One of last things Jesus said before he died on the cross was, “I thirst.” It is hard to imagine the very Savior who promised a woman by the well (John 4) everlasting water being thirsty, but he was. Perhaps there is a deeper meaning to this illusive Easter text.
We live in a desolate and parched time. The government is gridlocked; ISIS is sweeping across Africa and the Middle East; a precarious presidential election has nearly nose-dived into the gutter. Black lives matter; gay and lesbian youth are committing suicides at an unprecedented rate due to bullying and discrimination. Income inequality is at its greatest since the Great Depression. Businesses and churches are surviving against all odds.
I can’t understand why Jesus thirsted, but I know why I thirst. I thirst because we still have to live in a world in which Jesus’ Kingdom-vision, one of peace, liberation, redemption, and embrace has yet to be realized.
Easter happened. Jesus arose from the grave. He promised eternal life to those who believe; but, we are still living in the times between Good Friday and silent Saturday of our own souls. We haven’t experienced resurrection with our Savior yet. We stand, instead, between death and Jesus’ Second Coming.
Until Jesus comes with a final trumpet sound to inaugurate once and for all God’s reign on heaven and earth, I thirst.
I guess that when Jesus said “I thirst,” he was referring to Psalm 69. At least that’s what the notes in my Study Bible say. But what if Jesus had Psalm 42 in mind instead?
“As a deer longs for flowing water, so my souls longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? My tears have been my food day and night” (v. 1-3).
What if Jesus said “I thirst” because he wants us to remember his Sermon on the Mount? While we mourn at the cross, we may recall that Jesus’ Sermon mandated that we still have work to do, even in the midst of our own thirst: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt. 5:6).
Righteousness is a biblical term that means “to be in right relationship with,” and it is a benchmark of God’s activity on earth. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, God’s desire was to reconcile that ruptured relationship, to put things right.
Jesus must have thirsted for righteousness because his death was the next step in this process of reconciliation.
I too thirst for righteousness that includes advocating for justice and mercy and kindness in a world very much in need of repairing.
I thirst for righteousness because I want to fight for what’s right in the world in order to see balanced budgets, terrorism abated, peaceful conclusions to war, and a more equitable tax code and quality of life for all lives.
Before he was crucified, Jesus told parables and healed the sick and ate with tax collectors and sinners. He said that the reign of God–the very kingdom of God–had come to earth and was in our midst.
This reign was more than a fancy idea or personal wish; the reign drew heaven’s goal and earth’s future closer together so that God’s will would be accomplished “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Although I thirst still, I am thankful that Jesus is indeed the Everlasting Water who gives us a chance to spread God’s righteousness even in the least expected places, like at the local halfway house or in Congress.
I thirst, but it is God who nourishes us with hope that one day even broken legislatures and warring enemies will eventually bow to His lordship.