“I Thirst!”

(John 19:28 – Midweek Lent 5 – March 30, 2022)

John 19:28 – After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!”

Dear Redeemed in Christ Crucified:

When you look at a stream or a body of water, what a wonderful part of creation you see. Countless molecules of H2O cling together in liquid form – raining, pouring, streaming, and flowing, giving life wherever it goes. About 70% of the earth’s surface is water and there is more beneath. Where there is water, there are countless species of living plants and animals. And there are living human beings. Our bodies may consist of up to 60% water. What a wonderful and vital part of God’s creation is water; it is central to our daily life, quenching our thirst.

Therefore, what a shocking an unthinkable sight it was, when the Creator of all water Himself hung on a cross crying out those fifth words from His dry tongue and parched throat: “I thirst!”

Just imagine how thirsty Jesus must have been. The last we hear about Him drinking anything was 20 hours earlier when He instituted the Lord’s Supper, as He passed the cup to His disciples telling them: But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).

After that, from the time of His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, it is difficult to picture Jesus having been given anything to refresh His thirst, as He was dragged back and forth between courts all through the night and into the morning, abused and beaten along the way. Then during those long hours on the cross, how His body must have thirsted for relief, in the feverish suffering that would torment the victim of crucifixion – shocked by searing pain of nail wounds and severed nerves, drained by loss of blood and fluids, and racked by relentless aches as every joint of the body was pulling apart.

We hear some of what Jesus was experiencing in the prophetic words of Psalm 22:14-15: I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death.”

To whom was Jesus speaking that last sentence: “You have brought Me to the dust of death”? Was it the Roman soldiers below His cross, who were having their fill of cheap wine? No, Jesus was speaking to His Father. Just before this, we heard His cry of anguish: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). Because on the cross, Jesus was suffering that God forsakenness for our sin; He was suffering that hellish thirst, as He bore the wages of our sin unto death.

Therefore, Jesus’ thirst went beyond the physical; it was a spiritual thirst He felt in His soul. He thirsted for the restoration of communion with His Father, who for a time had turned away His loving countenance for our sins. In this, Jesus could say in the words of Psalm 42:1-2: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”

Therefore in body and soul, the Son of God and Son of Man thirsted as He suffered for us. Jesus thirsted for all the ways our souls have panted after anything before God, all the ways we have tried to quench our thirst for life in the false idols of this world. For whatever we love and trust to provide the needs of life and satisfy our soul becomes our god – whether it is money, possessions, pleasures, or people – anyone or anything we put before God. Jesus thirsted for all the ways we have failed to deny ourselves for His sake and crucify the flesh, for all the ways we have lacked self-restraint and indulged ourselves in what was sinful – whether it be in drunkenness, gluttony, laziness, greed, lusts. Jesus thirsted for all the ways we have selfishly satisfied our own desires, while failing to show love and pity to those in need; treatment our Lord takes personally even in one of the least of these, as He said in Matthew 25:35:For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink.”

But here, how amazing it is to see the very Creator of all water suffering thirst and need on the cross, not receiving any of that love and pity. Could not He who causes the rain to pour forth and drench the dry land have used His power to quench His own thirst? Could not He who gives every molecule of water that supports every living thing have used His power to keep Himself from thirsting even to His dying breath?

How often, Jesus Himself had brought pity and relief to those suffering deprivation and pain. He had looked with mercy and compassion on the hungry, on the leper, on Peter’s mother-in-law with a fever, on the demonized and tormented soul, and many others. He had seen in the suffering of humanity the horrible effects of our sin and the signs of our death. And for them, He had used His divine power to bring relief, to restore health, to bring life out of death.

But on the cross, Jesus would not use that divine, miraculous power to quench His own thirst and relieve His own suffering. Why? Because He must drink that fiery cup of wrath against our sin which His Father was holding to His lips. He must drink each and every drop of that cup, for each and every sin we have committed against God and man. For this was the only way to save us from receiving that condemnation.

On the cross, Jesus deprived Himself because he was looking with mercy and compassion on you and me to satisfy our greatest need. He was thirsting in body and soul for our sins, feeling that feverish and fiery suffering as our Substitute, so we will never experience that unquenchable thirst in hell. Jesus went to that dry and lifeless place for us, so that in exchange He could give us the water of life.

And now – having drunk that cup to the dregs, having done everything to satisfy our most desperate need for salvation and eternal life – only now do we hear Him expressing His own need. As it says: “Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst!’ “ Instead of giving Him a cool, refreshing drink of pure water, the soldiers gave Him sour wine on a sponge. It was not the ideal drink for a thirsty man, but it did fulfill the prophecy in Psalm 69:21: They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” And thus, Jesus drank of the fruit of the vine again, having won for us a place in His Father’s Kingdom.

And now He brings that Kingdom to us. Since Jesus suffered and thirsted for our sins, now He lives to gives us His living water unto eternal life. In John 7:37-38, Jesus said: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

Through the faith the Holy Spirit works in our heart, we partake of the cup of salvation Jesus has won for us. He who thirsted and suffered for our sins now places to our lips that refreshing cup of life-giving water for our soul, as He forgives all our sins and gives us peace and life with God. He who poured out His life unto death for us now pours out upon us His life-giving water and Spirit in Baptism, cleanses away our sins, giving us spiritual rebirth as the children of God. He who drank the bitter cup to the dregs in our place, now gives us to drink of His sweet, new wine. “Take, drink; this is My blood of the new covenant shed for the remission of your sins.” He gives His sacred blood for wine, a foretaste of that great feast to come when wine will flow in unending joy in the marriage supper of the Lamb in His Kingdom.

He who drank the painful cup of our human woe, feeling our suffering and misery, now lives to give us His salvation, that our souls may be refreshed and renewed, day by day, unto eternal life.

Therefore remember Him in His thirst when you are in pain, when the most the world can offer you is a drink of sour wine, when your suffering seems unquenchable. Remember Jesus in His thirst, thirsting for your salvation, and know that you are never alone in your time of need. The Suffering Servant is ever with you, though you do not see Him now; for so He has promised.

Think of Jesus in your time of spiritual thirst, when your prayers and devotions seem dried up like a potsherd, and your tongue clings to your mouth, silencing your hymns of praise. Continue to come to Him where He meets you with all His grace, to the Fount of living water that flowed from His pierced side to the font of your baptism, to the cup of His Supper where He refreshes you with His Body and Blood. And He will quench your thirst as no one else can. Here in His presence, as you partake of the overflowing riches of His grace, He moves you to say with Psalm 51:15: O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise.”

Water is such a wonderful part of creation. It comes raining, pouring, streaming, and flowing to us from our loving Creator, giving life to our bodies. How much more wonderful is the water of life, poured out abundantly to us from our loving Savior, giving life to our very souls, filling us to overflowing. As Jesus told the Samaritan woman when she came to quench her thirst at the well: “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13-14).

He who thirsted and suffered need for us on the cross is true to His promises. He will bring us to that wonderful place He is preparing for us in His Kingdom, where it is said: “They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:16-17).

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.