Thursday, April 9, #5: John 19:28: “I Thirst.”

Written by Rev. Grace Han, Pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Alexandria

Recently, my dad was hostialized for heart issues. For the first couple of days, his body was so weak that he could barely talk. And only when the most acute needs arose, then he would, with great effort, labor to say the words–I’m cold, I’m thirsty, I’m hungry.  These were incredibly painful words–words that were a stark reminder that his body was ailing. Even just saying the words exhausted him.

At the same time, we longed to hear him say these words, because in those days in the hospital, it was often the only words we heard him say, the few times we could hear his voice and hear his humanity. It was a reminder he was still alive and his body hadn’t given up. Every time he said these words, we would jump up to try to meet his need, our desperate attempt to assuage his suffering just a little bit.  He would take a sip of water and for a moment, find rest.  And then we would wait with great anticipation for his next words, hoping to meet his next need.

In those moments, I was struck with the irony of these words. While they were painful words, they were also words that gave us hope that he would get better.  Words that held in tension a body that was struggling and at the same time, a body seeking healing.

In our passage for today, we hear Jesus utter these words: “I thirst.”  It is one of the last things Jesus says before he bows his head to give up his spirit.  These are painful words, words that acknowledge the pain that accompanied his crucifixion and death. These are words that highlight his humanity, words that align Jesus to what makes us as humans so vulnerable. We grieve at hearing these words, we cry out with Jesus in these last moments of his earthly life.

And yet, these words also point to something else. Because while these words are painful, they are also words of hope, of life not yet over.  And in the gospel of John, these words point not to death, but to everlasting life.  Earlier in the gospel of John, Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well, and he offered her living water, telling her that those who drink of this water will never thirst again (John 4:1-15).  In John 7, Jesus invited those who were thirsty to come and drink from rivers of living water.  Long before Jesus uttered his own words of thirst, he anticipated our thirst and offered us a drink of this cool and refreshing water, water that would calm and soothe our very souls, water that would give us new life.

Unfortunately, we know too well what can happen when we are thirsty and we don’t have water.  In our passion narrative, when Jesus was thirsty, he was given sour wine, a drink that took his life instead of giving life. Shortly after drinking this, Jesus bowed his head and gave up his spirit. We know that our bodies are fallible and weak and that we are mortal.  And yet, in the midst of this very dark reality, Jesus offers us living water.  Come and drink, I will give you rest.

If you’ve missed any of our previous daily readings, you can find them all archived here. We hope these readings are helping you encounter God this season!