Modesty Woven by Prayer
Meditations on Jesus’ Last Words from the Cross
Canon Jim Irvine
Good Friday, April 10, 2009 - Noon - 3:00 p.m.
Christ Church (Parish) Church - Fredericton, New Brunswick
Luke 23: 33-34
Luke 23: 39-43
John: 19: 26-27
Mark: 15: 33-34 and Matthew: 27: 46
I am thirsty.
John: 19: 28-29
John: 19: 30
Luke 23: 44-46
Now I lay me down
The White Crucifixion (detail)
I pray the Spirit let shine the light…
I am thirsty.
John: 19: 28-29
holy and mighty,
holy immortal one,
have mercy upon us.
Now I lay me
down to sleep
and if I fail to
do what’s right
The Century caught the phrase: “I am thirsty”. A small thing, the least of the worries of those that hung from crosses in this bleak place. There was a jar of cheap wine – refreshment for the guard – and someone thinking Jesus’ thirst might be quenched, dipped a stem of hyssop in the jar and held it up to Jesus’ lips.
Not refreshing by any means, but moist. And sour.
Thirst had been the complaint as Moses led Israel into a wilderness. They had been happy to leave the burden of Pharaoh’s heel. Each step away from the meager rations of the supervisors overseeing their slavish toil was one step further into a dry and arid and menacing land. The Book of Exodus records the incident. Moses struck the rock at Horeb and obtained drinking water. Not cheap wine, proffered on a stick. Sweet water erupted from deep within the ground, cool and satisfying. God knew how to satisfy the deepest thirst. The complaining would subside – for the moment. The forty years that lie ahead would find new complaints. Thirst for the moment was basic.
The fifteenth month of Tishrei marks the Feast of Tabernacles. It is a Feast of obligation and ensures the memory of Israel and their years in the Wilderness. John records the event thirteen chapters earlier.
On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified. [John 7:37-39]
The fountainhead of Living Water now knew thirst. Jesus, who had spoken out at the Temple now claimed his thirst. The thirst of which Jesus spoke was not that which confronted Moses generations earlier where the Mountain of God erupted from the sands of time, and where deep artesian aquifers satisfied for a short while. Jesus thirst, a prayer: Veni Creator Spiritus.
Forsaken by the Father, Jesus cries out now for that of which he spoke from the Temple steps, standing beside the amphorae filled with water. The pressing darkness is filled with oppressive doubts and while others had hoped here was the Messiah of God on that day of Tishrei now past, the sense of doubt and anguish blew over him as an arid wind that dries the soul.
Hyssop soaked with solders’ wine was an act of compassion responding to a prayer of desperation. Having heard the words, they remain casual to the bystander’s ears. Cheap wine will suffice. But not directed to the Century, the prayer is offered into the darkness. In that darkness, Jesus’ supplication finds expression and is offered to God. The journey through the Wilderness continues and the plea adds a depth to Israel’s complaint beyond anything they might have wished for, or imagined.
Conceived by the Holy Spirit… Jesus has come to that place where his perception of his own genesis is obscured. Anointed by the Holy Spirit as he was baptized by John… Jesus has come to that place where his perception of his own mission and ministry is obscured.
The weight of humanity weighed heavily. As Moses found the burden intolerable, the New Moses found that the weight had only increased in the intervening years and now was crushing. A soldier’s wine jar is a poor substitute for the cup of Salvation now being poured out on Golgotha.
In the darkness Century and bystander both have difficulty in hearing Jesus. They hear one thing, and misdirect it. In the deep darkness – of the spirit – of the mind – hope is given expression as a plea:
Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
And lighten with celestial fire.
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
Who dost thy seven-fold gifts impart.
Thy blessed Unction from above
Is comfort, life, and fire of love.
Enable with perpetual light
The darkness of our blinded sight.
Midi: Schindler’s List