April 9, 2020
“I thirst.”— John 19:28 —
Any extended reflection on Jesus’ death should strike us with the scandal of his human-ness.
It’s tempting, from reading John’s gospel, to witness this moment and think of Jesus checking off the last item on a list of prophecy he has to fulfill as God’s divine Messiah. John 19:28 specifically mentions that this was “to fulfill the Scripture,” probably this line:
“For my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.“— Psalm 69:21 —
If we read the synoptic (“same point-of-view”) gospels — Matthew, Mark, and Luke — this moment seems to be more torture or mocking. Jesus is visibly, audibly, in agony on the cross, and it is unclear from context why some of the soldiers or servants offer up this wine vinegar: maybe to torment him further, or maybe to attempt to soothe him?
We shouldn’t spiritualize this. Jesus was a human, and experienced thirst (John 4:6-7). As he died, he needed a drink. Some of us know the burden of caring for someone who is dying, giving them swabs of water or ice chips to comfort and soothe them. Jesus, fully human, experienced this simple, substantial pain and need, sharing our suffering.
Today, on this Maundy Thursday, I am reminded that Jesus asks us to love and serve each other (John 13:14-15) in our human need. Who do you know today who is in need? How has God equipped you to help that person?
I am also reminded of the promise Jesus gave his disciples that night, at supper:
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”— Mark 14:23-25 —
Jesus will satisfy all our needs, all our thirst, when we drink his cup new in his kingdom, sharing that rich, full communion with all those who have died to the Lord.
Come, Lord Jesus!
you were tempted in every way we are (but didn’t sin)
and you sympathize with our weaknesses.
Have mercy on us,
that me find your grace in our time of need.
In your name we pray,