As we make our way toward Easter we are considering the last words of Jesus.
In John’s gospel we read “when Jesus knew that there was no more that could be done, he said in order to fulfill scripture “I am thirsty”. A jar of sour wine was standing by his cross. So, they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it up to his mouth and Jesus accepted it”. (John 19:28-30)
The life of Jesus is seeping away. His wounds bleed. Sweat pours from his body. He is dying of thirst. This is the cruel reality of human dying. A dying person becomes dehydrated. We all die in some way – thirsty.
Thirsty for what we can no longer have.
Jesus cries out for our most basic need – water.
It is the cry of all humanity as life drains away.
‘Give me what gives life. I cannot live without it’.
But a point arrives when there is no more that can be done.
Death has to be lived through.
So, for Jesus:
He has no more stories to tell.
No more wonderful healings.
This is not the time to turn water into wine.
There is no well nearby with a woman ready to fetch water for him.
Once he had stood in Jerusalem and shouted like an old time prophet: “Come to me all who thirst and I will give a real drink”. Not now.
All that Jesus has to offer now is his thirst.
Death is closing in.
He has nothing more to give to us – except his death.
And it is his death on the cross which is his final invitation – to watch and follow.
I have been with many dying people. I watched them slowly withdraw.
I think of my mother. All I could do was wait until it was all finished.
All I could do was to look on death and learn what I had to learn.
Jesus said, “I am thirsty”.
And in this cry Jesus asks the same. No turning away; no keeping at a distance.
But to look on the cross and learn what we have to learn.
A friend and I had many a discussion about God and the suffering in the world. As she grew older, she became more infirm living her last days in a wheelchair.
Shortly before her death I received a letter from her. She told me she could not carry on the discussion. She could say no more. She wrote, “For me the Cross is the clue not the explanation as to the necessity of suffering in the world. It hints at the direction we have to take. Jesus shows us that the path to wholeness is through suffering.
It is a suffering which acts like birth. Suffering is a birth which in the end is broken to pieces by death. And we die into a new way of existence”.
She was giving me a journey to take, and her words make me think and pray still.
On the cross Jesus is no beautiful Saviour.
He had no majesty.
He died ugly.
There was nothing in his appearance that would attract us.
But as we look upon the cross, he carries our diseases and by his bruises we are healed.
There is one last wonderful healing, and it is offered to us.
Revd John Rackley