Good Friday Reflections 2019

This year's Good Friday service took as its theme 'I Thirst' one of the last seven sayings of Jesus on the Cross. Below are the meditative sections of the service. The reflections are by Chris Leslie, and the poems by Joy Tobler


Water is fundamental to human existence and there are many references to thirst in the Bible, in the Old Testament & the Psalms and it is often used as a sign that God understands us & will provide all that we need. Throughout Jesus’ ministry he too uses the need for water to illustrate his teachings: “If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink.” “Blessed are those who hunger & thirst after righteousness and they shall be satisfied.” These are just two that spring readily to mind. So perhaps it’s not surprising that Jesus chose to refer to thirst in some of his last precious words from the Cross. There can be no dispute that he would be thirsty after the overnight imprisonment, a flogging, the long struggle up to Calvary, heaving his own cross for part of it, and finally, hanging in the baking heat for hours. Who wouldn’t have a raging thirst? Yet he only mentions it right at the end. A final confirmation, perhaps, that he was one of us after all with human needs and that he understands all our frailties too. In answer to his words ‘I thirst’ he was offered cheap wine by those who had crucified him – hardened, cynical men who could have jeered & laughed at him but who felt called to offer a small act of kindness – and cheap wine was all they had. They used a stalk of hyssop, woody and long enough to carry a wet sponge to him high on the Cross. Hyssop was well known for its cleansing properties and was used for ritual purification. Was this God’s way of reminding us that Jesus was a pure sacrifice for our sins? During his ministry Jesus himself tells the Samarian woman at Jacob’s Well that he is the source of Living Water- he said to her “If you knew the gift of God & who it is saying ‘Give me a drink’ you would have asked him & he would have given you living water” The images printed in the insert of today’s Service Booklet might represent just two versions of this Living Water. The first- a Cross of water constantly dripping into the well of our souls, the ripples spreading out to all parts of our lives perhaps……. Or the other, a ravaged landscape surrounded, submerged almost, by water. Bleak and yet the cross is there at the centre. You will have your own interpretations… but the thought struck me that we might well be surrounded or even immersed in Living Water but we need to drink from it in order for it to revive us ….

Poem - Thirst

Years earlier, in the stable, His thirst

had been quenched by the milk of Mary’s breast.


Years later she had alerted Him to the thirst

of the wedding guests craving more wine. He gave the best.


He asked a Samaritan woman for a drink when thirsty

but she forgot it in the wonder of his insight and knowledge.


He and His disciples had drunk wine last night

through ritual, not thirst, invoking a new ritual.


But now His thirst raged as His body writhed

seeking respite from hanging’s torture.


And his heart thirsted for His friends who had fled

while His spirit thirsted for the sense of his Father’s presence.


His “I thirst!” encompassed all that and more –

which the proffered wine could never quench.

Further reflection

“I thirst” – not a plea, just a statement of fact. Two words also expressing a much deeper truth, a yearning for something other than water- a spiritual need for God. In order to atone for our sins, Jesus would have to undergo Hell, that is the absence of God, and he was already feeling the desolation. But Jesus must have known that his final words would resonate down through time and he had so little time left to remind us what it had all been about -a lifetime’s work, a thirst for righteousness, for love, justice and peace in the world. A thirst for our commitment to Him, his message and way of life. Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity with just this in mind. The purpose: “to satiate the thirst of Jesus on the cross for love and souls.” The words “I thirst” are printed in bold capitals on the wall alongside the Cross in the Convent as a constant reminder. Their work among the poor is not just to provide for basic physical needs of thirst & hunger but also for spiritual needs -living water. So the message from the Cross is that we all need to carry on with the work Jesus started-caring for each other’s needs and those of the planet, to highlight and alleviate injustice in all its forms and spread his message of peace & reconciliation. It is down to us- in the words of St Teresa of Avila “Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours….” As we prepare to approach the Cross, are we ready to renew that commitment to his message and honour his words from the Cross?

Poem - I Thirst

He had refused the proffered wine

infused with myrrh to dull the pain.

But crucifixion brought a raging thirst

as well as searing agony of body.


Only when his task was done

did He allow the voicing of the cry –

A cry without a plea, but they held a sponge

dipped in sour wine to His lips.


They could not though, meet His unvoiced

thirst of spirit for the Father’s presence

In this God-forsaken place –

A holy thirst for the High and Holy One.


A Son’s thirst for an absent Father.