Thursday, March 30, 2017

Fourth Lenten Midweek Sermon: Jesus' Fifth Word on the Cross

+ Lenten Midweek Sermon – March 29th, 2017 +
Jesus’ Fifth Word from the Cross – John 19:28
Redeemer Lutheran, HB

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Compared to some of the other final words of Jesus, his fifth word on the cross seems rather ordinary:

“I thirst.”

We take countless drinks of water daily without thinking about. We turn on the faucet and we’re surprised when water doesn’t flow. We have bottles, fountains, and reservoirs for water. Water is common in our daily life, and yet it’s anything but ordinary.

Water is life. The world’s surface is 71% water, our bodies are almost 60% water, and we’re hard-pressed to find something we do in our daily life that doesn’t involve water.

No water, no life.

That’s where we find Jesus as he speaks this fifth word on the cross.

Suffering. Dying. Thirsty.

Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 
In Jesus’ seemingly ordinary request for a drink, he reveals the extraordinary work he is doing for us on the cross.

I thirst.

It is simultaneously a cry of physical and spiritual suffering.

In his humanity, Jesus suffered physically for us, as one of us. Jesus is our second Adam, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. He ate supper with his disciples. He wept at Lazarus’ tomb. He thirsted on the cross. From his birth in Bethlehem to his death in Jerusalem, from his resurrection to his ascension, Jesus bears our humanity with us, for us, as one of us.

As the church father Gregory of Nazianzus said, “what Jesus did not assume, he did not redeem.” To satisfy our greatest need, to be our perfect substitute, Jesus became man.
Jesus thirsted for you. Jesus suffered the physical punishment of our sin. And in doing so, he fulfilled the Scripture.

Psalm 22:15 - my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

Psalm 69:21 - They gave me poison for food,
    and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.

Ordinary though Jesus’ words may seem, they reveal something truly extraordinary about his death on the cross for us.

As Jesus cries out, “I thirst” he is also suffering our greatest need, our spiritual thirst, our lack and absence from our Heavenly Father. Jesus’ physical thirst on the cross also reveals our thirst and need for God himself.

 “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1)

Jesus’ thirst reveals the depth of our sinful condition, that in our sin we are absent from God. God made us to be in communion with him, calls us his people, and declares us his children. And yet, our desire for God has been so warped and turned inward, that we turn his gifts into idols.

We look at our own hands, minds, and labor in appreciation for our daily bread. We look to our intelligence, creativity, or success to satisfy our desires and needs. We look to our own works, ways of life, and will to satisfy our spiritual thirst, only to find that we are parched and dehydrated before our Lord. We search in vain for living waters in the fetid swamp of our sinful hearts.

Our sinful quest for spiritual satisfaction is like trying to guzzle saltwater to quench our thirst; we end up finding ourselves thirstier than before.

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God. (Psalm 42:1-2)

We are empty. Jesus must fill us with his love. We are absent from God. Jesus must draw us near, by drawing near to us.

We are thirsty. And for you, Jesus thirsts. In his humanity, Jesus thirsts for us who thirst after righteousness in all the wrong watering holes. For you, he declares…

I thirst.

The last time Jesus spoke these words, it was to a Samaritan woman by Jacob’s well. He told her about living water that he would pour out; water that would never fail
Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Now on the cross, he brings you living water by his thirst and death for you.

Jesus is deprived of life to save our life.

Jesus suffers one of humanity’s most basic needs to satisfy our greatest need before God.

Jesus fulfills the scripture to accomplish our rescue from every thought, word, and deed we’ve done in hopes of satisfying our own thirst.

Jesus thirsted on the cross so that you and I need never thirst for God.
Jesus sacrifices himself, his thirst, his body, his blood all for you.

That’s why John includes this little detail:

A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth.

In the Old Testament sacrifices, the Lord instructed the priests to dip a hyssop branch in the blood as a sign of God’s atonement for sin. Now on the cross, Jesus our great high priest receives a hyssop branch with sour wine as he atones for our sin.

In the Passover, the people of Israel of Israel painted their doorposts with a hyssop branch dipped in the blood of the sacrificial lamb. Now on the cross, Jesus accomplishes a greater Passover for all people as the hyssop branch marks him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

In the Psalms, David prayed that the Lord would purge his sin with hyssop that he would be cleansed of sin. Now, in Jesus, David’s son and David’s Lord, our sin is cleansed as the hyssop branch approaches the mouth of him who thirsts for us. And the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.

As water is vital to our earthly life, so it is for our spiritual life. Once again, through ordinary means – water, words, bread and wine - Jesus pours out, fills, and satisfies us with his extraordinary, abundant grace, a wellspring of eternal life.

In Holy Baptism, Jesus pours out living water from his pierced side and washes away your sins. Jesus bathes you in his death and resurrection in the living waters of the font, a true fountain of life.

In his Holy Word, Jesus sends forth a river of life, teeming with his promises that declares us his new creation. Jesus’ forgiveness floods the wasteland of our sinful hearts into a reservoir of his mercy.

In the Holy Supper, Jesus gives us the same body that thirsted on the cross to satisfy our hunger for righteousness. Jesus fills the cup of salvation with the same blood shed on the cross for you that we might never thirst again. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 

I thirst.

Such ordinary words with such extraordinary meaning.

By these words, God’s merciful, magnificent love for us is made known once again in Jesus’ crucifixion. By these words, Jesus fulfills the Scripture that foretold his passion for us. By these words, Jesus bears the frailty of fallen man in his own humanity; he is one with us and for us. By these words, Jesus reminds us that he is Lord of all, even the ordinary, every-day things, like being thirsty.

He knows us and he saves us “Jesus is the Lord of the little things…The broken pencil of the child, the broken home, the broken life – nothing is too small or unimportant to Him who sees a sparrow fall and here, as He was saving the world, was thirsty.”[1]

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] O.P. Kretzmann. Seven Words for Good Friday. The Pilgrim. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1944, p. 48.

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