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Reflections on Our Saviour’s Seven Words from the Cross – Word Four: Faint

April 12, 2017

“I am thirsty.”
(John 19:28)

One of the terrible physical sufferings that took place in crucifixion was a raging thirst, from the beating down of the sun and the loss of blood. John, as is often the case, seems to have more in mind than this, however. Jesus’ words remind us of the other time in John’s Gospel when he said he was thirsty. On that occasion, Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, “those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I give them will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” Now John sets forth the unfathomable mystery that the Source of living water is thirsting. The One who is the Source of life is dying. The Omnipotent One is failing and growing faint, his life literally ebbing away drop by crimson drop. The response from the soldiers is to give Jesus some of their cheap wine, tying in the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry with its beginning, when at Cana he performed his first sign by transforming water into the best wine of the feast. Jesus is thirsting because he is doing the same on the Cross. He is offering the most precious wine of all, his blood – extravagantly, completely, pouring it out so that everyone may share in the Wedding celebration.

Reflection: Jesus fulfilled his promise to give a spring of water gushing up to eternal life by being this spring of water himself – so pouring himself out for us that he thirsted and fainted for life itself.

We thirst at first – ‘tis nature’s act –
And later, when we die,
A little water supplicate
Of fingers going by.

It intimates the finer want
Whose adequate supply
Is that great water in the west
Termed Immortality.  
(Emily Dickinson)

Thou art the first born of the dead, thou, ripe
now for death, art fruit of the tree of life,
life that never ends, fruit which we must eat, if we would be free.
For thou hast made of death the beginning of life;
thou, Christ, with thy death wast the death of Death at the last!
(Miguel de Unamuno, El Cristo de Velazquez, p. 119, alt.)

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