Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Bishop’s Note: March 19, 2015 – The Last Words of Jesus #5

“I thirst.”

Bishop Eric Menees

The last words of Jesus as he hung on the cross have penetrated the years to reach the hearts and minds of countless Christians and non-Christians. Of the seven last words, the statement above represents the only reference to Jesus’ physical struggle.

We cannot begin to imagine the pain and suffering that Jesus underwent.  Not only did he have the nails pounded through his wrists and feet and then lifted high upon the cross like other men who are crucified, but he was also stripped, mocked, beaten, and had a gnarled crown of thorns shoved down on his head. He had been without food or drink since the night before, when he instituted the sacrament of Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper. Therefore, it is obvious that Jesus would be thirsty.

However, John tells us that it was more than physical thirst that caused Jesus to utter these words – it was his desire to fulfill scripture: “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” (John 19:28 ESV) What was the scripture that Jesus fulfilled? King David, centuries before, wrote these words about the coming Messiah: They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” (Psalm 69:21 ESV)

St. John tells us that the soldiers who were there responded to Jesus’ statement: “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.” (John 19:29 ESV) This “sour wine” is what the Roman Soldiers would drink both to quench thirst and to provide a mild analgesic. It appears as though this was an act of kindness from the soldiers, though I suppose we’ll never truly know if this was done in kindness or in a mocking gesture – in either case, the Word of God tells us that this was prophesied centuries before Jesus’ crucifixion.

That Jesus suffered physically, emotionally, and spiritually is a fact. The question is: How do we respond to Jesus’ statement? Does it evoke sadness within us? Do we identify with his thirst? Do you recognize that Jesus suffered so greatly not only for the people “out there” beyond your scope and knowledge, but that he suffered for YOU?

This Lord’s Day, as you receive the gift the Lord’s body and blood, remember his words to the woman at the well: “Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14 ESV)

Jesus suffered so that you and I may never thirst again.  And to that I say, AMEN!

I pray you all a truly Holy Lent!

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