Just 2 weeks before World War II ended, the battle cruiser USS Indianapolis, returning from a mission of delivering enriched uranium to allied forces in the Pacific, was struck by a Japanese torpedo. It sank in only 12 minutes. 300 of the 1,200 men on board died from the blast. However, 900 men went into the water and floated in their life vests enduring 4 days and 5 nights without food, without water, in the scorching sun of the Pacific. Only 316 survived the harrowing experience and lived to tell it. One of those who survived was the chief medical officer Lewis Haynes, who worked with the men to survive the ordeal. His most challenging assignment was to keep the men from drinking the sea water.
By the second day the men could not resist the temptation to drink the deadly sea water. The boys began to gorge themselves murmuring in pleasure as they sipped through bleeding lips. Dr. Haynes swam among them punching them in the face and pleading with them to stop. It was no use because they could resist no longer, especially the younger ones. Many had hallucinations and mad fits and fell into comas. The dead or nearly dead floated motionless, while others clawed the air in thirst or panic. Their throats were too dry to scream. For most it took no more than two hours for them to die.
Dr. Haynes writes: “At first you get in a situation where you abhor it. You can’t stand it. It’s terrible. But you can’t get away from it. So you stick with it. And then you get so that you tolerate it. You tolerate it long enough, you embrace it. It becomes your way of life.”
What a picture of human thirst. Everywhere we look we see thirsty people. We are thirsting for something even though we have no idea what. The craze to buy things is an attempt to quench our thirst, but it doesn’t work. The incessant pursuit of sex is another futile attempt to slake our thirst, but it just leaves us emptier. Neither success, fame nor riches will quench our thirst, but in the end, we discover that we are still thirsty. All these attempts are like salt water. We think they will satisfy us, but they leave us even thirstier than we were before, and worst of all the saltwater is killing us.
Jesus knows our thirst. Near the end of his grueling ordeal on the cross, he yelled out “I am thirsty” (John 19:28). He experienced the gut wrenching desire for something to satisfy his thirst, and he was referring to more than his physical thirst. A little later, he spoke again and this time he said, “It is finished” (John 19:29). Jesus had finished his work of redemption.
Jesus had already invited the thirsty to come to him and drink when he said, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). He was referring to the life that flows from Jesus to the thirsty when they come. Four hundred years before, the prophet Zechariah said that on that day—the day Jesus died a fountain would be opened up—a fountain to cleanse them from sin and impurity (Zech 13:1). This is the water we long for, and it is the water that will truly quench our thirsting souls.
When Jesus died on the cross, that fountain began to flow, and people have been drinking from it ever since. Are you tired of being thirsty? Are you tired of being disappointed? Are you tired of life? Are you tired of drinking salt water that only makes you thirstier? Then I invite you today to become a true follower of Jesus Christ. I’m not talking about joining a church—I’m talking about giving your heart to Jesus and drinking of the living water that Jesus offered.
Stanton, Doug (2003-05-01). In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors (Kindle Locations 2081-2102). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.