“The Thirst of God”

Cathy Harris – Plainfield Friends Meeting – Good Friday service – 4/10/20

John 19:16-42


Welcome to our online worship service here at Plainfield Friends! I am very glad you are joining us for our Good Friday service. We also invite you to join us for our online Easter service to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus – and that should be available online sometime tomorrow – Saturday.

Let us pray together:
Lord Jesus,
In your love, you came to us, reached out to us, and searched for us.
You gave your life for us – and for this, we are grateful.
We ask forgiveness for the ways and times in which we have failed you – we are grateful for fresh starts. We do live by your grace and your love.
We pray for our community, our loved ones – and be with those who cannot have visitors right now and those who are unable to visit loved ones – in hospitals or nursing homes – and remind them that they are not alone – you are present with them.
We ask that you meet us – in this moment – right where we are.
Help us – individually and as a faith community – to continue to be Your light in the world around us. Lord, be with the doctors, nurses, and emergency workers who are battling the virus on the front lines, and we ask your healing hand be on those who are sick. May we continue to look to you. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen

So – grab your Bible – and let’s get started! Today – we are reading from the Gospel of John 19.
I would encourage you to take some time today or tomorrow to read through the whole story of Jesus’ arrest and death – all of chapters 18 and 19 in the Gospel of John.

John 19:16:-42

Finally, Pilate handed him [Jesus] over to them to be crucified.
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”
22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.
24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”
This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,
“They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”
So this is what the soldiers did.
25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 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. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” 37 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”
38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.
40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.


In Fleming Rutledge’s book, “The Seven Last Words from the Cross”, she writes:
“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, the might of Niagara and the tinkle of the garden fountain, the One from whose being flows the gift of the water of eternal life – this is the One who is dying of a terrible thirst on the Cross for the love of his lost sheep.”

When was the last time you were really thirsty? On a hot summer day hiking in the woods with a canteen near empty? On a beach or by a pool – sizzling under the sun? Eating salty popcorn in a movie theater? Or maybe feeling thirsty from eating a salty meal?  But even in those times, it probably didn’t require much effort to satisfy your thirst.

I have felt thirsty in all of those circumstances, but the one that stands out the most to me now was when Tom and I had gone to Colorado for vacation. With the much higher altitude – compared to Indiana! – your body needs extra water as you adjust to the change in altitude – especially if it’s hot outside.

Tom and I had gone to a park up in the mountains – Steamboat Lake State Park – Tom went fishing on the lake, I sat on the tailgate of the pickup truck and read a book that day, and every once in a while I would get up and take a walk around part of the lake and take some pictures – it was beautiful and peaceful. We had packed a picnic lunch, and I had packed a couple of bottles of water for each of us. I drank mine and was still really thirsty. I drove the truck around to the far side of the lake to a little camp store and bought 2 large bottles of water – the sun was hot that day – I was wearing a hat – but we had gone up a few thousand feet to get to the park, and I was really thirsty. I drank over one gallon of water that day – but it didn’t matter how much water I drank, I needed more – I was still thirsty.

And yet – that was nothing compared to the thirst that Jesus experienced on the cross. As Jesus was dying on the cross, he said, “I thirst”. There were 7 phrases that Jesus said as he was dying. They are often referred to as “the last 7 words of Jesus”. They are actually 7 phrases.

The first phrase is a prayer of forgiveness – Jesus forgives the people who have executed him.
Then he promises one of the criminals hanging on a cross next to him that he will forgive him and that he will go to Paradise that very day. The 3rd thing Jesus says from the cross is when he talks to his best friend, John, and to his mother. He asks John to take care of his mother after he dies.

If I were one of Jesus’ early followers, I don’t think I would be surprised by the first three things that Jesus said – and those all seem to fit Jesus’ personality from what we are told in the Gospels.
But things turn a corner with the 4th and 5th phrases – when Jesus quotes Psalm 22, saying, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” – and then when Jesus says, “I thirst”. There is no doubt that this thirst is a physical thirst … Jesus is exhausted and parched and how could you not be after all he had been through?

In nearly all of the stories about Jesus ministry – while he was traveling around during those three years, we hear him teaching and healing – we see and experience the spiritual side of Jesus. And now, when he’s dying on the cross, we see Jesus’ physical pain and needs: “I thirst”.

This brief phrase from Jesus on the cross – “I thirst” – is interesting when we think about it – because Jesus repeatedly told the disciples and different people that HE – Jesus – was the ultimate one who could quench their thirst.

Jesus said (to the woman at the well), “Whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again” – it was a claim that Jesus made many times. He also said, “All who are thirsty should come to me, and from them shall flow rivers of living water!”

I really like those verses from Romans 7:38: Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

To me, this says that Jesus is the one who can quench our thirsts – and that not only does Jesus quench our thirst, but we will be given rivers of living water that will flow from us – to help quench the thirsts we in others around us.

And now here is Jesus – on the cross – the one who quenches other people’s thirst – he’s now thirsty? He probably was really thirsty. I don’t doubt that at all. But I also know that in the Bible, to “thirst” usually means that someone is thirsty for more than water.

To thirst in scripture is to yearn – to long for – to be desperate with desire for something.

In the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus blessed those who hunger and thirst – not for water – but those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – for justice.

And in Psalm 42:2, the Psalmist says: blessed are those who want God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven – the Psalmist is saying that they thirst for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven as if they were desperate for a drink of water after a week in the desert. And then the Psalmist prays, “My whole being thirsts for God, for the living God”.

What is it – today – that you yearn for – long for – thirst for – from God?

After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, civil unrest broke out in the city. The general who was in charge of helping to provide aid made the comment to someone, “if you keep potable water – safe drinking water – from the people, they will destroy the city to get a drink of water.”
They were thirsty.

Augustine said that, “Our hearts are restless” – our hearts are thirsty – “until they find rest in God.”

In Jesus’ deep anguish and in his thirsting, they offered him a sponge with vinegar on a stick. But Jesus was thirsty for more than water. Jesus had a deep thirst that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

But maybe – when Jesus cries out, “I thirst” from the cross, he isn’t talking about OUR thirst or OUR hunger – Jesus says, “I thirst.” Not you, not me. Jesus said, “I thirst”.

And maybe Jesus wasn’t even thirsty for water – maybe he was thirsty for us. Is that not a fair summary of most of scripture – God loves us? We see over and over again in scripture that God is determined – through creation, through the words of the prophets and the teaching of the law, and through the birth of Christ – to get close to us. God thirsts to be close with us – and it is an unquenchable thirst.

God is not impersonal or aloof. God is shockingly personal – and available to us – and present to us and with us. Perhaps God thirsts for us – perhaps God wholeheartedly gives himself to us – through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection – because of his love for us. 

God is before us today – naked, exposed, and on a cross – taking on the sins of the world.
Jesus’ words – “I thirst” – are another way of revealing God’s utter self-giving love for us.

Yes, we thirst for God. But on this day – this “Good Friday” – or “God’s Friday” – it is God that thirsts – longs for us.

As we close this time of worship, join me in listening to Daryl Osborne – one of our members here at Plainfield Friends – Daryl will be singing and playing his guitar – a song that he wrote several years ago, and this week, he wrote a new verse to that song.

The name of his song is, “The Time We Share: A Caregivers Prayer”.
Daryl’s song, his guitar music and his voice – are beautiful and very comforting – especially for the difficult time we find ourselves in with the Corona virus and especially today – Good Friday – as we pause to reflect on Jesus’ life and death – and how that has changed our lives. Amen.

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