Friday, 18 April 2014

'I Thirst': Reflections On The Life-Changing Death

22nd April 2011 was sad day in Pakistan as the country the mourned the death of legendary actor and comedian, Moin Akhtar. But I, along with the millions of Christians in Pakistan and billions around the world, were remembering what we consider to be the most significant death in human history. It was Good Friday.     
 As my mentor says, the death of Jesus is unique because it was a natural death. Man was not created to perish, he was created to live. But Jesus said about himself:

Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many…….

Jesus was the only one who came to die! That is why we hold his death in esteem, and observe the day traditionally believed to be the day of the crucifixion. The way of doing this in most congregations is to focus on the “Seven Last Words” of Jesus from 12pm to 3pm in the afternoon.

But I mentioned Good Friday 2011 here specifically because on that day I was invited to speak on the 5th saying: “I am thirsty”.

Here are the notes of what I shared at that small congregation. Hopefully they will give you something to contemplate on today:

28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 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. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19)
If we look at all the events from the arrest of Jesus all the way up to his crucifixion, one can easily understand that he is declaring an actual, physical thirst here. He was beaten, there was heavy blood loss, and he picked up his own cross for I don’t know how many miles. Thirst, hence, would the least of the weaknesses he would have been feeling at that point.

But a prophecy was also fulfilled (Psalm 22:15, 69:3).
 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.

I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched.My eyes fail,  looking for my God.
Fulfilled prophecy, as stated before, is one of the defining qualities of the Bible that makes it unique. It is amazing to note how accurately Jesus's suffering's were portrayed in the OT.  He himself  recites this Psalm on the cross (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34)

But here is the thought provoking part! We read in Matthew 27:34 and Mark 15:23 that he refused to consume the wine offered to him by the soldiers. This gives us a clue that when Jesus said “I Thirst”, he implied something deeper.

34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it.

The wine mixed with gall would have sedated him, thereby lowering his pain. But he didn’t have it.

His thirst was then, firstly, obeying the will of His Father (John 4:33-34). It was obedience to God that led Jesus to go through the excruciating (a word derived from the word “cross”) pain to face perhaps the most brutal death of the time. All for the Glory of God!

He knew that his job on this earth was complete with his suffering and death, so now his thirst was to go back to his original state, the glory he shared with God since eternity.

The same holds true for us believers as well. If we have to share in his glory, we have to share in his sufferings as well:

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (Philippians 1)

 Every believer’s desire is to leave this body of death and join Christ in God’s eternal kingdom….but we have to remain in the body and first have our share of necessary suffering.

This is what makes his death so powerful, because it had a purpose. Do our lives have a purpose?

Wishing you a Holy Good Friday.