1. Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do
2. 6th hour- Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
3. Woman, behold thy son! , Behold thy mother!
4. 9th hour- My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
5. I thirst
6. It is finished
7. Into thy hands I commit my Spirit
I think it most significant that Jesus cries out, “I thirst” after receiving the sins of the world. I have no doubt that he was thirsty, and perhaps almost on the twilight of consciousness, after his enormous physical abuses, but there, I think is much more to his cry. After all, during all of his enormous suffering, he consistently expresses that which we would expect of a noble Savior. He comforts women he finds on the way to the cross with warnings of a great judgment coming upon Jerusalem, he takes time to assure the thief on the cross that soon he will be in Paradise, and he commits the care of his mother to his best friend. Now are we to believe that he is crying out because he thirsts?
I realize that this cry is a fulfilment of Psalm 69 (v.21, “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink”), and that Jesus had just received the sins of the entire world into his very body. Who would not be literally thirsty at this point? But I would suggest that perhaps the thirst is more than that. The spiritual analogy of the Holy Spirit filling us with living water is very powerful. Jesus himself refers to the same comparison when he says, “He that believeth in Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believe in Him should receive; for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:38, 39). John adds the second verse, telling us that Jesus was indeed speaking of the Holy Spirit.
Elsewhere, Paul tells us that we should not quench the Spirit, and thus we learn that we can, by sin, quench the very gift of God which Jesus’ act on the cross enabled for us. I would suggest that the sins of the world had an enormously “quenching” effect on Jesus, so enormous that at the very moment of taking those sins into his life he found his eternal relationship with the Spirit to be utterly and completely quenched. Hence, those words, “I thirst,” escape from his mouth, as he experiences and tastes of sin, and loses that relationship in the terrible judgment of the Father.
Sometimes those who were crucified lingered and suffered on their cross for two or three days. The Roman Empire seems to me to be rather like our own day, where we seem to choose the most barbaric way of execution. Who would choose electrocution as a method of death? Or the guillotine? The gruesome descriptions of these manners of death serve to remind me of how the cruel nature of man seems to arise again and again. Crucifixion as a method of execution was particularly barbaric. Certainly the cruelty of man in Christ’s death is especially horrific. The Son of God, the Savior of mankind stood before men and silently endured the scorn as guards slapped him and teased him saying, prophecy and tell us, who struck thee? Jesus had already, in his last words to his disciples, reminded them that he had only to pray—just once—and the Father would have sent legions of angels to stop the whole process. Instead, he met the gruesome process head on, and endured the scorn of the cross that I, that you, might be saved. Philippians reminds us that “he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross”. Therefore, says Paul, God hath exalted him to the highest place, putting Jesus as the head of everything.
And that is the precise model for us. Our greatness is not in what we know, or in the way that we preach or teach or speak. Our greatness is measured in the way that we serve one another, and if we are despitefully used and abused, then the measure of greatness is all the more. Jesus tells us that if we would be great, then we should become the servant of all. In the cross, he has modeled the picture of the perfect servant, giving us the stellar example of how we should act. Stephan, our first martyr, gets this lesson well, for even as they are scorning him and stoning him to death, he cries out just as Jesus would teach us, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.
And so I should learn, not to lead, but to serve, not to condemn, but to warn, not to reject, but to love. I find that to be a most difficult lesson, one that I need to relearn and relearn as I journey through life. I become inured to doing the same things the same way, and constantly I encounter others who know little of righteousness, and are busy building their own lives on a false foundation. This past year I have tried to make it a practice to pray for the strangers that I see walking on the way to the bus, to pray for the driver next to me. I find that it is not easy to pray for a stranger, for I cannot see into their hearts as Jesus did, and I often find myself groping for the right words that just are not available to me, for I cannot see their needs. But that prayer habit has changed me in an unlooked for way. I am becoming less self-centered and more other-centered, but even more than that, I realize that in the midst of my pleas for strangers, I must be equipped with the very power of the Holy Spirit if I am to make a difference. In other words, I thirst. Not me alone, but the whole of the church with me. We thirst. May God pour out his Spirit bountifully into our lives, that we might become effective witnesses of the joy that is ours because the Son of God gave himself so long ago.
I hunger and thirst for the righteousness and love of God to be poured out into me, that others might see him living in me, and come to know the servant of all servants, Jesus Christ. I have had for more than thirty years, a picture of a lion hanging over my mantel. The lion is a depiction of Christ, coming the second time, angry and ready to judge the world, chasing away the darkness and bringing light. All the world shall gaze and see in that day, and the folly of men will be laid bare, as the Lion of Judah brings light to this dark world. In that day he will come as a lion ready to devour, not as a meek lamb, willing to go to the slaughter, that you and I might find life. Our world is as thirsty as it has ever been, and men do not even recognize the dire drought of their souls, or the peril that is upon them if they linger in choosing to follow the Lamb of God, who has indeed taken away the sin of the world.
It falls to us, waiting upon that coming and ever watching, that we should bear the good news to the lost. I cannot do this in my own power. You cannot do it in your own power. We thirst with a powerful thirst, that we might be filled, that many yet might hear and be saved. God has not forsaken us during this age, but abides faithfully, waiting for us, his own children, that we might turn from our own devices and realize how desperately thirsty the church is. God waits upon his church that they might call upon him in our time of need. Isn’t it about time that we recognized our need, and called upon the only One capable of filling us? It is bad enough that we should go about thirsty, but how shall we ever give the Living Water to others except that we be filled.
Oh God, we are so thirsty and in deep need of the waters of your Holy Spirit. Bring us back to you, that we might be used as instruments to proclaim the deep and abiding joy that your Son gave us upon that cross, so long ago. Lord, we thirst!