My Thursday group really resonated with this chapter, with those simple words from Jesus. To them (and, largely, to me as well), the group found “I thirst” a good follow up to last week/chapter’s “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. That is, for our group Jesus expressing thirst expressed his humanity even more. Our group is firmly in the camp that Jesus was fully human, actually suffered, and truly died. This chapter helped reinforce those ideas.
Our group was floored by the way Hamilton connected Jesus’ thirst on the cross to Jesus’ experience with the Samaritan woman at the well. It seems so obvious now, but somehow none of us had thought of that before. We agree with Hamilton: “What does it mean that the one who offers living water was now himself thirsty?” A pathos-filled scene, indeed.
I do have a concern with this chapter, though. Once again Hamilton takes liberties with the biblical story – liberties that denigrate a woman. This encounter between Jesus and the woman at the well is only found in John 4. It is a terrific story. Jesus ignores several cultural norms to speak to the woman. He treats her like a full human being who wants to learn how best to live. He treats her with dignity and she becomes a follower of his who tells others about him; she becomes an evangelist.
The story reveals that the woman has had five husbands but is currently living with a man but isn’t married to him. Hamilton declares “This Samaritan woman had been divorced and remarried five times.” He goes on assert she is “thirsty for love, but none of her husbands had satisfied this thirsting in her soul.” Now it could very well be that she was married and divorced five times. But it couldn’t be due to her “thirsting” for something she hadn’t yet found in a man. Women couldn’t start divorce proceedings in that time. Plus, there are plenty of possible reasons for her multiple marriages besides divorce: death, war, accident, imprisonment…we can’t know because the text doesn’t tell us. If this were a courtroom drama I might say Hamilton assumes facts not in evidence in order to reinforce his narrative of thirsting.
I could be picking nits here, but I find it important. The church (in the historical, global sense) has been -and continues to be – complicit in subjugating women. That must stop. When famous white male pastors with large platforms even hint at making women into objects for lessons or don’t think twice about making them seem somehow deficient, well, I think we must call that out. [end rant]
Studies like this one are at their best when we make connections from the texts to our own lives. Nancy offers this story from her life regarding “I thirst” (shared by permission):
In the last few days of my daddy’s life, hospice advised we were not to give him water as it may cause complications in allowing him to die peacefully. He was on morphine and wasn’t asking for anything. On the last day of his life my sister, Deb, asked me to give him some water.
I used a tiny sponge dipped in cold water, opened his mouth ever so slightly, and gently swabbed his mouth. It was the last reaction I saw from my daddy and he died less than 24 hours later. He somewhat puckered his mouth and one could tell that little bit of moisture was a comfort to him. His body seemed to relax.
“I thirst” has a lot of meaning for me.