Fifth Word “I thirst”
Jesus’ only word concerning His physical anguish on the cross was that He was thirsty. Is thirsty. It wasn’t the first time that Jesus had asked for a drink. He asked a Samarian woman to draw water from a well. Jesus told her that the water He offered would quench her thirst forever. On another occasion, He proclaimed, “If a man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” Yet on the cross, the Source of living water thirsted.
I spent a lot of time reading all the theological meditations on “I thirst”. How thirsty am I for the Lord? How often do I come to Jesus to satisfy my thirst? How can we quench His thirst? He tells us that whoever believes in me, rivers of living water will flow from within them.
“I thirst” is also the shortest of the words that are recorded from Jesus lips on the cross. IN Greek it is just one word, Dipso. We know that part of the agony of the words that Jesus suffered in His scourging and upon the cross is ….thirst. When the body loses a great deal of blood, a tremendous all consuming thirst is produced. In war terrible cries of those abandoned on the field of battle is, “water, water. . .” At this point in His passion, Jesus shows His human side and has a burning thirst. Crucifixion was designed to be slow torture for criminals. The victim, though horribly traumatized by being nailed to the cross, actually died from slow loss of blood and slow strangulation. It is want of water and want of air that does the killing. Now here on the cross in the mystery of the incarnation God gets inside human suffering. Most of us, I imagine, are afraid of death in one way or another. Here Jesus tastes of this suffering. Now, there is truly no place where we might have to go where He has not gone before.
There are slow deaths like one may find on ones final days on earth. There are thirsts caused by a different kink of bleeding of the soul, the identity. The inner self of the person can die slowly for want of life-giving water and life-giving breathe. We can be spiritually and emotionally dried up. We can live a life day by day that is bleeding us dry. Every day we could feel less vital than the day before. Some of us may know what it is to have a burning- all consuming thirst, to say from the depths of your soul, “I thirst!”
Some of us may have a life which causes us to say in agony, “I am suffocating!”,”I can’t breathe!” Each of us have had times like that in our lives. You may be having a time like that right now!
Christ felt thirst and asked relief, that in all my grief and pain I might know of His sympathy.
We can comfort Him by thirsting for Him. The inward dryness we feel is His thirst in Us!
The one who created the seas needs a drink of water. Somehow we understand that Jesus is very man as well as very God. He is forever committed to be one with you and me. “I thirst” is assurance of understanding at the throne. At the heart of God is one who knows what it is to be human and to suffer- to be alone- to hurt- to cry- to thirst.
This past November I witnessed the suffering of my mother. A woman whose life was an arrow pointing to Her Lord. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic cancer just a few days before Thanksgiving. This devil had riddled her bones and organs with cancer so much that her bone scan looked like a Christmas tree!
I was privileged to be by her side for almost every minute of her final 7 weeks on earth. I could tell you about my mothers joy, her gratitude, about how the angels came to her at night and I heard them talking, about how she thanked everyone she saw from the “environmental health” lady who swept her floor in the hospital to the guys who battled for a chance to transport her on the gurney to radiation to monseignor who visited her with communion and prayer to her precious Lord!
But this reflection is about a night on December 8th 2012. It was a profound experience with my mother that wasn’t joyful and pleasant. In fact it will, up to now, be the single most horrific experience I have ever experienced. It was a Saturday afternoon when the story starts. I was preparing a shower for my mom before heading off to watch my son play basketball. I walked in her room to help her get in the shower and I found mom back n bed and she told me that her pain was so bad she couldn’t walk to the shower. That night, I decided to sleep in her room. I just felt that that night mom may need me. We started out the evening watching a DVD of Downtown Abbey and mom was taking her prescribed medicine to keep the pain to a dull roar. As the night became midnight, we started to pray together. I also started to read her a book called A Place of Healing. The book was all about aligning your suffering with meaning. With Christ. I must have read to her for 4 hours straight with breaks for prayer. Earnest prayer where we both praised God for He is good. We would comment every now and then on the beautiful concepts and to remark on the coincidence that the author too had extreme dibilitaiting pain. And as the night meandered on, moms pain was worsening. In fact she was not getting any relief from her medicine. We pleaded with God to take this cup form her, to spare His servent, to heal her. Please please Lord, if it is your will take this cup from her. Sound familiar?
And yet at the same time and I am not kidding when I tell you this. . .Mom Praised Him! Thanking Him over and over again. . .Thank you my Lord. Thank you my God.
As the sun rose, I called moms doctor and he said I should bring mom to the emergency room. . .but the problem was that she may have broken bones in her body and she couldn’t move, she couldn’t walk at all. So I called an ambulance to take her. But the story is going to get worse because the only way the parametics could get her downstairs was to seat her broken body in a metal chair and carry her downstairs one step at a time. Jarring her along the way. . .Every small shift would be unbearable. I prayed and cried in the hallway as my moms voice rose to a loud pitch, crying to her Lord. My God, My Lord! Wait please slow down, don’t jerk me. . .Please! I was so devastated. So hopeless and all I could do was pray and cry. And I looked at my sweet husband and prayed my kids wouldn’t wake up!
We finally got her to the gurney, and drove about 3 miles per hour to Northside, the parametics were so wonderful being so sensitive to her pain at every pot hole!
And then they informed us at the hospital, that she would need a CT scan to determine why she was in so much pain. This sent her and me into a panic! But what could they do? Mom pleaded with her eyes. She begged for another way, I consulted with by radiologist friend Bob. Wasn’t there another way??
But it still required her body to be moved onto a hard metal table. I went with mom and the transport crew who slowly moved her to the scan room. I realized I am a coward! I can’t stand here and cry again and watch human torture. Especially of my mother. I had never seen torture before like this. I walked into the waiting room the coward that I am, so the technicians could be the bad guys. And then I heard her crys. And the Holy Spirit took hold of me. . .those of you may know what I mean when I say this because you feel Him physically yanking you by the collar! It wasn’t me who walked back in the her room, it was me being led by Him. . .And I stood at the top of her head and told her that she was so close to Christ right now. That she was on the cross. Right next to Christ. Couldn’t she feel His breathe? I told her that He was with her and as the tech’s put her broken body onto the CT scan she was calm and able to stay still for 15 minutes. It was a literal miracle because she couldn’t stay still in a stretched out position before. I told her to breathe in the Holy Spirit and with that she calmed down. It was God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. They gave me those comforting words because I, “Heather” was a coward. God game me the strength to be with my mother in her most horrific pain. And the Holy Spirit the Great Consoler- calmed her down. And so we all climbed up on the cross that day.
And when you climb up on the cross with Him, because He thirsts for us, because He is with us in our suffering and so much more. . .When we do our eyes focus on Him and on His love, His grace, the blessing He gives us even in the middle of our sufferings. My mother was a beautiful woman but her beauty came from Him. She rejoiced that she had been counted worthy to suffer for His sake- and so her last day on earth, I read the readings to her in her comatose state. They spoke of believing in Him and that in our belief we are saved and that Christ is not interested in our physical healing but in our spiritual healing and with that reading I had peace that my mother is with her saviour today.
So If we can keep our gaze vertial then He will complete the beauty of the cross with the horizontal reach of His arms. He thirsts for us to be near Him, nearer that we are. He wants to have us all to Himself. He is our beloved and we are His.
I learned that to cultivate the spirit of surrender, we may be happy to carry a cross which Jesus has carried before us.
From His thirst He gives dignity to misery, treasure in poverty, consolation in pain,. Our crosses are expressions of His thirst for us. An invitation to love Him as He loves us, to share in the great work of redemptive love.