For the seven days of Holy Week, our devotions will focus on the seven last words of Christ. At our Good Friday Worship at 7:00 p.m. on April 14, we will hear these words read aloud again and meditate upon them through prayer and song.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A 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. (John 19:28-29)
Jesus’ thirst is a reference to the lament Psalm 69:21. It is the faithful’s cry to God in the midst of suffering.
Jesus’ thirst shows us the human character of his death. I have sat at the bedside of many dying people. I have watched spouses, sons and daughter wipe their loved ones lips with a small, pink sponge of cold water. It’s an act of love and mercy to offer that small sign of care to ease the pain of dying.
A sponge soaked in vinegar on the dry lips of a dying man is a sign of relentless cruelty. Have you endured the cruelty of others? Have you refused mercy to someone suffering or dying? Jesus knew cruelty and the absence of compassion first hand. Through him, God shares in the suffering of those who cry out thirst or pain. And Jesus promises a different ending for you and for all humanity.
In fact, Jesus promised that whoever drank from his living water would never thirst again. (John 4:10, 13-14). The water Jesus gives will become a spring of water in our hearts gushing up into eternal life. Jesus said that out of the believer’s heart living water will overflow (John 7:37-38).
How different God is from those who placed the vinegar sponge on Jesus’ lips. God loves us so much through Jesus that God gives us even more love than we need. God gives us too much love because God wants us to overflow with love for our family, our friends, strangers, and in some mysterious way, even those who are cruel.
Prayer: Merciful God, Bless the dying and remove their pain and distress. When I am cruel, turn my heart and my hands to mercy and compassion. Jesus, source of living water, may I drink of you and live. Amen