After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28)
I don’t know what it is to be thirsty. I don’t know what it is like to only have muddy contaminated water to drink. I don’t know what it is like to be willing to drink anything because I am so parched.
But not far from here I have seen lakes’ edges hundreds of yards from lifeguard chairs. Our land is thirsty. As thirsty as Jesus.
And if you will forgive me being political, our governor made mock of the life of those lakes, letting nestle bottle that scarce water and ship it to other states.
This world made mock of Jesus’ life as well as his death. On the cross perhaps
Jesus was referencing Psalm 69: Insults have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.
They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
I imagine none of us hears this fifth word from the cross without thinking of the people of Flint. Elected officials make mock of their suffering and for the people of Flint’s thirst, the government gave them poison to drink.
And they are not alone; dozens of cities around them drinks water even more polluted.
Thousands of abandoned uranium mines on tribal land with no governmental requirements to clean up the mines means water poisoning has been a reality for indigenous people for decades.
Last Tuesday, dozens of low income people, homeless and formerly homeless people went to the city council to plead that money for low income housing not be reallocated to middle income housing. After hours of testimony they were scolded by council for not caring enough about How badly the housing crisis was affecting middle income people.
The people I work with are thirsty for dignity, for shelter, for basic human rights. The government makes mock of their suffering and for their thirst gives them vinegar.
Our people, the people we are accountable to as Christians, and our savior have all felt the Beginning of psalm 69: Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; many are those who would destroy me, my enemies who accuse me falsely. What I did not steal must I now restore?
Jesus had few words left as he died on the cross. He used his words sparingly and chose them carefully in the midst of his suffering. Those words conveyed his plight and the plight of the poor and Black and brown and indigenous people.
Jesus lived in a world where the government did not care for the thirst of those in need.
And he lived in a world where his own family feared to respond to his thirst.
We live in the same world where the government does not care for the thirst of those in need and where our own family fears to respond to our thirst.
In this moment, Jesus reminds us in the midst of his own thirst about the end of psalm 69: I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. Let the oppressed see it and be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive. For the Lord hears the needy, and does not despise his own that are in bonds.
May we be comforted in our thirst that God hears our need and invites us to liberate one another. And may Jesus on the cross remind us to respond to our family’s thirst.