John 19:28 - “Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’”
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When she ran out of food and water, it became a desperate attempt at survival. The human body can go for several weeks without food, but only a few days without water. Linda finally found a crevice in a rock that provided shade from the sun and had a slight trickle of water. She placed her canteen under the trickle but it took most of a day to get enough to drink. She had no food. A few times she thought she heard the sounds of people and aircraft, but she could never attract anyone’s attention.
20 days after she had gone missing, she was found...sun-burned, barely conscious, and out of water. She was quickly taken to a hospital, where she recovered.
When you’re thirsty, you can’t think about anything else. When you’re thirsty, you are going to preoccupied with getting to that which can quench your thirst.
Thirst is a painful wanting. An eager longing-for.
In the original New Testament Greek of this quote from Jesus, it’s just one word. “Dipso.” “I thirst.” The word appears 15 other times in the New Testament, mostly in the gospels. Here are a few of the other occurrences:
Matthew 5:6 - “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Matthew 25:35 - “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…”
John 4:13-14 - “‘Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.’ ‘Please sir,’ the woman said, ‘Please give me this water.’”
And here’s what’s interesting about this word from the cross in the Gospel of John. Listen to what else the verse says: “Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’” Jesus had just about wrapped up his job. Jesus had done what he came to do. Yet, even before he died and was resurrected, Jesus said, “I thirst.” Because even though Jesus had finished his work on earth, the world was not healed. After all, it was the sinfulness of the world that put him there in the first place. From that very moment, Jesus was thirsty for a healed and redeemed world.
But...we ourselves also come...thirsty.
Thirst is a painful wanting, an eager longing-for. When you’re thirsty, everything else gets blocked out. Your need is desperate. But it's as if Jesus said in Matthew 5:6, ‘When it comes to righteousness, I want you to be like Linda Forney in the blazing sun of the Grand Canyon.’ Jesus says that we should want righteousness so badly hat it consumes our life...every decision we make, every word we speak, every dollar we spend...consumed with our thirst for righteousness. What would that look like?
In the face of our violent world, may it be the followers of Christ who live with a consuming thirst for peace. In the face of our politically and racially divided world, may it be the followers of Christ who live with a consuming thirst for reconciliation. In the face of vast corporate greed and corruption and special interests, may it be the followers of Christ who live with a consuming thirst for justice. In the face of individualism, lone rangers, and every man for himself, may it be the followers of Christ who live with a consuming thirst for community. In the face of sin, may it be the followers of Christ who live with a consuming thirst for righteousness.
By the way, I told you that Linda Forney survived getting lost in the Grand Canyon. I told you she was eventually found. But I didn’t tell you who found her. She was finally found by a Native American tribe who lived in the area. She was finally found by people who knew their way around the canyon. She was not found by rangers who looked and called from a safe distance. She was not found by search teams flying high overhead. She was found by those who know what it’s like to live in the canyon.
And you and I, brothers and sisters, can only bring the living water of Christ to those who hunger and thirst when we ourselves bear their burdens and meet them where they are.