
That we might become, the heirs of grace.

In my place, Jesus died,
The spotless Lamb laid down His life.
The wrath of God was satisfied,
In my place, Jesus died.

Next post: Holy Week 2018 | The Seven Last Words from the Cross Part 6: It Is Finished

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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