29 March 2013
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
"After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), "I thirst." A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth."
"I thirst." do you drink your eight glasses of water -- two quarts -- every day? While some are very faithful, most do not. So your body's systems are denied this source of life. Water is needed for your body, so that all the functions of your cells work in good order. And they, in turn, keep your organs strong and functioning, and alive.
Our loving Savior endured every need of His human body, just like you. He would get tired. He hungered. And He thirsted.
A thousand years before suffering on the cross, Jesus prayed through King David: "They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink" (Psalm 69:21.) There were actually two moments when Jesus was offered something to drink during the crucifixion: when He first was lifted up, and later, when He cries out.
At the beginning of His ordeal on the cross, soldiers offered Jesus wine mixed with gall. This gall would be a potent antiseptic, perhaps even with narcotic capabilities. It was actually an act of mercy, meant to lessen the pain. Maybe because they figured He wasn't a real criminal, but just some religious nut, they felt a little sorry for Him. But as soon as Jesus tasted it, and recognized it, He refused this drink. He would not deaden the pain. He would endure the complete suffering of crucifixion for all.
But this time, they offered the sour wine. Vinegar, basically. The sainted Dr. Erich Kiehl, from our seminary in St. Louis, pointed out that while this beverage may sound disgusting to most of us, this particular variety of sour wine was considered a refreshing drink in first century Palestine. So, once again, this was an act of mercy.
As Jesus was suffering in His body, He felt the thirst. With labored breathing, and loss of blood, His body was feeling the need for more fluids. He thirsted. And He knew it.
Sometimes you have gotten used to a lack of water, a smaller amount keeps you going, and you get to the point that you don't know any better. Your body would burn more fat, eat less, feel less tired, and simply function at a better level. Yet, since you do not realize you are thirsty, you get by with less water, while your health unknowingly suffers.
Dear friends, it is not only physical thirst of your body that plagues you. You have a spiritual thirsting of body and soul. And if you neglect it, you begin to no longer feel it. "I'm not thirsty," you say, as you suffer from dehydration. "I'm not thirsty," you say, as you decide to go to the park district game rather than church. "I'm not thirsty," you say, as you imagine you need the Sacrament less than you do.
Our Lord who thirsted for you, has paid the complete price for your sin. He has redeemed you, and rescued you from sin, death, and the devil. And bound to His salvation in Holy Baptism, you have been given faith that now recognizes this thirst, and yearns for the Lord! "As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God." (Psalm 42:1-2.)
Your dear Lord Christ then hung there, having cried out and given up His Spirit. Pierced by the spear, from the side of the dead Son of God issued life-giving blood and water.
Refreshed and renewed by the One who is Living Water, you are given an eternal quenching, receiving the precious blood and water, flowing from the Savior. And you are blessed to be drawn to your Savior and drink from Him, speaking back His own words: “I thirst.” Amen.