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John 19:28-29 28 After this, knowing that everything was already completed, in order to fulfill the scripture, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was nearby, so the soldiers soaked a sponge in it, placed it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. (CEB) The story of the cross isn’t about endurance alone. It isn’t about suffering alone. It is grueling in its suffering and endurance of pain. There is no doubt. The story is one of veiled triumph. It is that story when an enemy thinks he has his opponent down to that very last second… that very last out… that very last strike… something happens. Those of you who know me know I’m a huge baseball fan. Being from Kansas City and now living in Minneapolis, my baseball loyalties should be severely tested this year, but that’s life. Baseball is one of those games that is so fantastic precisely because it doesn’t have a clock so you don’t have to race it… and yet it’s not cricket, which takes about three years to play a game from what I’ve seen. The beauty of baseball is you can be down to your last strike and STILL pull something out. In 2011, the World Series finally had something dramatic happen. It was Game 6. The Texas Rangers were winning handily and the St. Louis Cardinals were batting in the bottom of the ninth. For those of you not familiar with things without a clock, that means they were down to the last three ticks of a clock in a football game, or, in NFL terms, it meant they had about a half hour to play. At any rate… St. Louis was down to their LAST STRIKE. The Rangers were up by two. One more strike and Texas wins the World Series. The plastic was over the 1 I Thirst
lockers in the locker room. The champagne was out. The cameras were ready to film the party in the Texas locker room. Only one more strike… two runners on… two run lead… and… BOOM! David Freese hits a fastball off the right field wall for a triple. Two runs score. Tie ball game. I was only up that late because I thought it would be so cool to see Texas finally win a World Series. But that home run woke me up! I mean… the last strike! Bottom of the tenth, Texas was on top again. Two runs again. Two runners on again. Last strike again. This time, a single up the middle. Game tied AGAIN. It’s the stuff of LEGEND. Your back is to the wall, your opponent gets ready for the final blow… and something switches at that last second. This is the crucifixion. It is agony. It is suffering. It is enduring pain. But it is the bottom of the ninth, two down, and two strikes. And for Jesus, that means nothing. The power of these verses, the power of this story, lies in the knowledge that JESUS KNEW what was going on. He has endured the suffering. For an afternoon, humiliated, he has hung on that cross. He has been ridiculed. He has suffered excruciating torture. The skies have turned black. The Father has turned his back. And John tells us that in that worst moment, with the enemy on the mound holding the ball with the third strike in his grip, JESUS KNEW SOMETHING.
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Through the suffering and the unspeakable pain, Jesus had his mind. He knew that he was reaching the moment when ALL things were fulfilled. Everything was ready. Maybe the enemy was digging in with his third strike pitch, but Jesus was digging in for the final swing. This one wasn’t going to tie the game. This one was going to finish the game. In order to draw it to a close, he calls out, “I am thirsty.” He is given sour wine (or vinegar) on a sponge. The sponge is placed on a hyssop branch. This is one of those times when you’re watching a movie and a slight of hand takes place and you don’t see it. What’s worse, the opponent didn’t see it. Hyssop wasn’t the most natural instrument to use for this purpose. Other sticks were longer and stronger. But this time a hyssop branch was used. John doesn’t want the reader to miss it. The hyssop branch was significant in the Passover. Ex. 12:22 -- Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood that is in the bowl, and touch the beam above the door and the two doorposts with the blood in the bowl. None of you should go out the door of your house until morning. (CEB) The hyssop branch was used to dip into the blood that went on the doorposts. When that blood was applied, the death angel would PASS OVER the house and not send death to the firstborn of the household. That is the whole meaning of PASSOVER. The hyssop branch was the tool to apply the blood. The enemy had his wicked curve ready for the third strike, Jesus digs in, and the switch is made. The hyssop branch comes out. The symbol of the blood being applied appears!
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At the worst possible moment, when everything seems completely lost, that third strike is arching toward the plate, Jesus pulls out a victory no one sees. He still dies. He will still be buried. But the victory isn’t the enemy’s victory. The third strike just got pounded. No one can see it yet. Those words, “I am thirsty” ring in possibility. They bring in the turn of events, the symbol of the hyssop branch, the knowledge that this is applying the blood and death has just been defeated… We need to hear these words in our own lives. We may be down to our last strike. The job market dried up. The housing market dried up. Work is scarce. Putting food on the table is tough. The enemy is gripping that third strike. Depression is settling in. Physical pain is racking the body. Relationships may be fraying. But Jesus is whispering something. He is asking you to dig deep to see something different. In the face of adversity… see his victory. See his power to overcome. See HIS ability to overcome and bring VICTORY to your situation. These words, “I am thirsty,” come from the same One who said: “All who are thirsty should come to me! 38 All who believe in me should drink! As the scriptures said concerning me,
Rivers of living water will flow out from within him.” (Jn. 7:37b-38, CEB)
The One who gives living water cries out for a drink. In the face of adversity, he knows physical thirst, but it is not about the thirst. It is about delivering a final message to his enemy before that last pitch is thrown.
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“You may think you’ve got that curve ready. But you just lost the game, pal.” We reflect on Good Friday. We remember on Good Friday. We sense mourning and loss on Good Friday. But we also need to sense the hope. We know it’s Friday night. We also know Sunday is coming. We may feel like Friday in our lives, but Sunday is coming. I am thirsty. I am thirsty to have the reality of Christ so palpable in me that in my darkest moments I know the enemy doesn’t have the last word. I am thirsty to live so fully in Christ that I understand more clearly that no weapon formed against me can prosper. All who rise up against me shall fall! I am thirsty for the Church of Jesus Christ in America to rise up out of its slumber and live in the power of the cross and resurrection again. I thirst for the day when we get ourselves up off the ground, dig back into the batter’s box, grip that bat, and say to the enemy, “Let me see that pitch one more time.” I am thirsty for believers to hear the voice of their Savior in their darkest hour whisper into their ear, “I’ve got you. You’re not going down. You’re going to win, and you are going to win huge.” I am thirsty for the power of the suffering Christ and the resurrected Savior to become so real… for the Church in America to finally wake up… to the beauty of a powerful, victorious Savior that will not let his people go down to defeat. I am thirsty for the Church to finally LIVE in the image of her beautiful Savior… LOVING what is good and HATING what is evil instead of LOVING what is evil and HATING what is good.
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I am thirsty for the Church to finally LIVE in the power of the Savior that says, “We will love our neighbors… ALL of them! We will not allow fear to keep us away. We will not let disagreement keep us away. We will CHOOSE to bring Kingdom beauty and rightness and justice into our world, and no weapon can stop us!” I am thirsty for that day. I thirst for that day in the Church because that will be the day we finally realize Christ had thirst as well. And we will then realize that our living in his power will guarantee his work of the Cross did SOMETHING in our lives! We need a new thirst in our lives today. A thirst for the Kingdom. A thirst for Kingdom victory. A thirst for the reality of a Savior who gave ALL for us. And it our time to give our ALL for him! Let’s THIRST!
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