This is the radio devotion I recorded for Maundy Thursday of Holy Week 2020.
Thanks to KCNI/KBBN for airing devotions by the Custer County Ministerial Association.
Good morning. This is Matt Fowler from Broken Bow United Methodist Church. With the spread of the COVID-19 virus, everything seems a little uncertain right now, and so, this week, I’m exploring five historic spiritual practices, or disciplines, that can help us experience God’s presence in the midst of our daily lives. And because it’s Holy Week, I’m going to be looking at Jesus’ last words spoken from the cross. Adam Hamilton develops these ideas in his book, The Walk, which my church has been reading during Lent.
Before jumping in, it’s important to note two things. First, the seven last words are collected by reading across the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each include different statements from Jesus. Second, because of the brutal reality of crucifixion, saying each of these things would have increased Jesus’ pain during crucifixion, and yet he found it important to say these things. These two things add weight or importance to these statements: they cost Jesus dearly to say them, and the early Christian gospel writers thought they were so important that they included them in the gospels.
After Jesus speaks to his mother and beloved disciple, which I talked about yesterday, the Gospel of John tells us that Jesus calls out, “I am thirsty” (Jn 19:28, NRSV). We might be quick to dismiss this statement as entirely practical. Any of us who’ve been with loved ones as they’ve died know that they’re often thirsty, and we often dip little sponges of water into their mouths. But, if we think about John’s gospel, we can see something more happening here.
In John 4, Jesus meets and talks at length with a Samaritan woman at a well. He tells her that he can give her “living water” so that she and others “will never be thirsty” (Jn 4:10, 14, NRSV). In offering the woman “living water,” he’s offering her himself as the way to live a life connected with God, “a life of meaning, and hope, mercy and love,” as Hamilton says (loc 1635). So, when Jesus musters up the strength to say through parched lips, “I’m thirsty,” he’s also saying, “I’ve given myself fully for the salvation of all.” In this, he echoes his earlier speech to Nicodemus in John 3, which some people call “the gospel in a nutshell”: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (v. 16, NRSV).
In his thirst on the cross, Jesus reveals the depth of God’s character: God gives and gives and gives for the good of all, so all can live life with God in this life and the life to come. God reveals Godself through Jesus’ extreme act of self-giving love. So too can God reveal Godself to us and others through our human acts of generosity – giving of ourselves and our that which we value for others.
Presently, some of our financial situations might be a little uncertain, so we might have to get a little creative in how we practice generosity for the sake of others. And yet, there are certainly ways. Before Brookestone View stopped receiving outside gifts, my son devoted hours of his “extended spring break” to making origami cranes as a sign of joy and hope for each of the residents of Brookestone View. He gave of himself – of what was valuable to him – to share God’s hope and joy with others. May God inspire us to acts of generosity for others today, and every day, through which God’s generous, extravagant love is seen.