When Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said: 'I thirst.'" (John 19: 28)
Thirst is not just thirst in Scripture. Water it not just water. Both are physical and spiritual. "As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. (Psalm 42: 1)" "My soul thirsts for you, O God, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63: 1)" To a woman drawing water from a well, Jesus said, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again--but those who drink of the water I will give them will never be thirsty. (John 4: 13)" "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matthew 5: 6)"
Our souls thirst for God as our bodies thirst for water. We don't learn to thirst. But life depends upon learning to recognize it and respond appropriately.
"I thirst." There is something deeply human about this word of Jesus. The powerlessness of it. The desperation. It is indicative of one who has emptied himself, who has poured out his life for us.
For us living in the early 21st Century in the places we do in these United States, quenching our thirst is a simple matter. We don't get anxious when we get thirsty. We simply quench it in any number of ways. Of course, the deeper question is: have we lost our capacity to recognize the thirst of the soul? Do we recognize the persistent dryness of spirit that cries out for water, the telltale cracks in the parched landscape of our interior lives that long for relief? Do we lose our compassion for those who thirst in a dry and weary land where there is no water?
My parents used to take long trips on a motorcycle. Once in the southwest US, they were riding through the desert. My father, who has always had a poor sense of direction, lost his way. Lost way led to lost way. The heat was unbearable. My mother began to faint. In her semi-conscious state, he had to hold her on with one arm and with the other throttle them faster and faster into lostness in search of water. When they finally came to a motel/gas station, he parked the bike, took my mother in his arms and stumbled towards the swimming pool and, without missing a step, leapt in--full weather gear and all. Thirst had never felt so real. Water never so sacred.
Thirst can save us if it sends us in search of water.