I am thirsty.

Good Friday—Community Service; John 19:28-29

Hear this scripture from John’s gospel.

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 29A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth.

“I am thirsty,”—once again, when Jesus’ pain was more than he could bear, the words that rise up within him are the words of the psalms. Once again, Jesus moves into solidarity with us. There are times when life brings us to our knees, when words sound only like platitudes, or when words fail us altogether, there are times when only the psalms can give voice to what we really feel—anger that borders on rage, paranoia that we would otherwise be ashamed to admit, sorrow deeper than we can imagine, joy that is unspeakable, hope that is unshakeable. The full range of humanity is in the psalms, and for Jesus, as he hangs there, the psalms are the only place he has left to stand.

And psalm 69 gives voice to the place Jesus now inhabits. “Save me, O God, for the waters have risen up to my neck. I am sinking in deep mire, and there is no firm ground for my feet. I have come into the waters, and the torrent washes over me. I have grown weary with my crying; my throat is inflamed; my eyes have failed from looking for my God. Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; my lying foes who would destroy me are mighty…Let not the torrent of waters wash over me, neither let the deep swallow me up; do not let the Pit shut its mouth upon me…They gave me gall to eat, and when I was thirsty, they gave me vinegar to drink.”

This psalm is no longer just a hymn out of the tradition, but the deepest expression of Jesus’ deepest reality, but Jesus doesn’t quote the whole psalm, all he says is, “I am thirsty.”

“I am thirsty.” Thirst. It is everywhere. The people of God thirsted for water in the wilderness. The psalmist thirsts for the living God. In Isaiah, the land itself is thirsty. In Amos, God thirsts for justice; God thirsts for justice to roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream. In Matthew, Jesus thirsts for righteousness and commands us to give something to drink to the least of these. In John, it is the Samaritan woman who thirsts for the spring of water gushing up to eternal life.

Make no mistake. We thirst. God thirsts. Jesus thirsts. For justice, for righteousness, to know the Living God, to drink of the waters that will quench our parched souls, to taste of the wellspring of life. We long to thirst no more. We, like Jesus, are thirsty. And like Jesus, so much of what is given to us to satisfy our deepest thirst is sour wine, vinegar. It doesn’t satisfy our thirst. There is only one thing that can satisfy our thirst—the Living God, the One who has already taken up residence in our flesh, the Wellspring whose waters never fail.

The waters cut both ways—the torrent of waters can overwhelm us, threaten to drown us in the deep, but if we can open up to the deep, deep thirst in our souls, we can just as easily see that torrent of waters as a waterfall of God’s love pouring down upon us. We could just as easily see those waters rising as a spring of God’s life gushing up within us. These waters could just as easily be our very salvation. Can we, on this Good Friday, admit just how thirsty we are and allow God to fill us with the waters that never fail? Amen.

The Rev. Cynthia K. R. Banks
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Boone, NC
March 29, 2013