Listen to the Thirsting Savior
Jesus, in Thy thirst and pain, while Thy wounds Thy life-blood drain,
Thirsting more our love to gain: Hear us, holy Jesus.
Thirst for us in mercy still, all Thy holy work fulfill,
Satisfy Thy loving will: Hear us, holy Jesus.
May we thirst Thy love to know; lead us in our sin and woe
Where the healing waters flow: Hear us, Holy Jesus! Amen. (TLH 184)
Text: John 19:28
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst!"
In Christ Jesus, whose life and passion bring light and life to each of us who by nature were doomed to darkness and death, dear fellow redeemed:
Our Lord Jesus was nailed to the cross on Good Friday at nine o’clock in the morning. He hung on that cross until He died at three o’clock that afternoon. During that six-hour period in which He suffered inexpressible agony, He spoke seven times. Three of those statements were made during the first three hours of that time. Immediately after He was nailed to the cross He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Shortly there-after Jesus saw His mother standing beneath the cross with John. He told His mother, “Woman, behold your son.” To John He said, “Behold, your mother” (John 19:26-27). The thief on Jesus’ right, who earlier had openly ridiculed Jesus, was watching and listening. He was led to repen-tance by what he witnessed and asked Jesus to remember him when He entered into His kingdom. Jesus responded, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
At twelve o’clock noon darkness covered the earth in token of the punishment Jesus was enduring to remove the sins of the world. In the midst of that darkness, we hear our Savior cry out a fourth statement, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46) The agony our Savior experienced was that of hell! It was shortly before the close of those six hours of suffering that Jesus uttered His final three statements in quick succession. The first of those words are the words we are considering this evening—“I thirst!” Upon first reading them, one might wonder why the evangelist John bothered to record these words. They would appear to have little significance. If a child asks for a drink because he is thirsty, there is certainly nothing noteworthy in that request. It is a rather common occurrence. The Holy Spirit, however, moved John to record these words in the Holy Scripture, and they will stand until the end of time for they intended to be a comfort for us believers. They present to us THE THIRSTING SAVIOR! Let us listen to our thirsting Savior, who became man for the express purpose of suffering as our substitute. Let us listen to our thirsting Savior, who fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies, so that we might be certain of our salvation!
The fact that Jesus was thirsting shows us that He was indeed a human being just like you and I. Other events in Jesus’ life assure us of the same thing. He was born even as we were all born at one time (cf. Luke 2:1-8). He became hungry after fasting in the wilderness (cf. Matthew 4:2). He ate food in the upper room Easter Sunday evening in order to demonstrate to His disciples that He was indeed a man and not just a spirit (cf. Luke 24:43). He became tired and fell asleep while traveling in a boat across the Sea of Galilee (cf. Mark 4:38). He wept, even as we at times weep, at the grave of His friend Lazarus. All of these things demonstrate that our Savior was a true human being just like we are.
Why is that so important to know? It is important because the righteousness of God demanded a life as the ransom for sin! “Without shedding of blood there is no remission,” the writer to the Hebrews states (9:22). Someone had to die in order that the wrath of God might be appeased over against our sin. That principle was demonstrated over and over again throughout the Old Testament by the many sacrifices that the law of God commanded the people to offer. Those sacrifices—the blood of all of those animals—pointed ahead to the Savior, whose blood would cleanse us from all sin. John the Baptizer cried out upon seeing Jesus, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus Christ was the one sent by God to give His life a ransom for all (cf. Matthew 20:28). In order to do that He had to be a true man!
If a life was required, why was not the life of an ordinary human being sufficient? The reason is because none of us have a perfect life to offer! We by nature, the Scriptures inform us, are all “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). It was necessary, therefore, that God send His only-begotten and beloved Son to be that perfect human being, whose life would be given in order to pay for sin and defeat Satan, the father of sin. As the writer to the Hebrews states, “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (2:14). The THIRSTING SAVIORbecame man for the express purpose of suffering as our substitute, and in so suffering He destroyed the power of Satan and changed our eternal destinies!
It is, therefore, so very comforting to behold our Savior—the THIRSTING SAVIOR, who suffered in our place. It is because our Savior suffered that we will not have to suffer eternally because of our sin. It is because our Savior thirsted, that we will never thirst as the rich man in hell in Jesus’ parable. We will never have to cry out, as he, and ask that poor Lazarus be permitted to dip his finger in water and touch his tongue in order to provide some respite from the tortures of hell. Yes, it was for our comfort that the Holy Spirit caused John to record these words of Jesus. Let us listen to Him so that we might be assured that He was a human being like we are, and that through His death we are saved.
John gives us a specific reason, however, why our Savior cried out, “I thirst!” It was in order that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. Two of the psalms written by David one-thousand years before our Savior’s passion prophesied that Jesus would suffer agonizing thirst when He died. God’s plan for our salvation was not the result of haphazard chance occurrences. No, our Savior’s passion was the result of a God-ordained plan of salvation developed by God in eternity before the world even began. Paul tells the Ephesians, “He (God the Father) chose us in Him (God the Son) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (2:4-5). Before the world even existed, God decided to make us rebellious creatures His children and heirs through the life and death of Jesus Christ. That being the case, and the plan already having been formed the Holy Spirit was then able to reveal it to man by inspiration in advance down through the ages. He did so not only in general and vague terms, but with specifics in order that believers in the Holy Testament might have exact signs for which to watch and with which to identify the promised Savior. Those specific details also present to us faith-strengthening materials to consider, so that we too might be certain that Jesus is indeed that Savior promised by God, and that the salvation He has won for us in indeed a certainty for us!
Jesus once told the scribes and Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39). The prophecies of the Old Testament spoke directly of our Lord’s life and death. David foretold in Psalm 69:21, “They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” Mark records the fact that after Jesus said, “I thirst,” that “someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink” (15:36). David speaks as well of the thirst of our Savior in Psalm 22:15, words we read responsively earlier this evening, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death.” Even so the THIRSTING SAVIOR fulfilled the most minute of Old Testament prophecies. When you consider that it had been revealed that Jesus would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver (cf. Zechariah 11:12); that the money would then be returned to buy a potter’s field (cf. Zechariah 11:13); that Jesus would be spit upon (cf. Isaiah 50:6); that He would be crucified with criminals (cf. Isaiah 53:12); that His hands and His feet would be pierced (cf. Psalm 22:16); that He would be mocked and insulted (cf. Psalm 22:6-8); that the soldiers would cast lots for His clothing (cf. Psalm 22:18); that His side would be pierced (cf. Zechariah 12:10); and that none of His bones would be broken (cf. Psalm 34:20)—when you consider all those details revealed by the Holy Spirit hundreds of years before they took place you cannot help but be strengthened in the assurance that Jesus Christ—the THIRSTING SAVIOR—is the Savior promised by God. Our salvation is surely and absolutely certain!
May we ever listen to and take comfort in those simple words, “I thirst!” They confirm for us the truth that Jesus is indeed our Savior, for they are part of God’s overall plan for our salvation—to which the prophecies of old testify. May we then join the hymnwriter in confessing:
We have a sure prophetic Word by inspiration of the Lord;
And tho’ assailed on ev’ry hand, Jehovah’s Word shall ever stand.
By pow’rs of empire banned and burned, by pagan pride rejected, spurned;
The Word still stands the Christian’s trust while haughty empires lie in dust.
Lo, what the Word in times of old of future days and deeds foretold
Is all fulfilled while ages roll, as traced on the prophetic scroll.
Abiding, steadfast, firm, and sure the teachings of the Word endure,
Blest he who trusts this steadfast Word; His anchor holds in Christ, the Lord. Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting