Summary: This sermon looks at Jesus' saying "I thirst"
Jesus’ words from the cross in today’s Scripture appear only in the Gospel of John. It is the shortest of Jesus’ 7 sayings on the cross. One of the things we need to understand is that John writes with great depth and what appears on the surface has much more meaning underneath. This is exemplified in the first seven chapters of the Gospel commonly known as the Book of Signs. There are seven miracles of Jesus recorded and while each of them addressed a particular circumstance or illness a person faced, each was teaching moment revealing Jesus’ identity as the Messiah, the son of God. Every scholar believes that Jesus’ saying, “I thirst” has much more meaning than what appears on the surface.
Persons who were crucified often died from two causes: exhaustion because they did have the strength to continue to lift themselves up pressing against the nails in their feet and hands to garner the next breath, and dehydration. Jesus’ words today speak of his growing dehydration and the Gospels show many people’s response to that. Jesus is offered wine three times the day of his death. The first is when he was carrying the cross recorded for us in Mark and Matthew. In Matthew’s Gospel, he is offered a cup of wine mixed with gall which we think would have acted as poison. Secretly they would have mixed the ingredients to speed up Jesus’ death and limit his pain and suffering. This was an act of compassion because crucifixion was a long, slow, painful death. Jesus tastes the wine and refuses to drink it. Why? Because he was not just to die on the cross for the sins of the world but to suffer for them as well. In this refusal, we see how costly the price of sin really is. Jesus shows us what he told the disciples, that they must deny themselves and take up their cross, just as he has done for us, even it means suffering. He also shows us that suffering can be redemptive.
The second time Jesus is offered a drink is around noon when the soldiers offer him something to drink. They more than likely would have put the cup to his lips and then pulled it away, taunting him as dehydration sets it. And then at 3 PM, Jesus says these words, “I thirst” and is offered bitter wine is but he refuses. The wine was sour wine or wine vinegar. If you want to have an idea of what that might taste like, think of drinking a glass of balsamic vinegar. So what do we learn from Jesus’ saying today.
First, we see Jesus’ humanity. On the surface, these are words of suffering, allowing us to see the humanity of Jesus and the full pain and suffering he’s experiencing on the cross. We got another glimpse into Jesus’ humanity last week in his request for John to care for his mother, Mary. When a father died, it was the oldest son’s responsibility to look after his mother. Women could not work or inherit home or property from their husband so they were completely dependent on their male sons for survival. Thus, the care of his mother would have been a grave concern for Jesus, knowing he was just hours from death. We often don’t think of Jesus physical or emotional needs and concerns in his life and ministry but these words from the cross give us a window into that. Why did John include this in his Gospel? He was at the cross, heard these words and wanted all to see and hear Jesus’ humanity.