I Thirst

Psalm 42:1-5
John 19:28-30

As the deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for you, O God.
I thirst for God, the living God.
When can I go and stand before him?
Day and night I have only tears for food,
while my enemies continually taunt me, saying,
“Where is this God of yours?”
My heart is breaking
as I remember how it used to be:
I walked among the crowds of worshipers,
leading a great procession to the house of God,
singing for joy and giving thanks
amid the sound of a great celebration!
Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!

Psalm 42:1-5

We are in the third week of a seven-week series of messages that focus on the seven last sayings of Christ. Seven utterances that come from the lips of Jesus as He hung upon the cross for six long hours on a Friday afternoon about 2,000 years ago. Seven sayings that still bring fresh perspective and insight for living into the lives of people who consider them in 2020. Seven sayings that have the potential to bring positive new change to you and me if we will consider them, and consider them carefully:

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Mother, behold your son, son behold your mother” (John 19:26-27).

My God, my God, what have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34)

Truly, truly, I say unto you, today you shall be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

It is finished” (John 19:30).

Father, into Thy hands I commit My Spirit” (Luke 23:46).

That’s six. For the seventh, let’s turn to today’s text as recorded by John:

Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips” (John 19:28-29).

Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst.”

That verse is pregnant with meaning for, in this one sentence, John brings us face to face with two extremely important truths.

The first has to do with the humanity of Jesus.

None of the other gospel writers record Jesus saying, “I thirst.” Apparently, they didn’t think it was worth mentioning. But for John, as well as for Christianity as a whole, that one word was extremely important.

You see, Matthew, Mark, and Luke all preceded John whose gospel was written about 40 or maybe even 50 years after the first three. By that time, a certain religious philosophy called Gnosticism was becoming increasingly popular. Gnosticism held, among other things that anything spirit was good but that all matter, that is anything we can touch and feel was evil. Certain conclusions followed: One was that God, who is spirit, is good, but God could never take on a human body because a body is made of matter and matter is evil. They, therefore, concluded that Jesus never had a body, but rather, that He was a phantom. They said for example, that when Jesus walked, His feet would leave no prints for He was a spirit in a phantom body. They therefore also had to conclude that since He didn’t have a body Jesus experienced the entire episode of crucifixion without pain. In this way, they thought they were honoring Jesus, but in reality, they were demeaning His work upon the cross in two ways.

First, as it concerned His sacrifice for sin. For if He was to free human beings from their sin, He had to become one of us. William Barclay writes,

If He was ever to redeem man, He must become man. He had to become what we are in order to make us what He is. That is why John stresses the fact that Jesus felt thirst; he wished to shoe that Jesus really was human and really underwent the agony of the cross.” 1

And second, the Gnostics denied Jesus identification with the human condition, especially concerning His identification with our pain. I will return to apply this point in a few minutes.

But for John it was very critical that we understand that Jesus did, in fact, have a human body. This is why John chose to include what the other gospel writers passed over; that Jesus experienced one of the most basic human desires: thirstiness.

Not only the humanity of Jesus; the second truth that surfaces in this text is that Jesus is at the same time divine.

Jesus, KNOWING that all things had already been accomplished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst” (John 19:29).

Jesus, “knowing that all things had already been accomplished.” What things?

Psalm 41:9 “betrayed by a friend”
Psalm 31:11 “disciples would forsake Him”
Psalm 35:11 “falsely accused”
Psalm 22:1 “forsaken of God”
Psalm 22:18 “garments were gambled for”
Isaiah 53:12 “numbered with the transgressors”
Psalm 22:16 “pierced His hands and feet”
Isaiah 53:12 “prayed for His enemies”
Isaiah 53:9 “proven guiltless”
Isaiah 53:7 “silent before His judges”

“Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished and in order that the scripture might be fulfilled.” What scripture? Now we’re talking Psalm 69, another Messianic Psalm which has been only been partially fulfilled:

Verse 2 says, “He will sink in deep mire.” I think we are safe in saying that.
Verse 3 says, “He will be hated without a cause.” That’s certainly true.
Verse 7 says, “He will bear reproach and shame.” Absolutely!
Verse 11says, “He will cry out to God in distress.” He did that.
And then verse 21 says, “they offer Me sour wine for My thirst.”

And so, Jesus, “knowing that all things had already been accomplished and “in order that the scripture might be fulfilled,” said, “I thirst.”

How could Jesus know these things? The one inescapable conclusion is that Jesus is who He claimed to be as it has already been recorded in this same gospel many times, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). For John, it is vitally important to point out that Jesus is not only human but also divine.

“Oh what a mystery, manhood and deity.” 2

Even the Apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy admitted “great is the mystery of godliness in that God was manifest in the flesh” (I Timothy 3:16)

Human yet Divine!

As a man, He slept in the back of a boat,
as God, He stilled the storm.
As a man, He wept at the grave of his friend, Lazarus,
as God, He raised His friend to life.
As a man, He died a terrible death,
as God, He was resurrected forever!
He was both Son of man and Son of God!
One unique individual possessing two natures, divine and human.
The God/man, Jesus, the Christ.

Now most, of course, don’t have a problem believing that Jesus was human.

It’s His deity we have a problem with because His deity maneuvers us into choosing between two alternatives. Either Jesus was who He claimed to be “I and My Father are one and the same” (John 10:30) or He was suffering from delusions of grandeur. If we believe the latter is true, that Jesus was a liar then what are we doing here? If on the other hand, He was telling the truth if the scriptures written about Him seven centuries before He was born are true; well then, that’s a game-changer!

“Bow down and worship, for this is your God.” 3

Having said all of that, I’d like to make one point of application that flows from this text; then give a concluding thought.

As for the application, His deity may lead us to believe that He is far removed from our human situation; nevertheless because He was human, He can identify with our human sufferings.

As the scriptures say, He is acquainted with our feelings. He not only felt thirsty and hungry, He felt sleepy, tired, exhausted. He knows what we feel like when the alarm clock goes off. He knew what it felt like to spring forward last Sunday. He understands when we tell Him that there is more to do than can ever be done.

This word from the cross reminds us that Christ sympathizes with His people, can sympathize with you and me when we suffer various heartaches, pains, slings and arrows, temptations, trials, and tribulations.

The writer to the Hebrews reminds us, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do” (4:15).

I don’t know about you, but that helps my faith to realize that He experienced what I experience and He can therefore sympathize. He understands how I feel, what I am going through.

When we go through various trials and sufferings, as indeed we are now experiencing, we can at the same time remind ourselves that God suffered too, that He understands that He can enter into our feelings and that helps. When we go to Him in prayer to share with Him what’s bothering us, we go to someone whose heart beats with ours because He’s been there. He’s been criticized, ignored, misunderstood, rejected. He knows what it’s like to be hated, offended, reproached. He understands loneliness, the feeling that no one cares, much less understands us. He knows what it’s like to have our best friends turn away from us.

“I thirst.” And because He did, we bow down and worship a God who fills us with faith for times such as these.

Jill Briscoe tells about the faith of a man her husband Stuart knew in England. This man and his wife had been praying for some time to have a child. They lived in an economically depressed area and he worked in an industrial plant that was greatly influenced by a communist leaning union. Because this man was a Christian, he didn’t have an easy time of it, often being ridiculed for his faith in God. Then one day his wife told him they were going to have a baby. They were elated at the prospect. When he told his co-workers that God has answered their prayers, they made fun, but it hardly fazed this man as he was overjoyed at becoming a father.

When their little girl was born with Down syndrome, the man began to dread the thought of telling the others at work about it. What would they say? Sure enough when they found out, they taunted him about his faith in God: “Are you sure God loves you?” One man said, “I don’t even believe in God, yet I have five healthy children.” Another said, “If God really loved you, why would he allow this to happen to you?”

Standing there in the midst of that arrogant atheism, the man bowed his head. Shame filled his heart as he realized their voices were an echo of his doubts. And then he had a vision of Jesus suffering on the cross and saying, “I thirst.” Suddenly, he was overcome with a sense of Christ’s empathy and compassion and sympathizing and understanding for him and his wife and his little girl. As he looked up the men were amazed at the change in his countenance, as filled with the Spirit, he said to them, “I am so glad, so very glad, that God gave her to me and not to you.” 4

“I thirst.” And because He did, we bow down and worship a God who fills us with faith for times such as these.

John Stott, in his fine book, The Cross of Christ, writes,

I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the cross. … In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries, and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing around his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I’ve had to turn away. And in my imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me. He laid aside His immunity to pain. He entered into our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of His.5

God knows and invites us to “cast all of our cares upon Him because He cares for us” (I Peter 5:7). He knows how it is and somehow, I can’t fully explain it, it helps. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! But there are times when we are restored by remembering that God became flesh and dwelt among us. Our Master knew what it meant to be a crucified carpenter who got thirsty.

Concluding thought: Jesus is not only expressing a basic human need not only is He divinely carrying out the fulfilling of scripture but on a deeper level expresses His desire to be with His heavenly Father.

Bible scholars suggest Jesus has in mind here another Messianic Psalm: the 42nd:

As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after You.
My soul thirsts for God, for the Living God. (1-2).

We cannot leave this scene without realizing that Jesus was thirsty for God and recognizing that only God in Christ Jesus can quench the thirstiness in our souls.

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale tells about having lunch with a famous surgeon in NYC and asking him, “What was the greatest operation you ever performed?”

“I don’t know about the greatest, but the most meaningful concerned the sweetest little girl who was only given a 10% chance of survival.”

At that time in my life, I was going through a sort of mid-life crisis. My marriage was in shambles, our son was constantly in trouble and despite the fact I was very well off and could buy anything I wanted, I was very unsatisfied with life.

Just prior to giving this little girl anesthesia, she said a little prayer in a sweet voice
“Jesus, tender Shepherd, hear me.
Bless Thy little lamb tonight.
Through the darkness, be Thou near me,
Keep me safe till morning light.
And dear God, please bless this doctor.”

And then she added, “Okay I’m ready now and I’m not afraid because Jesus loves me and He’s right here with us and is going to bring us through okay.”

And the doctor told Rev. Peale, “I was blinded by tears and had to feign another wash-up before I could perform the operation. As I stood at the sink, I prayed, “Dear God, if you ever help me save another human being, help me save this little girl. I operated and the miracle happened; she lived!

Leaving the hospital later that night, I realized that I had been the one operated on, for that little girl taught me that if put my hands and life in the hands of Jesus, He will see me through. And that’s what I did and my life has never been the same.” 6

Christ alone can quench the thirstiness of our souls! He alone can impart that peace which the world does not know. He alone can satisfy the deep longings of our hearts. Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37-38).


1 Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible Series; the Gospel of John, Volume 2, Revised Edition. [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Westminster Press, © 1975]
Page 258].

2 From the song Meekness and Majesty by Graham Kendrick Copyright © 1986 Make Way Music, P. O. Box 320, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN.

3 Ibid.

4 God’s Chicken Soup for the Spirit. Compiled by Kathy Collard Miller and D. Larry Miller. [Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Starburst Publishers, © 1996]. Pages 58-59.

5 John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ. [Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press
© 1986]. Page 335-336.

6 Stories for the Family’s Heart. Compiled by Alice Gray. [Sisters Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, © 1998]. Pages 267-268.

Randy K'Meyer

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