I am Thirsty

April 18, 2014 Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Good Friday

Scripture: John 19:28


I Am Thirsty

John 19:28
Good Friday - April 18, 2014
Pastor Randy Smith

The glorious face that Moses had begged to see was slapped bloody (Ex. 33:19-20). The thorns that God had sent to curse the earth's rebellion now twisted around His own brow. A soldier raises a mallet to drive in the spike. But God Himself is sustaining the soldier's life both enabling and permitting his cruel actions. Pain that God designed the human body to experience works to perfection in His own body. They lift the cross. God is on display…and can scarcely breathe. Yet as He gasped for every breath with excruciating pain, He managed to utter seven memorable sayings (adapted from Nancy Leigh DeMoss).

We find ourselves in the fifth of those sayings spoken from our Savior on the cross. John records three of them in his gospel and our assigned passage is found in the middle of those three in John's gospel. First, as we recently learned, Jesus demonstrated mercy for His mother in verses 26-27 of John 19. "He said to His mother, 'Woman, behold, your son!' Then He said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!'" Third, as we will soon learn, Jesus demonstrated mercy for His church by announcing the glorious completion of His atonement. In verse 30 of John 19 He exclaimed, "It is finished!" Yet bookended by these two sayings, in our passage for consideration, it appears Jesus demonstrated mercy for Himself.  Permit me to read the entire text in John 19 beginning in verse 28. "After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture said, 'I am thirsty.' A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth" (Jn. 19:28-29).

Demonstrating His full humanity, Jesus (the God-man) cries out, "I am thirsty."

I'm sure we've all used the expression at some point in our lives, "I am dying of thirst." You probably hear it all the time from your children! How often have you replied to them, "You're not dying of thirst!" Yet have you ever experienced the agony of really dying of thirst? Physicians will tell us it starts with a dry mouth and moves to weakness and dizziness. A headache. Confusion sets in. Sweat glands stop producing. Body temperature increases. Seizures. Difficulty breathing. Body temperature continues to increase. Chest pains and abdominal pains. Anyone who's been there will tell you it is intense suffering.

Most likely the phenomenon is foreign for all of us as we live in a society where water is cheap, clean and in excess. It is as available as the nearest faucet. It's hard for us to identify with an arid climate where dehydration can set in rapidly - places like the biblical lands where water is identified with life itself. It's hard for us to imagine the awful pain of really dying of thirst. It's hard for us to really identify with these words of Jesus Christ when He cried, "I am thirsty." Deprived of liquids as the hot desert sun beat on our Lord's weakened body.  And His severe thirst was on top of even more severe agony of being crucified at the time.

The Psalmist in prophetic fashion described Christ's burning thirst in Psalm 22. "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; and You lay me in the dust of death" (Psm. 22:14-15)

The irony of it all! The One who created oceans and waterfalls would long for a few drops of water to slake His thirst. The One who could have commanded "stones [to] become bread" (Mt. 4:3) cried out to the people He created to assist His physical need for water.

Verse 29 tells us that the soldiers present offered Jesus some of their sour, inexpensive wine (oxos) that was "standing there." You have to wonder if giving someone sour wine (basically vinegar) was really a sign of mercy. Moreover it is debatable how merciful was it to give a crucified victim any liquid only to prolong life and thus prolong the pain. Nevertheless, verse 30 tells us that Jesus "received" the drink (cf. Mk. 15:36).

So while Jesus in His humanity suffered and wanted to fulfill a physical need of dehydration, the ultimate cry of thirst from our Savior was to fulfill Scripture as it says in verse 28. This was His mission to fulfill all that was written of Him in the Old Testament (Lk. 24:44). And the Scripture fulfilled specifically in this case was Psalm 69 when David was inspired to say, "They also gave me gall for my food and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink" (Psm. 69:21).

Jesus Christ, as "David's greater Son" (Lk. 20:41-44) took these words from King David (as He did much of the Old Testament) and applied them to Himself.  Once again, in the midst of horrific suffering, our Lord's ultimate concern was to obey the Father and "fulfill all that was spoken about Him from the Law and the Prophets (Mt. 5:17).

In addition to the literal thirst and the fulfillment of Scripture, many see these words of Christ laden with symbolism, symbolism that once again highlights His mercy for the church, dying as our substitute. We must remember it was at this time on the cross that Jesus was most likely facing the Holy Father's wrath in bearing the full penalty for our sins. Why the thirst?  A.W. Pink answers, "His thirst was the effect of the agony of His soul in the fierce heat of God's wrath" (Pink, The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross, p. 95).  

I trust you understand that when the Son received the sins of His people, the Father pronounced judgment upon Him for those sins. And there on that cross, as the Son was experiencing the condemnation in our place, the Father poured out the vials of His wrath unmixed with any mercy. Jesus was experiencing the Christian's hell. He thirst in the oven of God's wrath that we deserved. How can we not recall the rich man in hell also under God's wrath who cried out saying, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame" (Lk. 16:24).

"I thirst."

Additionally, there is no doubt that Christ's spiritual separation, this forsaking from the Father as He bore our sin (Mt. 27:46), gave Him not only a physical thirst as we just saw, but also a spiritual thirst to be back in fellowship His beloved Father. There was a separation for the first time at this time in the eternal Trinity. I believe this is what Jesus feared the most when He asked for the cup to be removed as He prayed in the Garden on the eve of His crucifixion. As He cried in thirst to return to the Father's good graces was Christ also fulfilling those precious words found in Psalm 42? "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God" (Psm. 42:1-2).  I believe as the Father turned His back, our Lord's spiritual thirst to be back in fellowship with God the Father was even a greater thirst than His physical thirst for water.

So the way I see it, there were three cups. Jesus Christ originally refused the cup of charity on His march toward Calvary when He first turned down the wine mixed with myrrh (Mk. 15:23). He did not want a sedative to lessen His responsibilities. Jesus did receive the cup of sympathy (as we just learned) the sour wine to quench His thirst (Jn. 19:28-30). But most importantly, Jesus also received the cup of the Father's wrath. The cup that He prayed at one point might pass from Him (Mt. 26:39). But for the behalf of those who call out to Him in faith, He faithfully drank this cup filled to the brim of the Father's hatred toward sin so His children can be forgiven knowing that their sins were removed and punished completely in Christ. Thanks to Christ they will never experience themselves the fierce thirst that comes from their separation from the Father.

Death and the curse were in our cup;
O Christ, 'twas full for Thee!
But Thou hast drain'd the last dark drop,
'Tis empty now for me.
Anne Ross Cundell Cousin

Pastor Erwin Lutzer once said, "He drank from the cup of death that we might be able to drink from the cup of life" (Lutzer, Cries from the Cross).

Thanks to Jesus, any person can enter a relationship with the living God when they come to Him simply through faith in the work of Jesus Christ to be saved from the physical and spiritual thirst incurred by God's wrath. Sin removed and thus wrath removed resulting in recipients of nothing but God's eternal love.

And in this relationship we are given a new thirst, a wonderful thirst, a thirst to know and love and grow in this divine romance based upon grace. And while that thirst never ceases, our Lord Jesus Christ who satisfies is there to satisfy for us every moment of every day that thirst as well. As He told the Samaritan woman at the well, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life" (Jn. 4:13-14; cf. 7:37-39; Rev. 7:16; 22:17).

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"Behold, I freely give
The living water; thirsty one,
Stoop down and drink, and live."
I came to Jesus, and I drank
Of that life-giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in Him.
Horatius Bonar