I need this...and this...and this...
Midweek 6 LSB #’s 422, 436 v.1; 451
Text – 1 Peter 4:1-2
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.
I Need This… & This… & This…
“I thirst.” As we meditate on repentance for Lent, we come to these words of Jesus from the cross. “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch & held it to His mouth..” (John 19:28-29 ESV)
Hearing these words, you can imagine how this sermon might begin. Maybe you expect a literal description of the tortures our Lord endured on the cross & His excruciating thirst. Or you might expect something about a hot day & hard work; something designed to get you to remember what it’s like to be really thirsty.
Instead, I simply have a question. What do you thirst for? What do we thirst for? Am I trying to trap you? You’ve heard enough sermons to guess where this is going. We should not thirst for things. We should not want ‘things.’ But I’m not going there either. This is no trap! I’m taking certain things for granted this evening.
I’m assuming that I’m talking to the Christian church, the bride of Christ, those redeemed by the bloodshed of our Savior on the cross, those whom the NT calls “the body of Christ.” I’m talking to those who know the promise of an end to suffering because Jesus died for us. I’m talking to you. I’m talking to you who fit the description of 1 Peter 4:1-2:
“Since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because He who has suffered in His body is done with sin. As a result He does not live the rest of His earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” In that I hear Peter calling us to “arm” ourselves with the same thinking as Christ. I hear Peter saying we’re done with sin, yet I know we still struggle with it. Tonight, let’s think about ourselves as that body of Christ, as sinners but saved sinners who are already armed with the same manner of thinking as Christ. With that in mind, what do God’s children thirst for?
We thirst for justice, for healing, for an end to suffering. We thirst for a stronger economy, for those without work to find jobs, to provide for their families. We thirst for safety, for disaster victims to get the supplies & protection they need. We thirst for an end to abortion, racism, sin, death & the power of the devil. We have a spiritual thirst!
Now, we’re at the point where the sermon typically turns the corner. I could take a moment to look closer at the Gospel reading. I could point out that St. John lets us know the drink was given to Jesus in order to “fulfill the Scriptures.” We could look back at the verse Jesus fulfilled, Psalm 69:21, “…for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink…”
I could tell you that as God promised a brief release from suffering for Jesus in the form of a drink on the cross, in the same way we can know that God will meet our needs. Pastors are tempted at this point of a sermon to tell you that your thirst will be quenched as well. However, that is not always true, & from experience we know that.
We thirst, & sometimes there is just no relief from it. The financial burden of operating a Lutheran school weighs heavily upon every member of this congregation & the thirst of that budget never seems to be quenched. Sometimes there is no cure for the cancer. At other times the better job never arrives, the house gets foreclosed, or the relationship fails.
It’s like the story we heard last week of the children buried under the rubble in Haiti. Two of them were rescued, but three of them died. And do you remember what Sabrina told reporters? “He asked us for water on Wednesday, on Thursday, on Friday. He finally died of dehydration.” Sometimes we thirst & nothing comes to meet the need. What is there to say to the “Sabrinas” of the world? Sure, we church people have countless phrases to call upon in these situations, phrases we use so often they become meaningless even in our own hearing. Try telling one of those “Gospel clichés” to someone in Sabrina’s shoes. What might she say?
In the face of such horror, as watching a baby brother die of thirst, do I point to a man suffering to death on a cross? That doesn’t make sense. It seems foolishness beyond any comparison! Pastors are supposed to have something to quench the thirst for justice & righteousness, but we don’t, because we are empty just like you. Pastors thirst too.
We sing the 2nd & 3rd verses of “Go to Dark Gethsemane.”
Follow to the judgment hall,
View the Lord of life arraigned;
Oh, the wormwood & the gall!
Oh, the pangs His soul sustained!
Shun not suff’ring, shame, or loss;
Learn from Him to bear the cross.
Calv’ry’s mournful mountain climb;
There, adoring at His feet,
Mark that miracle of time,
God’s own sacrifice complete.
“It is finished!” hear Him cry;
Learn from Jesus Christ to die.
I thirst… yet still it is my job to stand here & tell you one of those ‘Gospel clichés’… something like… Jesus lives… That may be what you’re expecting, & at this point, it’s exactly what I am going to do, because it is the most important thing I can do. Jesus lives! It is the only news that can be good in any time of tragedy. Jesus lives!
Is that enough? If this good news – this Gospel – that Jesus lives doesn’t seem like enough, perhaps it’s because we do not realize what we need. Let me say that again. Please hear it. If this good news – this Gospel – that Jesus lives doesn’t seem like enough, perhaps it’s because we don’t realize what we need. Too often we live in the moment. We live in the midst of whatever suffering we are currently in, & cannot see what we really need. We focus all our attention on alleviating the suffering right now. We want to end that suffering.
That man, thirsting on the cross, would come to an end of His suffering. He would die. And when He died He paid for the sin which has brought so much suffering into the world & into our lives. But an end to suffering is not enough. Even if the pain is numbed, the wound remains. What we need is healing, & that is the promise we see in Christ’s resurrection.
Jesus lives! And because He lives, we too shall live. With His resurrection Jesus brings more than an end to our suffering. He brings us the promise of a day where all will be put right. All will be healed. All will be made whole. All the things that hurt us & make us something less than God created us to be will be no more.
There will come a time when death shall be swallowed up & God Himself will wipe every tear away from your eyes. That is our goal. That is what we truly need – not just for the pain to end, but to be healed, to be made whole. To be raised from the dead. That is the hope which keeps us going in the midst of suffering.
That is the certainty which arms us, as St. Peter wrote in the sermon text, with the “same way of thinking as Christ.” But it does not alleviate the suffering here & now. We still thirst. Must we wait with parched throats for this final day? Will our suffering never be alleviated here on earth? Though we may not see or feel it, God is intervening daily.
In countless ways God is giving us tiny sips of water so we can endure throughout this drought. Help may not always come, but because Christ lives we live in hope. Kiki & Sabrina lost three siblings, but they were rescued. In fact, that is one of the reasons why we are here. We are the body of Christ in this hurting & suffering world. We are often the instruments God uses to alleviate suffering, & to bring hope in the here & now, as we wait for the ever after. We are the ones who wipe tears from the eyes of others as we wait for the day when sorrow will end. We bring the sip of water as we wait for the day when the drought will end. We wait for the day when the source of living water – Jesus – will return, & you & I will thirst nevermore.
“Go to Dark Gethsemane,” verse 4.
Early hasten to the tomb
Where they laid His breathless clay;
All is solitude & gloom.
Who has taken Him away?
Christ is ris’n! He meets our eyes.
Savior, teach us so to rise.
We read in Revelation 22:20 that Jesus, who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” That is what all of us truly need. And we reply with a resounding, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet