Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Words from the Cross - Need

Note: As we are in the Lenten Season of the Church calendar over the next few weeks I'd like to reflect on some of Jesus' Words from the Cross. This excerpt is from a sermon titled Need and is based on the phrase, "I thirst" - the fifth Word from the Cross found in John 19.28.

We need a new coffee maker. We've had it almost 9 years and it's starting to leak. We need to replace it because we use it practically every day, can't live without it. Needless to say, we are avid coffee drinkers. Not just Starbucks, either. We buy the flavored gourmet style beans: Mocha Almond Java, Chocolate Irish Cream, Vanilla Cookie Wafer. Coffee flavors are getting about as ridiculous as ice cream varieties. Double Peanut Butter Brickle Fudge Brownie. At any rate, we need a new coffee maker if we're going to continue this admittedly extreme habit.

What do you need? A new washer, dryer, refrigerator, furniture, carpets, curtains, car, trailer, apartment, house? Or are your needs less tangible, more qualitative? Like friendship, family, companionship, care, understanding, acceptance, love and forgiveness. These are basic needs, to be sure. Emotional and spiritual needs.

Yet for many in the world, there are physical needs which are even more basic. Items, events that we take for granted. A night free from bombing, a day released from terror, shelter, clothing, food and water. Millions of people live without these most basic needs. But not for long. Some survive, many do not.

Hmm. I guess by way of contrast we don't really need a coffee maker. We can live without it. You don't need a micro-wave, mini-blinds or a new mattress. Not that these things are wrong to have. Just realize they don't fall into the category of needs. Wants, wishes, or wise purchases, maybe, but not necessities. Strip away all the packaging and we begin to realize that there are actually very few things that humans need.

We mentioned a few already. Friendship, acceptance, forgiveness, meaning. Shelter, sleep, food, water. Basic human needs. Every person who has ever lived has acknowledge these necessities. It may or may not surprise you, then, that Jesus had needs - physical, emotional, and spiritual needs because he was completely human. Yes, completely divine as well. But don't let that throw you. Jesus knew what it meant to be stomach-grumbling-hungry, dog-tired and emotionally drained.

And thirsty?! Jesus knew thirst. Probably the most fundamental ingredient in the recipe called survival. Water. H2O. Wet, refreshing, life-giving water. So important to our existence, it has become, for many, the symbol of life. To an alien race, water might even symbolize humanity. In one episode of "Star Trek, The Next Generation" (a science fiction TV series that used to rank in my top 5 need-to-watch list) humans were described as "ugly bags of mostly water." It's true. I don't know about the ugly part, but 70% of our body is water. A 5% loss results in fuzzy thinking, a 10% loss leads to death.

Jesus knew thirst. After a brutal beating and whipping which broke open the skin - that thin layered bag that holds our vital liquids inside - Jesus' body was an ugly mass of mostly water, blood-dripping, life-giving water. It's no wonder, then, that he speaks this 5th word from the cross. "I'm thirsty."

I'm thirsty. Has there ever been a more poignant statement of need - of human, physical need. It compliments, and may help explain, the word of anguish we heard last week, "My God, why have you forsaken me." While that 4th word from the cross spoke of spiritual alienation and abandonment due to the world's sin that Christ took upon himself, this phrase, "I am so thirsty," shouts out loud and clear that the divine Son of Man had needs.

Don't doubt it, friends. Jesus was fully human. Some early Christians, in order to protect Christ's divinity, were tempted to think of him as mere spirit in a phantom body. Some claimed that when he walked he never left any footprints. Balderdash. In John 8 we see him scrunch down and scribble in the dust. Can a phantom do that? No. Jesus had a body and it was subject to the bodily functions that mark us all. He ate, drank, burped, used the privy. He slept, cried, was tired, and was thirsty.

This should encourage us. It puts a stamp of approval on all that is truly human. It is not wrong to be in need, to hurt, to emote, to feel pain, depression, anguish, or thirst. Just as it is not wrong for us to exult, shout with joy, or soar to great heights. Humanness is good. In Genesis 1 God pronounces his blessing upon all of creation, especially his masterpiece, Adam, Man, Humankind.

It is not our humanity that gets us into trouble. It is the inhuman sin nature that infests and corrupts God's good earth that is the problem. Our sin nature, that hideous birth mark which we've adopted and fed and treated as something precious, that sin nature which has taken over our flesh needs to be rejected, destroyed, cleansed, and forgiven.

That is the reason for the cross. Jesus, the God-Man, hangs between earth and heaven as a space-time portal to filter out the parasite of sin so that all who enter will be pure and holy. And one day, one day we will experience our humanness as it was meant to be experienced, free from sin and death, free from pain and suffering. True humanity in resurrection bodies.

(For the complete sermon, visit Fwd: Thoughts.)

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