READ: JOHN 19:1-30
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak, and they came to him and said, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they struck him repeatedly. Once more Pilate went out and said to them, "Look, I am bringing him out to you, so that you may know that I find no guilt in him." So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak. And he said to them, "Behold, the man!" When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him." The Jews answered, "We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God." Now when Pilate heard this statement, he became even more afraid, and went back into the praetorium and said to Jesus, "Where are you from?" Jesus did not answer him. So Pilate said to him, "Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?" Jesus answered him, "You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin." Consequently, Pilate tried to release him; but the Jews cried out, "If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar." When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out and seated him on the judge's bench in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha. It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon. And he said to the Jews, "Behold, your king!" They cried out, "Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your king?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar." Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, "Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews." Now many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that he said, 'I am the King of the Jews'." Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written." When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four shares, a share for each soldier. They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top down. So they said to one another, "Let's not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be, " in order that the passage of Scripture might be fulfilled that says: They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots. This is what the soldiers did. Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I thirst." There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, "It is finished." And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.
One of the spiritual exercises that the Church encourages is for us to meditate on the seven last words of Christ, the words He uttered from the cross as recorded in the four Gospels. In our Gospel reading today, we see two words. Two seemingly simple words that changed the course of history and the destiny of our souls. "I thirst".
When Jesus says, "I thirst", here on the cross, but also in His encounter with the woman at the well (John 4:7), He is expressing much more than physical thirst. He is revealing His heart and the deepest desire within it. Think about the cross for a minute. Envision Jesus Christ, with mangled body and bruised flesh, with blood pouring down His face, with the crown of thorns thrust into His head, with the words of mockery and humiliation encircling Him. Picture His lungs gasping for air. Watch as He works up the strength to speak and listen to the voice of the Lord as He speaks these words over you, "I thirst".
We tend to think about the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as a sacrifice that He made for all of humanity, which is true. But today, realize that we have a personal God who did this for you personally. St. Augustine once said, “If you were the only person on earth, Christ would have still suffered and died for you.” So hear these words, "I thirst", as words addressed specifically to you. They were words carefully chosen and lovingly spoken to reveal to you His heart's greatest longing. What does He thirst for? He thirsts for you. He did this all for love of you, to win your soul, to set you free. God so loved you that He gave His only Son for you (John 3:16). God proves His love in that while you were and are still a sinner, Christ died for you (Romans 5:8). In this is love: not that you have loved God, but that He loved you and sent His Son as expiation for your sins (1 John 4:10).
The cross that we come face-to-face with today is Jesus' way of showing you His insatiable desire for your heart. It is Jesus' grand gesture of love to convey to you your dignity, your worth, your value. But even more, to convey to you the extent of His love, a love that knows no bounds, a love that is unconditional and incomparable. "As they were looking on, so we too gaze on His wounds as He hangs. We see His blood as He dies. We see the price offered by the redeemer. He bows His head, as if to kiss you. His heart is made bare open, as it were, in love to you. His arms are extended that He may embrace you. His whole body is displayed for your redemption. Ponder how great these things are. Let all this be rightly weighed in your mind: as He was once fixed to the cross in every part of His body for you, so He may now be fixed in every part of your soul" (St. Augustine).
For most of us, we've heard this account of the arrest, the trial, the carrying of the cross, and the crucifixion and death of Jesus hundreds of times in our lives. And what we can be tempted to do is just gloss over it. Not be shocked by it. Forget how truly immeasurable, unfathomable, audacious, extravagant, and underserved is the love expressed in these actions. Let this Good Friday be different. Let this be a day in which we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, discovering anew the price that He paid for our hearts, for our salvation. Let us hear those words, "I thirst" and believe, for the first time or for the hundredth, that they are for each of us personally. May this day leaves us in awe. May it flood our hearts with gratitude. And may it give us a desire to give our hearts to the One who gave His life for us.
Do you enter this Good Friday feeling indifferent? How do these words of "I thirst" change your mentality, the disposition of your heart?
Why is it hard to believe that Jesus would do this for you?
What is it like to know that “If you were the only person on earth, Christ would have still suffered and died for you"?
How does Jesus' thirst for you increase your thirst for Him?
R. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your justice rescue me. Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God. For all my foes I am an object of reproach, a laughingstock to my neighbors, and a dread to my friends; they who see me abroad flee from me. I am forgotten like the unremembered dead; I am like a dish that is broken. But my trust is in you, O LORD; I say, "You are my God. In your hands is my destiny; rescue me from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors." Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your kindness. Take courage and be stouthearted, all you who hope in the LORD. R. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.
Today, how will you ponder what Christ has done for you? How will you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and focus on His thirst for you?
Join us today at 3:00pm at Holy Redeemer for our Good Friday service where we, as a community, will keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and worship Him for the cross.