“I am thirsty.” (John 19:28)
Jesus heaved the cross along the stony streets of Jerusalem towards the hill of Calvary, for the most part alone. No disciple was encouraging him or helping him. He was alone. The people who were around him and who were lining the street through where He was passing, were insulting him and mocking him. He was exhausted and bleeding and the soldiers made Simon of Cyrene to get under the cross and help him carrying it. That was the only relief Jesus received on his way to his execution.
Hanging from the cross He asked for some water… He has lost too much blood, He was thirsty… and He was offered sour wine. This was in fulfillment of what the Psalmist says:
“Dishonor has driven me to despair; I looked for sympathy and there was none, for comforters and there was no one.
They gave me poison for food and vinegar to drink.” (Ps 69: 21-22)
Here is the Son of Man, the only begotten Son of God, who became man and is now one of us. He feels thirsty. He experiences loneliness. Like us he feels hurt. He is human and as a human being He needs the power of the love of God.
In our lives there are times when we experience loneliness… when we feel alone on this life journey… and there is a sense of isolation… there is the loneliness that finds itself in our hearts. And when we feel this loneliness and at the same time we look at our successes and our failures, sometimes we ask ourselves: But does what we have achieved or not matter to anyone, except to us?
In our lives we interact with other people. Through their words and actions they sometimes scorn us, criticize us, and humiliate us. And we feel beaten though not physically because we are getting the opposite of what we need. We need encouragement and support, we need hope and love, we need understanding and compassion.
We also hurt physically. We experience sickness and pain, we get weak, our bodies ache. But that is part of being human. Human beings get sick, human bodies weaken, human beings die.
In such situations we thirst for someone who can understand us, someone who can feel what we feel, someone who knows what suffering is, both physically and emotionally, someone who experienced before us what we experience as human beings. We thirst for God because only God can offer love, comfort, assurance and help. Only God does.
And let us bear in mind that God is not far from us… that God cares for us. God, in Jesus Christ, has gone before us on this life journey. In Christ Jesus, God has experienced insecurity, showed compassion, grieved over the death of a friend, experienced betrayal and denial by his friends, suffered the abandonment of his friends and his followers and had to face an angry screaming mob, not shouting anymore: “Hosanna!” but “Be done with Him! Crucify Him!”
God, in the person of Jesus, has experienced the human struggle, has known loneliness, was hurt and He also called for God’s love: “I am thirsty!”
In the suffering and struggle of the Son of Man we can see our own ordeals and frustrations. And this is possible because God, in his infinite and steadfast love for each one of us had become a human being like you and me, and He suffered and prevailed over it all. In Jesus, God is telling us: “You are not alone!” “You are loved with a love beyond all telling!” “I am your partner on this life journey! Do not be afraid!”
In the same way that you and I cry: “I am thirsty!” there are people around us and far from us who are also crying: “I am thirsty!”
“I am thirsty!” cries a homeless family and the person whose life is haunted with mental illness. “I thirst!” cries the widow and the laid off father. “Do not leave me alone!” pleads the abused child and the person on the brink of death. “I thirst for the living water!” beseeches the drug addict and the prostitute seeking to be set free.
And while we are hanging from our crosses we are at the same time standing under the cross of others. Jesus comforts us but at the same time inspires us to comfort others. When pain strikes He stoops down and be present to us and at the same time He invites to stoop down and assure others, who like us are also suffering, and help them.
By our actions we have to show them that we have been loved back to life and want the same for them. They need to hear the words of assurance that come through experience: “Do not be afraid! God loves you. He understands you. He is with you and will never abandon you.”
My dear brother, my dear sister, when your life journey is hindered by pain, loneliness and uncertainty, when you feel shackled with your sins, do not give up. Jesus knows what it means to suffer pain, loneliness and uncertainty, He took upon his shoulders the sins of each and every one of us, no matter how big they are or how many they are, and paid the price for them. He is our partner on this life-journey.
Let us take his hand… let us accept the drink from the living waters that He provides us with. Let us experience what the psalmist says: “Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are beside me: your rod and your staff comfort me.” (Psalms 23:4)