We had just left the opening night of our church’s passion play. The scene that unfolded in the restaurant is still a source of laughter around our house.
I was worship and arts pastor at a substantial church bent on authentically reproducing the Crucifixion every year. (That year we nearly killed Jesus by dropping him off the cross.)
Fortunately, we did succeed in getting him crucified and resurrected before we headed out for a burger. The waitress walked up and cheerfully asked what she could get us. I doubt she was ready for what happened next.
Our oldest son, Nathan, who was around five at the time looked up at the waitress and in Oscar-worthy dramatic form cried out, “I thirst!”
He was reenacting the melodrama he had just seen at the Easter production. But what he really wanted was a Sprite.
Thankfully, we know there was a real scene in the Passion drama where Jesus, agonizing on the cross was apparently overcome by dehydration. At this apex moment in the epic story, Jesus called out in the foggy hysteria of pain, “I thirst!”
Some pain-numbing concoction was soaked into a sponge and placed against His lips. Immediately He spoke the words that changed history, “It is finished.” Then He died.
It is intriguing that John records, “…so that Scripture would be fulfilled,” Jesus said, “I thirst”. The Apostle is likely hearkening back to an Old Testament prophecy that had the Suffering Messiah saying, “…in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” (Psalm 69:21b)
But what was really at the bottom of this strange prophetic cry of Jesus? Yes, He was really parched. But that pain would certainly not match the scale and scope of the other physical atrocities he was enduring.
Why was His last cry for help, “I thirst”?
I am convinced that in that moment He made the ultimate connection with the central–perhaps sole–truth about the human condition.
It isn’t difficult to see in contemporary culture.
- The addict tries to assuage his heart’s thirst for happiness by taking one more pill or having one more drink.
- The business man attempts to satiate his soul’s longing for meaning with the one big deal that defines him as a winner.
- The lonely housewife does her best to fill the gnawing emptiness in her spirit with the next pair of shoes or designer bag.
- The bored husband tries to answer his gut-level craving for intimacy in the arms of the wrong woman.
- The obsessed academic longs to calm the haunting questions in his restless mind with just one more obtuse philosophy.
On and on we go. Longing. Aching. Desiring. Searching. Yearning.
We are continuously caught in the angst of longing for:
- Truth in a world full of broken promises and bold-faced lies.
- Meaning in a culture fascinated with the superficial and addicted to the trivial.
- Hope in a climate fueled by despair and ruled by depression.
- Purpose in a society gone mad with infatuations and numb with distractions.
- Reality in a population fascinated with image consultants and spin doctors.
We are literally dying of thirst.
So we take short-cuts toward substitute solutions that neither satisfy our throbbing hunger nor answer our aching questions.
Like the millions on this planet who lack clean water and drink from whatever source they can find, we gulp from the contaminated wells and polluted fountains of a bankrupt culture to somehow satisfy the insatiable internal longing.
C. S. Lewis famously wrote, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Jesus made it clear by both the content of His words and the construct of His life that He was the Living Water capable of answering the deep thirst of our real souls.
“…the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”(John 4:14b)
“If anyone is thirsty…come to me and drink.” (John 7:37)
“He who believes in me…from his belly will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38)
He clearly acknowledged and then modeled that we human beings are a thirsty lot. And not just those who do not know God.
We who are believers do not stop thirsting. We simply have the privilege of knowing where to find the fountain of life. But we still must choose to go there.
This past year of loss and change has left my soul’s water level pretty low. The aquifer of spiritual refreshment has been siphoned by the passionate demands of life and the pressing needs of loved ones.
Once again, I thirst.
But I have learned one thing in the 56 years of trial and error I call life. There is no source offered by this world that will satisfy the cravings of my depleted soul.
I have tried the artificial springs offered by the world around me and proven them useless to meet the ravenous desires of eternity crying out in me.
Isaiah, the great Prophet, spoke so clearly of the single source of life-sustaining water for our weary souls. “The LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places; and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.“ (Isaiah 58:11)
So I seek. I push. I cry out. I allow the longing to deepen and the thirst to grow. Unsatiated by this world, unsatisfied by its offerings. I acknowledge with King David, “all my fountains are in you!”
Only there is the true source of living water when…