Summary: Only in his fifth statement from the cross did Jesus refer to his physical suffering. In one word, he says to us: 1. God can relate to our suffering, God can redeem our suffering, and God can carry us through our suffering, if we will let him.
When Bad Things Happen to Good People
Seven Last Words from the Cross Part 5 * John 19:28-29
Listen to the words of Ray Pritchard as we use our holy imagination to set the scene. He writes, “It was going to be another hot day. You could tell it early in the morning. It was not yet 9:00 and already the temperature was pushing 80 degrees. Here and there the city merchants were stirring and rushing around and opening their stalls to make ready for another busy day. This was the beginning of Passover. Lots of things going on. Lots of talk in the city. Outside the city walls they were making ready for another round of crucifixions. Three this time. Two criminals and some fellow named Jesus of Nazareth. The sun was beating down on their heads as the soldiers dug the holes in the ground and made ready with the stakes, with the hammer, with the nails. Made ready with the ropes.
“At length out came the crowd from the city. The two criminals and this man Jesus. 9:00 came. Crucifixion time. Hammers and nails. Screams of pain. Gasps. Men stripped naked. Bugs and flies everywhere. The heat beating down. Sweat rolling off the bodies. Blood everywhere. The stench and smell of death. And talking, laughing. “Here he is. King of the Jews.” 12:00. Darkness. Confusion. The sound of panic. People shouting. Then silence. Thick oppressive silence upon the land. Three hours pass, an eternity of darkness.
“Suddenly the light shines. There on the center cross was Jesus. Clearly about to die. Every breath now is huge effort. Heaving, gasping, fighting for oxygen. Resting upon the nail holes while he inhales. Sweat pouring off of him. Making some strange guttural noises. The experienced soldiers had heard it before—the death rattle. With a gasp a sound comes out. You can barely hear it more than two or three feet away. More like a moan. It is one word in Greek—dipso— ‘I Thirst.’” [https://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/i-thirst/]
Thank you, Dr. Pritchard. Do you feel like you’re there? Can you visualize it? Today I’m going to preach a sermon based on a single word, one solitary word in the Greek: “dipso,” “I thirst.” When it comes to suffering, Jesus gives us three important lessons from the cross. First,
1. God can relate to our suffering
As the Son of God, deity in the flesh, Jesus knows firsthand what it is like to suffer. We can’t describe in detail the last twelve hours of his life, because it would literally gross you out: the crown of thorns, the scourging, the slapping and hitting and ridiculing and false charges, nails through his hands and feet, left to die in the heat on a cross. Now he is just moments from death, severely dehydrated. The blood loss, the heat, the stress: it has all had the effect the Romans intended, to slowly torture to death. And in his fifth of seven statements from the cross, Jesus points to his physical pain, the only time he does so. Jesus knows what it is like to suffer. God knows what it is like to suffer.
When you suffer, please know that Jesus suffered before you. Jesus suffered more than you. Jesus suffered not only the physical challenges of the cross, but also the spiritual, as—for the first time—he felt cut off from his Heavenly Father. We talked about this schism in the Holy Trinity last week. Jesus suffered spiritually and he suffered physically. God can relate firsthand to your suffering.
Secondly, Jesus’ statement reminds us,
2. God can redeem our suffering
You see, God can not only relate to your suffering, he can even use it for his purposes if you allow him to. Consider Jesus on the cross. Earlier in the series we talked about how he fulfilled prophecies found in Psalm 22, David’s psalm, concerning the piercing of his hands and feet and the gambling for his clothes. In today’s saying, he fulfills another verse from that psalm, verse 15, which says, “My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth” (Psalm 22:15). And he also fulfills Psalm 69:21, which says, “They ... gave me vinegar for my thirst.” Everything that happened on the cross was for a reason. It’s not like the events of Good Friday caught God by surprise: “Whoa, I never thought it would get this bad! Sorry, Son, I didn’t see this coming!” No, everything lined up perfectly with ancient prophecy. Revelation 13:8 describes Jesus symbolically as the lamb who was “slain from the creation of the world.” From the very beginning, God knew that his son would suffer on a cross. It was all part of God’s plan to buy us back, to redeem us for himself. An innocent one had to pay for the sins of the guilty.