Good Friday Sermon: I Thirst

John 19: 28 After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), “I thirst.”


The Fifth Word:  ‘I Thirst’  Lower Merion Baptist,   March 29, 1991

Reflections on the fifth saying of Jesus on the cross “I thirst”  usually focus on the fact of Christ’s humanity, the fact that he suffered.  Now this is important.  Sometimes we idealize Christ so much that we dehumanize him.  We have to be reminded that we cannot keep Jesus at arm’s distance by saying he was not one of us.  We cannot make excuses for ourselves by saying Christ was different. Did Jesus not feel real fear and cry real tears?  Did he not work hard and play with abandon? Did he not laugh heartily and sing lustily, care deeply and bruise like you and me? Did he not have sexual desires, meager means; dashed hopes, and sincere dreams? Yes, for he was human, of like nature with you and me.  Jesus was one of us and when he died, his sacrifice declared all of life sacred, sacrum facere – to make sacred.


I would like to emphasize something slightly different about the passage this afternoon. Jesus was not only saying, “I am human,”  when he said “I thirst.”    He was saying something more, something far more courageous.  He was saying “I have not given up.” I have not given up hope that you will act compassionately toward me and give me something to drink. I have not given up. You can kick me and beat me. You can whip me and spit on me. You can shoot me in the back, you can leave me in the street. You can act like I don’t matter. You can put nails through my flesh and thorns into my head and hang me up here to die, but I will not give up hope that you will treat me like a human being ought to be treated.  I have not given up.


“I thirst.” Give me a drink of water. I thirst and I haven’t given up. I’m still thirsty for things to be right with the world and I have not given up. I’m still thirsty to see all people treat each other right and I have not given up. I am still thirsty to see God’s new reality come on earth.  “I thirst.”


Jesus’ thirst was a human thirst for justice for all of us. He died thirsting. But he died without giving up hope. He died without letting go of his deepest conviction that all God made is sacred, all lives matter. That’s why I say Jesus would say that Black lives matter, because until we act like Black lives matter, then we don’t know that all life is sacred, that all lives matter. That is the meaning of this sacrifice: sacrum facere – to make sacred.

This is what Jesus meant when he said “If any one thirst, let them come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of their heart shall flow rivers of living water.’”  I still thirst, but I will never give up hope that my thirst might be satisfied.   Amen.

St. Luke United Methodist Church
568 Montgomery Ave (at Pennswood Ave.)
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010