Summary: Christ thirsted for more than water on the cross. He also thirsted for our salvation. We must thirst for him the way he thirsts for us for us to be truly satisfied.
a. This morning as we continue our series The Gospel in the Seven Sayings of the Cross we focus on Christ’s fourth statement made from the cross.
b. In the statement we will evaluate today, Christ demonstrates His knowledge of scripture. He also demonstrates His humanity and His deity through a simple statement. And, He does this all through two simple words.
2. Christ Thirsted in Fulfillment of Prophecy
a. Christ’s fifth saying from the cross has caused a large amount of debate among Biblical Scholars. The debate has centered over whether the statement should be taken at face value or is there some deeper theological meaning.
b. Read John 19:28—After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), "I thirst."
c. Have you ever been thirsty? I mean really, really thirsty—where your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth and all you can think about is water.
(1) Let me share with you a couple of interesting facts about physical thirst.
(2) Thirst is something we experience when the pituitary gland secretes two hormones in the body. One causes a physical reaction in the kidneys and the other causes the more complicated activity of the hypothalamus to send signals to the salivary glands to reduce secretions.
(3) Physical thirst can be excruciating and dangerous, leading to dehydration. Dehydration left unchecked leads to death.
d. There is no doubt that Christ was thirsty, as this was one of the horrible parts of crucifixion.
e. Dr. Mark Eastman, in an article on the Koinonia House website entitled Medical Aspects of the Crucifixion: The Agony of Love, describes the series of events in this manner.
(1) The position on the cross sets up a horrific sequence of events which results in a slow, painful death. Having been pinned to the cross, the victim now has an impossible position to maintain.
(2) With the knees flexed at about 45 degrees, the victim must bear his weight with the muscles of the thigh. However, this is an almost impossible task—try to stand with your knees flexed at 45 degrees for 5 minutes. As the strength of the legs gives out, the weight of the body must now be borne by the arms and shoulders. The result is that within a few minutes of being placed on the cross, the shoulders will become dislocated. Minutes later the elbows and wrists become dislocated. The result of these dislocations is that the arms are as much as 6 9 inches longer than normal.
(3) With the arms dislocated, considerable body weight is transferred to the chest, causing the rib cage to be elevated in a state of perpetual inhalation. Consequently, in order to exhale the victim must push down on his feet to allow the rib muscles to relax. The problem is that the victim cannot push very long because the legs are extremely fatigued. As time goes on, the victim is less and less able to bear weight on the legs, causing further dislocation of the arms and further raising of the chest wall, making breathing more and more difficult.
(4) The result of this process is a series of catastrophic physiological effects. Because the victim cannot maintain adequate ventilation of the lungs, the blood oxygen level begins to diminish and the blood carbon dioxide level begins to rise. This rising carbon dioxide level stimulates the heart to beat faster in order to increase the delivery of oxygen and the removal of carbon dioxide.
(5) However, due to the pinning of the victim and the limitations of oxygen delivery, the victim cannot deliver more oxygen and the rising heart rate only increases oxygen demand. So this process sets up a vicious cycle of increasing oxygen demand-which cannot be met-followed by an ever increasing heart rate. After several hours the heart begins to fail, the lungs collapse and fill up with fluid, which further decreases oxygen delivery to the tissues. The blood loss and hyperventilation combines to cause severe dehydration. That's why Jesus said, "I thirst."
f. Jesus had a real body with physical needs that was at that moment dying. His body was responding just as ours would were it one of us on the cross and not Him.
g. However, the general consensus among scholars regarding this saying is that being knowledgeable of the scripture and the prophecies regarding Him, Christ, knowing the end was near, stated this in satisfaction of prophecy.
3. A two-point picture.
a. Christ stating that He was thirsty brings to mind to points that while not related to physical thirst, this very basic human need points back to significant statements associated with Christ’s ministry.
b. The first image that comes to mind is the questionable understanding that He made this statement only because of His knowledge of scripture and prophecy associated with Him and that He was merely satisfying prophecy.