Good Friday 2014
Christ Church (Parish) Church
Fredericton, New Brunswick
April 18, 2014 12 Noon - 3:00 p.m.
The Reverend Anthony Kwaw
Rector of Fredericton
The Reverend Canon Jim Irvine
Appetites ignite the engine that drives us. Custom and habit might keep our appetites at bay but when civil restraint is impeded, our appetites demand attention.
The heat of the Palestinian sun took its toll on those gathered on Golgotha’s heights on a Friday in the month of Nissan. Gaining strength, the heavenly orb drew on the Centurions and Priests that stood near the cross. The dying felons and the curious bystanders felt the heat. Beads of perspiration appeared on the grimaced faces and a shallow voice was heard to say, “I thirst.”
The journalists in the ranks tried to discern who had spoken out. John thought it might have been Jesus. It was a simple phrase, hardly a sentence. It may well have been the wind whipping a soldier’s cape and fooling the ear.
Whatever it may have been, nothing would have kept a guard from knowing the condition and responding to it… soaking a sponge with cheap wine and extending it to the parched lips of the dying Jesus. The sponge pressed to his lips and while some of the liquid would have moistened the parched skin and leaked into a parched mouth, the rest of the libation would have ran down a chin caked with blood and sweat and matted in his beard.
Jesus’ thirst was hardly noteworthy amongst those gathered here, some against their will, some under orders from the Governor, and still others that had followed the parade of condemned men out through the City Gate and up the well worn path that Rome had made a show place for their justice and their power.
Hardly imaginable that a dry mouth such as Jesus’ would have been able to shape even the phrase, “I thirst.” His tongue cloying to the dried sepulchral roof of his mouth, his teeth adhering to his lips – his voice was heard in earlier times – but today there is only an echo of what had been said before.
Jesus knew of thirst. “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to me,” he had said when he was standing in the Temple on the Feast of Tabernacles. Some had heard him and John was struck with the notion that he should record it in his gospel account. Many others of course missed Jesus’ comment and ignored him. While he stood beside amphora jars filled with water, many had missed the allusion Jesus was making. Sufficient for others was the obvious and they saw no purpose in going to Jesus to drink. At the time, nobody was thirsty. The wisdom – the Sophia of God penetrated the surface and they were content with the surface.
It was thirst again that annoyed those that heard Jesus – disciples that had listened to him talk about Bread – Bread from Heaven and a Cup – a Cup of Salvation. John again recorded the incident and we benefit from his report. It was sufficient for many that the Bread which our forefathers ate in the dessert was all the Heavenly manna that the world needed. The suggestion that Jesus’ might be the Bread of Life, that his flesh was real food, annoyed them. And it annoys many who would like to follow him yet.
Jesus’ suggestion that unless we drink from the Cup we will not have life was more than many could take. The New English Bible translates their repudiation in this way: “This is more than we can stomach!” And they turned their backs on him and faced another way. They failed to recognize their thirst.
Peter and the others saw beyond the drink and recognized their thirst. Jesus asked Peter, and the others, do you also want to leave? And Peter’s response reflected his thirst: “Lord, where would we go?”
The Last Supper Jesus had with his disciples in an Upper Room presents us with a Cup – a Cup we are familiar with in our personal journeys that lead us to a Communion Rail either here or at some other Holy Place where the cold metal of a Chalice meets our lips and the salve of a restorative liquid seeps into our mouths and we swallow. For some this is a habitual practice that we have grown accustomed to. For others it is a pattern of life that finds its purpose in the thirst we have. A thirst we have found satisfied.
While asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane with the full moon of Passover casting eerie shadows and lighting the faces of slumbering fishers of men, Jesus asks that the Cup might be removed from him. That it might be set aside. That it might be taken from him.
In the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus, again recorded by John, we learn that what we want and what we need are often worlds apart. The character revealed in Jesus’ ministry from beginning to end is consistent: he never hesitates to give us what we need, he never hesitates to tell us what we need to hear. It was a dangerous strategy. It would have been better for him had he simply given us what we wanted, had he simply said to us those things that we wanted to hear.
But the choice was clear for him and the choice as he presents it, is clear for us. Choose life… or choose death.
He is closer to each of us than the person sitting beside us. He knows our need and encourages us to discover what it is that we need. The path we tread we are in company with him. Ours is a journey to Emmaus. And on this journey it is Jesus who names our truth, directs our quest…
2011 Come and Follow Me
2014 Folly of God