Summary: A continuing look at the sayings of Christ from the cross
Jn. 19.28 "I Thirst"
1. [Play CD] Out of all of the statements we’ve heard so far, this is the most basic. "I am thirsty". If I had a nickel for every time I heard one of my children say, "I’m thirsty," I could preach here and not take a salary. I wonder if his mom had flashbacks to his childhood when she heard him say, "I’m thirsty". I wonder if her first thought was to try to find a way to satisfy his thirst? To try once more and to meet the needs of her son. I wonder how her heart broke as she stood at the cross and watched Him die this excruciating death, knowing she could do nothing about it. A mom unable to help her son. The one thing a mom knows she is always supposed to do. And now her son cries, "I’m thirsty."
2. But have you ever wondered why Jesus would cry, "I’m thirsty?" Why was this one of the last statements we hear Christ making? I’ve said before that last words are very important, but these words almost seem too simplistic to mean much. These words seem too ordinary. I mean children and adults alike say, "I’m thirsty". Is there any real significance here? Let’s discover the reasons that John may have recorded these words.
3. First, the cross was an excruciating way to die. Physically, it broke down any individual and Christ particularly having been a carpenter and walking throughout His ministry would have been physically fit. And one of the side effects of the crucifixion is dehydration. The truth is, Christ spoke what was taking place in His body. "His [Jesus’] loss of blood, his nervous tension, and his exposure to the weather had generated a raging thirst." (Merrill C. Tenney, Expositor’s, p. 183) So Jesus’ cry, "I’m thirsty" is a physical reality of His condition. With every normal person, Christ was experiencing the effects of the cross. And this may be one of the reasons why John records this statement in his gospel. You see, very early on, there was a philosophical group called "Gnostics". And they believed that everything that had to do with the material world was evil, while everything in the spiritual world was good. Therefore, Christ could not be God because if He had been human, that meant a spiritual good became joined with a material evil. And they didn’t believe that could happen. So to fit their views, they proposed that Christ had come but not in an actual physical body, but only as a phantom. He only appeared to be with them although He wasn’t physically with them. And their teaching began to take hold in the early church, particularly to the people to whom John was writing. So a part of John’s intention in adding this statement, "I thirst" was to demonstrate that Christ was "in the flesh" and not a phantom. He was a real person who suffered real pain and died a real death on a real cross. It was all real. It really did happen.
4. But John also records an interesting statement here, which tells us that there is more here than simply a physical thirst. John says, "knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled". It is in connection with this phrase that we hear the words, "I thirst", so we know that Jesus is not simply stating a physical reality but He is commenting on the spiritual as well. But how?
a. First, Jesus as well as the Old Testament scripture equated "thirst" with a desire for God. Jesus had said to His followers, in the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled." Also, when Jesus had been speaking to the woman at the well, He told her, "whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." Again, this wasn’t only with Jesus but in the Old Testament as well, thirst was an indication of a desire not for a drink but for the Divine. Psalm 42.2 says, "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" and Psalm 63.1 says, "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water." and Psalm 42.1 says, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God." and Isaiah wrote, "The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them." (41.17). So when Jesus cries out, "I thirst". He may be referring not only to the physical need for a drink, but to this idea that He thirsts to meet with His Father and for His Father’s presence. He had just cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" It would make sense that He would now thirst for His Father.