John 19:28 – “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst’”.
Puritan theologian William Ames said in the 1600s, “Jesus’ death included the loss of conscious enjoyment of God, the tasting of the wrath of God, and sadness, fear, and dread in agony.” In other words in addition to the humiliation, the extreme pain, the torture, and the disappointment, Jesus experienced intense mental and spiritual anguish.
John records for us in his gospel the very human cry of Jesus from the cross. The cry of “I thirst.” He had to be thirsty didn’t He? Perhaps the last time He had had something to drink was in the Upper room as He celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples. Certainly making sure Jesus had something to drink wasn’t high on the list of the soldiers and the guards as they mocked Him and tortured Him.
As He hung on the cross for those 6 hours, He probably was given very little, if any to drink. So now as He hung on the cross, He cried out, “I thirst.” No wonder it had probably been 16 or 18 hours since He had anything to drink. It was miserable.
Being physically thirsty always is isn’t it? I can’t go anywhere without carrying something to drink with me. I don’t like to be thirsty. Jesus didn’t either that’s why He cried out, “I thirst”. Being physically thirsty is a terrible thing.
And yet Jesus’ cry of thirst went far beyond being physically thirsty, as He hung on the cross of Calvary, the Bible says that He became sin (2 Cor 5:21), and as such He was separated from God, the Father. It was a terrible place to be. Separated from God, experiencing the wrath of God, in conscious torment, it was hell on earth. Jesus was in agony, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual agony. And in that agony He thirsted.
He thirsted physically. But even more than that He thirsted spiritually. For the first time ever He was separated from the Father and He thirsted for Him. As the psalmist says, “as the deer thirsts for streams of water, so my soul thirsts for you O God (Psalm 42:1)”. Jesus thirsted for something far beyond water, He thirsted for His Father. Separated for the first time ever from a conscious enjoyment of God, the Father. He thirsted. He thirsted for the relationship to be restored.
Why? He thirsted because He came to earth as a man, and He thirsted because of our sin. Our sin put Him on the cross, and now hanging on that cross, He was thirsty. Thirsty for something to drink, but even more, thirsty for His Father. It was a thirst that would be quenched because the relationship would be restored. Death and sin did not have the last word. And because of that, because of Jesus our relationship with God can be restored as well. The Bible says that we are sinners and that our sins have separated us from God. Jesus however gives us forgiveness and takes God’s wrath in our place, so that our relationship with God can be restored. He became thirsty so that He can offer us that living water that is talked about in John 4. He became thirsty so that our thirst can be quenched and so that our relationship with God can be restored.
Being physically thirsty is a terrible thing. Even as I write these words I have 2 drinks sitting beside me. But as horrific as it is to be physically thirsty it is much worse to be spiritually thirsty. What makes it even worse is that many are dying of spiritual thirst and they don’t even know it. Trying to quench their thirst with an inferior substitute.
Many try to quench their thirst with work, or with finances, or with pleasure, or with substances to mask the pain. Many others try to quench their thirst with their own accomplishments and with their own goodness. But it is to no avail. Timothy Keller says, “if you are looking to your own goodness or you own accomplishments to earn your salvation then you are making yourself your own savior.” And in reality what can you save yourself from? Nothing. You don’t have the power to save. You don’t have the power to give living water, only Jesus does. You can get yourself something to drink but you will thirst again.
Only He has the power to truly quench our thirst, to truly give us Living Water, to truly take our sins away. Only He has the power to be our Savior. Nothing else can save us, not the things of the world, not sin, not even ourselves. Only Jesus can save. He quenches our thirst because He loved us enough to thirst for us.