He says ‘I thirst’ – we heard him up on the hill, outside the city wall.
‘I thirst!’ he cries – which some regard as a little bit rich coming from the wine-bibber.
That’s what they used to call him, I don’t myself know the truth of it – but they used to call him the wine-bibber...when he was younger, in his younger days… and it could have been true.
A young man having too much fun, perhaps; needing to be held back a bit, held in, chastised in a way – for fun is no business of the righteous. That’s what they said.
So someone came up with a label, they came up with wine-bibber – and it’s damn difficult to escape labels, lazily attached but sticky as hell – wine bibber!
Good, eh? Though punishable by death in Deuteronomy…
…but then, fair’s fair, you have to draw a line, and this man, they say – he crossed it.
Though now he hangs and now he screams and now he thirsts.
‘I thirst!’ he cries – and I just about hear him, though what he cries he hardly knows, half-conscious, half-alive, I’ve seen this before….though full-human amid the nailed waves of pain…
… it’s no death for anyone, whatever they’ve done, tortured and howling like a fox at the end of the run –
– shouting his needs to the sky, as if anyone listens; naming the pain, for the body never lies and the body has needs, it goes feral to survive, we all know that…
‘I thirst!’ he screams beneath relentless sun.
I would often use the words, when I taught in the market place, when I taught on the mount or in the Temple:
‘Ask and it shall be given you,’ I said, ‘seek and you shall find’…good words, encouraging words, people liked them…though what is given may not be what you asked for; and what you find, may not be what you sought –
I didn’t ask for this, that’s for sure.
Like a child too far from the breast, pushed away, disregarded, set adrift by the powers and alone in the world. Is this it? Really?
Ask and nothing will be given you; seek and you shall be broken into bits.
Yet still I ask and still I seek; still I heave myself skywards to speak, pushing hard down on my nailed feet, to put breath in my lungs, energy for the words – ‘I thirst!’
And no words to describe the pain, really – no words, and I sink back down, my body slumps, my tendons scream –
– though even now, and how can this be, I remember the wine, such images return, how come they appear – and from where?
Yet somehow they arise, dancing in the sweat, my body remembers, laughter and kindness passing through me!
Too much happiness, and my dear crazy friends, I remember them well, good days and too much drink!
Though now not enough, not nearly enough, my mouth desert-dry… and I thirst.
I thirst for the old times, I thirst for new times, for one more tomorrow, our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done…
...but how I thirst!