The Last Word on Need

. 4 min read

Mar 2018, Christ Mountain Top
to Worship, Psalm 69.1-21, 29
Exodus 17.1-7
John 19.23-30
sketch in elementary school – for combing hair!
am thirsty (John 19:28).
may suppose that Jesus really is thirsty; but he is thirsty only by his
volition, because of his awareness that there is a prophecy to be realized”
(Loisy, cited by Brown, 928).
      Thirsty because he chooses to be thirsty?
Simply to fulfill Scripture?
      Have you ever been around a dying person?
Put a sponge to their chapped lips, wiped down the inside of their mouth?
      Jesus was thirsty because he was dying.
When humans die, they get thirsty – even if they are not executed in a
particularly painful way.
yet, John’s gospel is clearly full of metaphor and much very interesting
language around thirst, water, and drink – all of which should properly inform
our reading of this section.
      “The work of the Son, the thirst of the
Son through the Spirit, is nothing less than the Father’s thirst for us. God
desires us to desire God” (Hauerwas, 77).
      But we cannot separate the human from the
divine. Jesus is not 50/50. He is 100% God and 100% human. At the very same
      Incarnation a name for a mystery, not an
explanation of the mystery (Hauerwas, 75)

A big part of the mystery of the incarnation is the emptying and humiliation of
Jesus to death, to death on a cross (Philippians 2.5-11). “Am I not to
drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11).
      Does Jesus thirst to drain that cup of
death, that cup of pain, to the very bottom, to finish the last drop? So often
today, we flee pain. Medical practice at one point added pain as an additional
vital sign and we have been told, “You don’t need to have pain.” It is one of
the many steps toward today’s opioid epidemic. To what degree do we need to
learn to accept and even embrace pain? Honestly, I don’t know how to answer
that question in a way that answers the very personal questions we have about
our own particular pains. I just know that it is an important question with
which we must wrestle. “Am I not to drink the cup?”
      On Jesus’ emptying and humiliation, Peter
Chrysologus, an ancient “father” of the church, wrote in a sermon, “By allowing
himself to be taken captive, he overpowered his opponent. By submitting, he
overcame him. By his own execution, he penalized his enemy, and by dying he
opened the door to the conquest of death for his whole flock.”
 Jesus said to her,
“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,  14 but those who drink of the
water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give
will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”  15 The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep
coming here to draw water.”
 Jesus said to them,
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and
whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
 On the last day of
the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out,
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 
38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture
has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living
water.'”  39 Now he said
this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there
was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
ritual that was borrowed by prophets like Zechariah and Ezekiel to describe a
river flowing out from Jerusalem, or out from the altar at the temple, bringing
life to the whole world.
here, at the very end, water flows from Jesus: John 19:34  one of the soldiers pierced his side with a
spear, and at once blood and water came out.
an irony that Jesus, presented by this gospel as the Living Water itself, is
himself thirsty!
      And how unsatisfactory is the drink
provided by the world! Scholars debate whether or not this drink was offered in
compassion or mockery, partly because of the witness of other gospels. One
commentator points out that this appears to be the favorite drink of Roman
soldiers (Bruner, 1113). Even if offered in compassion, and even if it was
their favorite drink, it hardly satisfies. Alcohol only amplifies thirst.
      That’s why we struggle with addiction of
all kinds. We are seeking to supply what we need (quite legitimately), we are
searching to satisfy our thirst, but only find what does not satisfy. And what
does not satisfy only enhances our deeper desire, and the only thing available
is what does not satisfy. No wonder that Samaritan woman had had five husbands
and was now living with a sixth man. Not because she had some kind of moral
disability, but because the only thing the world has to offer for our thirst is
profoundly unsatisfying. No wonder one pastor tells his story – and it is not
exactly unique – that he and his wife, who were in love with each other, got
married early in their relationship so that they could have sex before the
rapture, which they thought was coming any time. Sex is great. Love is great. They
are good things – God-created for our pleasure. But alone they do not satisfy.
And if we use them – or anything else – as a substitute for what only God can
provide, we will find ourselves addicted.
      Jeremiah 2:13  My people have committed two evils: they have
forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves,
cracked cisterns that can hold no water.
      What we need, WHO we need, is Jesus. He is
the only one who satisfies.
Hauerwas, Cross-Shattered Christ
Moltmann, The Crucified God
Dale Bruner, The Gospel of John
Brown, The Gospel According to John
A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke
Graham Scroggie, Guide to the Gospels