When Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said, "I am thirsty." Thirst is something we all experience. I think of a long summer day, we want something to quench our thirst.
In Jesus own life, we have seen him perform his first miracle in Cana., turning water into wine, helping to quench the thirst at a wedding party, we have seen him ask for a drink after a day’s journey from a Samaritan woman at the well, and of course, at the last supper he takes, blesses, brakes and gives both bread and wine and reminds the disciples to do this in remembrance of him.
But in Jesus’ words at the cross, “I am thirsty” it reminds us of his humanness, his pain and suffering that he experienced after a night of beatings, mockery and now upon the cross, he is suffering and with his parched mouth, he utters his dying words and they are for us: “I am thirsty.”
As Peter Gomes wrote, “to state’s one’s thirst is to invite someone to quench it. Suddenly, we are no longer mere bystanders, voyeurs, kibitzers. We are invited, by implication and sympathy, into the narrative. If we are looking for a place of resonance, of response, this is it. Jesus does not do his kingly death scene in silence or alone. We are now invited in.”
Jesus’ pain was real and so too his thirst. When I am thirsty, I can open the refrigerator or turn on the faucet, I don’t really know thirst. When I think of others in our world, like Africa for instance, so many there among the poorest of the poor are emaciated, lacking the proper nourishment, lacking the clean water that keeps us alive.
Salva Dut, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, fled for his life from Sudan in 1991 at 11 years old, eventually coming to this country in 1996 with the help of St. Paul’s Church, Rochester, NY. In January 2002, Salva learned that his father was very sick and sensing that this could be his last opportunity to see his father, Salva returned to Sudan for the first time in 11 years. Salva discovered that his father was suffering from worms from unclean water, and a hernia from carrying heavy jugs of unclean water many miles each day. After his father’s operation, his father was told not to drink unclean water if he wanted to live. They had to move his father about a hundred miles away so he could find clean water. Salva, too, became infected with water-borne parasites during his trip to Sudan.
The trip opened his eyes wide to the terrible truth of everyday life for the people of southern Sudan and he said he wanted to do something to help his father and his friends. So Salva formed a charitable organization in 2005, Water for Sudan, to enable him to drill wells and provide clean, fresh water in his homeland. The past two dry seasons, he has put in 7 wells, trained the villagers to maintain the wells and has brought clean water to 26,000 Sudanese.
Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” Much like Salva’s brothers and sisters in the Sudan. And Salva responded to the need. “I am thirsty.” Those words are spoken every minute of every day on our planet.
As the Rev. Grover Zinn put it. “'I am thirsty'--words from the Cross; words heard in the midst of drought stricken lands, in the poverty of inner cities, in the midst of wars. I am thirsty--words of spiritual emptiness heard in urban centers, in green groves and on barren plains. Perhaps our greatest challenge is to find the deep wells of physical and spiritual nourishment that will slake the thirst of a wounded and weary world.”
As we stand beneath the cross on this Good Friday, and remember the sacrifice that our Savior made on behalf of the world, let us hear his words, I am thirsty and know that we are invited to quench his thirst in our world today.
You can learn more about him in an Episcopal Life article here. You can find info on Water for Sudan and how to make a donation here.