May 15, 2011

I Thirst

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. ~John 19:28-30

Jesus, "knowing that all things were now accomplished" in fulfillment of Scripture is thirsty. The religious leadership, the Romans, nor even the disciples understand the implication of the events that have come upon Jesus. They do not know the One they have put upon the cross and do not understand His life and ministry. Jesus, however, in the midst His death and of the agony of the Cross, knows that He has fulfilled God's purpose. Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, in fulfillment of Scripture says, "I thirst!" John sees a fulfillment of Psalm 22 in this horrendous torture and words of the Son of Man/Son of God.

"My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. ~Psalm 22:15
It is unlikely that John records Jesus', "I thirst": only to emphasize His suffering. Instead, Jesus’ statement appears in words to recall the promise that He made to the Samaritan woman at the well at noon and also to the people at the temple during the feast…

In relation to the Samaritan woman at the well:

“Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

In relation to the last day of the Temple feast:

“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:37-38

Jesus said this during the Festival of the Water Libation ceremony during the Feast of Tabernacles...

At the foothills of Mount Moriah, down below in the City of David/Jerusalem, flowed a natural spring called Siloam (the Pool of). This spring is ancient, and as it is located quite literally in the shadow of the Holy Temple, it has always had spiritual significance for Israel. It is the original source of Jerusalem's water. Every day of the festival, the priests descended to the spring accompanied by all the congregation assembled in the Temple. They filled a golden flask with the pure water. They came back up to the Temple with the flask with song and elation with that singular feeling that comes only from fulfilling the Holy One's will, the gathering entered back into the Temple through the Water Gate. As they entered the gate, they were greeted by the sound of trumpets and shofar-blasts, in fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah's words in Isaiah 12:3 "With joy you shall draw water out of the wells of salvation."

Herein lies the part true secret of the Festival of the Water Libation and ironically, it comes from a Jewish source. The Talmud says that the great joy was in the receiving of prophetic inspiration. For the Hebrew word for the "drawing" of the water, sho'eva, also indicates drawing in a different direction-the drawing down of prophetic enlightenment. Thus "whoever has never seen the celebrations of the Festival of the Water Libation, has never experienced true joy in his life"-for it was here that prophets like Jonah the son of Amitai received their prophecy. The Jerusalem Talmud relates that Jonah was not expecting any revelation, but merely arrived at the festival of the water libation along with all the other holiday pilgrims. He was so overcome with joy that he received Divine inspiration…and in turn, there can be no greater joy than this.

All of this taking place in the hallowed courtyards of the Temple of the Lord. Here, His people experienced spiritual happiness that it resulted in no less than the highest brush with the Divine possible for a human being to attain: the prophetic experience. All this came about by the fulfillment of the will of God in His presence. At least that is the Jewish view of this.

Little did they realize that they were actually physically in His presence in an incarnate form. There stands Jesus...watching. It is not and accident that Jesus would use this moment as this procession was passing by to make the announcement (and I can picture Jesus stating this in a booming authoritative voice as the text even tells us He "stood and said in a loud voice")....

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them!” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

-----Intermission---- (think about what I've said...then finish reading)----

When we look at symbols of water and rocks we can trace them back even farther into the Old Testament, past the prophets, to the Rock of Horeb in Exodus. Israel wandered through the wilderness, they became parched, thirsty, desperate for water, but there was no water to be found. They come to the Rock of Horeb that iis struck by Moses to have life saving water come from it. In 1 Corinthians we are told the Rock is Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:4) "And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ". Drinking the living water from the Rock of Horeb was an illustration of salvation. These people were spared death by dehydration. The Rock needed to be struck before Living Water would flow from it. Wow.

“The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?” But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The LORD answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel." Exodus 17:1-6
The promise of Jesus is fulfilled only by the thirst that He experiences on their behalf. A water springing up into eternal life and the rivers of living water. A water that will have its source in His passion and death.

“A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.” ~John 19:29

Jesus' plea is answered sadistically with a sponge saturated with wine vinegar that is normally imbibed by the soldiers. In this twist expression of assistance we see a mockery or darkly mirrored image of what Jesus did for those at Cana. John’s eyewitness account records an otherwise insignificant action not to  show a moderation of human concern to Jesus' terrible need, but… it seems speaks of Jesus’ first sign performed at Cana. In Cana at the wedding He transformed the purification water in six stone jars into wine, revealing that He makes possible the marriage of He and humanity. The wine miracle signifies that traditional purification rituals now find new manifestation in His life. The new wine of the new relationship between God and man comes into effect immediately after the wine.

Jesus says, “It is finished”. We then see a hasty burial and three days later…an empty tomb.

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