Jesus Said 'I Thirst'
Fri 20th March
Jesus’ fifth word on the Cross, and the second word as recorded by John is to express that he is physically drained out and is need of a drink. This word follows after Jesus’ affirmation of men and women in partnership for mission from the words he spoke to his mother and disciple (John 19: 26 & 27) After bridging the gap between woman and man in the mission of God, Jesus as he says that he thirsts, he tries to bridge the gap between divinity and humanity within him. Of the seven words from the Cross, this fifth word of Jesus is the sole expression of his physical need that he thirsts. The missiological relevance of this word of Jesus to us today in our contexts is discussed here.
Mission as Breaking the Grounds of Stereotypes
Jesus’ word on the Cross that he thirsts projects a different Jesus to the audience of John. This first century audience to whom John wrote his gospel knew Jesus as ‘Logos’, who became flesh and dwelled among them. John further introduced Jesus to his audience as living water, as living bread, as life, as truth, as way, as resurrection as light, as door etc. metaphors, which emphasized Jesus to be the divine son of God. In the context of Gnosticism, to which John addresses his gospel, divine was understood in the parameters of being far away from all physical pain and needs. Towards the end of his gospel, when John records Jesus’ physical need of being thirsty, he provides a lead in breaking the grounds of stereotype that Jesus was above the physical need. The divine Logos crying out for a drink or water was path breaking in the perception about Jesus that his dying on the Cross was in pain and was real. This shout for a drink bridges the gap between the divine Logos and human Jesus.
In our situations today, stereotyping has been the norm in oppressing and discriminating people. Gender stereotypes, racial stereotypes, caste stereotypes etc, have been deploring and are not allowing our communities to transform. Mission today therefore is to break open the stereotypes in our communities and provide a space for the people to be empowered and liberated. Dalits today are stereotyped that they have to perform their traditional caste jobs of manual scavenging, leather works etc. and are forced into it. And any affirmative actions like reservations are provided to Dalits; immediately there is a hue and cry that merit should be the norm of the day. Mission engagements therefore are to break such norms and stereotypes and pave the way for transformation in our communities.
Mission as Breaking the Grounds of Complacency
To the audience of John, Jesus was already introduced as living waters and when they heard at the end from the Cross that Jesus thirsts, they would have been perplexed. Can a living spring be drained out? Can perennial waters dry away? Can the living Spirit of God, which hovered on the waters at the time of creation, shout for a drink? Can the creator of waters thirst? These would have been some of the questions that emerged to the audience of John as they read out that Jesus thirsts. But such a shout from the perspective of Jesus was to express that he is not complacent. A living spring can certainly dry up for reasons known and therefore cries out to quench his thirst. If Jesus had been complacent thinking that there is no need of a pain or a thirst, his incarnation as flesh would be put to risk. On the contrary Jesus expressed his need and countered the very idea of being complacent. Neither the sour vinegar offered by the crowd around the Cross nor the tears of heaven could quench Jesus’ thirst, which very well explains the breaking of complacency by Jesus on the Cross. Jesus died on the Cross thirsty.
In our situations today, complacency has been the greatest ploy to which humanity is caught up with. Complacency breeds greed and greed breeds corruption and corruption breeds contempt. The very act of sharing and caring is countered by being complacent. Selfishness is the other expression of complacency, which is against the spirit of community living. Mission today is to break down the grounds of complacency, which is highly rampant in our societies. Churches today have become very comfortable in their arm chaired theologies and ideologies and are complacent with their properties and salvations. By being complacent the churches are unable to listen to those voices of needs that are expressed from within and from outside the vicinities of the Churches. Mission calls for a repentance from all of us for being complacent and selfish.
Mission as Breaking the Grounds of Thirstiness
Jesus’ saying he thirsts certainly is in resonance with those thirsty across the nations and across the histories. At this point Jesus happens to be like a dry riverbed asking people around and God to quench his thirst. Jesus, who was a perennial stream of living waters, watered all his life, quenched the thirst of several people, was split into several tributaries and turned several deserted lives into green pastures is now thirsty. A large variety of species of flora and fauna took life from Jesus the living waters. Due to human errors, especially errors based on greed and power, the living water took on the pollution and other waste onto him. As a result the living waters had to be put on the Cross and hangs there as a dry river, without a drop of water in him. So from the Cross, Jesus cries out that he thirsts. Jesus’ thirstiness is a solidarity cry with all those dry rivers, with all those waterless lives, with all those that are thirsty for life and with all those that are enduring drought and awaiting some showers in their lives. Thirstiness echoes the cry of death on one hand, and on the other it is the cry of those struggling to live. It is also a cry calling for affirmative action in quenching that thirst. Jesus when he says that he thirsts, he is warning death and drought that they will be defeated soon for showers of new life are to rain. Jesus when he says he thirsts, it is a call on the creatures in this creation to repent for such a thirst created by them and calls on to intervene and quench the thirst. Jesus breaks the grounds of thirstiness by his saying ‘I thirst.’
In our situations today, when the whole creation is groaning in pains of thirstiness, awaiting life, this saying of Jesus challenges us to address thirst and those that are thirsty. When one billion people across the globe do not have access to safe drinking water, their cry of thirstiness is a challenge for the Church to address. Several rivers are drying up due to the increase in the temperatures in the climate, excess turbidity, increase of nitrogen pollutants, decrease in oxygen levels are all looming facts in the increase of thirstiness. Mission today is to engage in breaking such grounds of thirstiness by protecting our creation. On the other hand, lack of access to water for Dalits in India is still a reality, for caste people think Dalits pollute their drinking waters. They cry out, “We thirst.” Who shall quench their thirst? Mission today is to repent for our human errors, which have caused to the creation, which are beyond repair. On the 22nd March, let us call to observe World Water Day, let us repent of our callous attitudes towards creation and let us pledge to safeguard our nature and let us strive to provide access of safe and protected water to those that are in thirstiness.
To quench the thirst of Jesus and those that are thirsty around the world, let justice flows down like a never-ending stream, so clear, so pure and life giving. May we become the tributaries of justice and life to all those that are groaning in thirstiness. Jesus died thirsty, and many people are dying out of thirst, let us awake to be the showers of life. For the healing of nations, let us all become the waters of healing!May God bless our initiatives for water justice and let justice roll down like waters, let righteousness flow like a never ending stream!
Rev Raj Patta is a presbyter in the United Stockport Circuit.