(As he died, Jesus) ‘said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the Sabbath, especially because that Sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.’ John 19:30-34
Our journey through the wilderness and in search for living waters has led us Holy Week. On Good Friday, Jesus dies on the cross – and it is a gruesome death, as the passage from the gospel of John bluntly shows. But even on the cross, we find the image of water – the water flowing from Jesus’ side as he is pierced.
These waters have often been interpreted in a symbolic way as the baptismal waters, which, together with the blood of Christ we partake in during Holy Communion, give us new life and sustain us. This is the water that gushes up to eternal life (John 4:14).
God has the power to offer life even in and through death. Life prevails, stubbornly and persistently. Life is hidden in that which seems dead.
A few years ago, one of my parishioners, who lived in a nursing facility and waited with joyful anticipation for her death (and her own resurrection), gave me a so-called ‘Resurrection Plant’, which is also known as the ‘Rose of Jericho’. She gave it to me with one of her characteristic sly little smiles. The plant didn’t look much like a plant, but rather more like one of those dust balls one may encounter in dry places, albeit in miniature.
The little lady then instructed me to put water in the dish this dust ball was resting in. And lo and behold, within a few minutes, the dust ball came to life.
My parishioner has long since passed away – and whenever I look at the Resurrection Plant, I think of her. I am certain that she has been raised as Christ was raised.
And I am just as fascinated by this plant as I was on the day it was given to me – it pretty much sits in my office, neglected, for months or even years at a time. Once in a while I remember to water it – and it never fails to come back to life.
Life is hidden in what seems to be dead. God has the amazing power to give life to the lifeless, the despairing, the hopeless. There is the never-ending stream of living waters, flowing from God, in every wilderness of our life, that gushes to new life, eternal life.
May your Holy Week be blessed!