I AM THIRSTY
“Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.” (John 19:28-29).
It is near the end of Jesus’ human life. He senses it. He has hung on the cross for six hours now. It has become hard for Jesus to even get a breath. Hung from his arms, he must pull himself up each time he wants to breathe. His shoulders ache, his mouth is parched. He’s exhausted. And yet he doesn’t want to die without a final word. He asks for something to drink to wet his lips for this final effort. We can say a few things about it. For example,
1] The Offer was Prophesied in Scripture
“Knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled….” (John 19:28a). What Scripture was fulfilled here? A Psalm written by David, and fulfilled literally in Jesus: “They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.” (Psalm 69:21). So nothing happens at the end of our lives unplanned by God.
2]. There had been an Earlier Offer of Wine
This was not the first time Jesus had been offered wine. Both Mark and Matthew observe that he was offered bitter wine just prior to being crucified (Matthew 27:34; Mark 15:23). Perhaps this was intended as a narcotic or an analgesic for those about to suffer terrible pain. It’s thought that a group of Jerusalem women, as an act of piety, provided for a condemned man a vessel of wine maybe containing a grain of frankincense to numb him. Jesus refuses to drink this.
He has committed himself to the Father to offer himself as a sacrifice. To attempt to lessen the pain of this sacrifice would have somehow not paying the full price of raw condemnation for the whole guilt of sin.
3.] This Later Accepted Offer was of Wine Vinegar.
The offering of something to quench his thirst after hanging on the cross for some time is a separate incident. “A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.” (John 19:29). Wine vinegar (referred to as posca) was sour wine, a cheap wine. It was a drink popular with soldiers of the Roman army, made by diluting sour wine with water. It was considered safer, and more thirst quenching than water alone. It prevented scurvy, killed harmful bacteria in the water, and the vinegary taste made bad smelling water more palatable. All over the empire, this posca was the soldier’s drink of choice. The soldiers had brought a jar of posca to sustain them during their crucifixion duty. They weren’t getting drunk on it, just using it to quench their own thirst.
4.] The Offer of a Drink was Made via a Sponge soaked in Wine.
While a condemned criminal might be able to drink wine prior to being crucified, drinking from a cup while hanging on the cross was impossible. So when Jesus indicated his thirst, the soldiers used a sponge to give him posca to slake his thirst.
What was a sponge doing there on Golgotha that day? It seems scarcely the thing you’d expect to find. Again, sponges were part of a Roman soldier’s kit. Sponges were found along the Mediterranean coast, were widely used in ancient times to line and pad a soldier’s helmet. Soldiers also used sponges for hygiene as their toiletry.
Probably one of the soldiers offered Jesus a drink of posca from his own supply, using his own sponge. A soldier wasn’t required to share his drink with the criminals under his care. But he had seen that Jesus was dying unlike any other criminal he’d ever seen. No cursing, no blaming, no anger.
What could it have been like to watch Jesus’ slow death? Perhaps it had impressed the soldier with something like Peter’s words: “‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:22-23). Peter concludes this passage with something, however, that the soldier did not yet know, echoing the words of the Suffering Servant passage of Isaiah 53: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). The posca offered by a soldier on his sponge that day was an act of mercy to the one who was bringing God’s mercy to all humankind.
“They … put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.” (John 19:29). John makes a point of specifying the hyssop plant, a small bush with blue flowers and highly aromatic leaves, whereas the Synoptic Gospels refer to it as “stick” or “reed”. What is the significance of hyssop? Hyssop was used to sprinkle blood on the doorposts and lintels on the first Passover (Exodus 12:22). It was associated with purification and sacrifices in the tabernacle (Leviticus 14:4, 6; Numbers 19:6, 18). No doubt John had this in mind when he wrote his Gospel. Hyssop was there as the Lamb of God was slain.
So John tells us that Jesus drank some of the vinegary posca from the sponge.
“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit”(Jn 19:30). For a few seconds, at least, Jesus sucked the posca from the sponge. He didn’t drink long enough to slake his thirst – that severe dehydration from loss of blood, exposure to the elements, and the necessity of gasping for breath through his mouth. The end was near. So he drank only enough to moisten his parched throat so that his last words of triumph might be heard across the hilltop of Golgotha.
What it Means Christ crying out “I Am Thirsty.” I can turn that word four ways:
A. Jesus’ Physical Humanity
First and probably of greatest importance, Jesus’ word “I thirst,” reminds us of Jesus’ physical nature, his humanity. A true man died in our place. This was no play-acting on the cross – some kind of divine being pretending to undergo a physical act of torture that could not touch him. This was tangible physical suffering, of which extreme thirst is the one element most of us can readily identify with from our own personal experience. There was a heresy afoot in the Hellenistic world that Jesus didn’t really come in flesh and blood, much less die a gruesome physical death on the cross. Flesh was of the evil realm, they believed, and could never be holy. Only spirit was capable of the divine. So Jesus didn’t really die, he only appeared to. He was only pretending. Thus said Docetism and Gnosticism. The Apostle John was combating an early form of this heresy in his letters: “… Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist….” (1 John 4:2-3). “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.” (2 John 7). Jesus’ words, “I am thirsty,” reminds us that Jesus died in the flesh for us and for our sins.
B. Jesus’ Awareness of Scripture
Second, “I thirst” reminds us of Jesus’ extensive knowledge of the prophetic scriptures concerning his own suffering and death — and his willingness to fulfill each of them to the letter. The best known passage, of course, is the Servant Song from Isaiah 53: “He poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). He knew it well and referred to it again and again. Jesus’ action to ask for a drink is deliberately prompted by his knowledge of Scripture and determination to fulfill it: “… So that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.'” (John 19:28)
C. Jesus’ Determination to Complete His Task
Third, Jesus said, “I thirst” to strengthen himself and ease his throat so that he might cry out his final words from the cross “with a loud voice” – “It is finished” and “Father into they hands I commend my spirit.” He was summoning himself to bring it all to completion.
D. Jesus giving the privilege of service to a Gentile.
Fourth, Matthew suggests that the soldier pressed the sponge ,to the lips of Jesus again and again, so that he could drink and drink of it. It was a prophetic act. This appears as the one solitary act of kindness shown by the crowds to the Lord Jesus through these long and painful hours. It would be heart-warming to think that this soldier was showing signs of a change in his attitude to the Lord.
We are hoping that grace was working in his heart. It may be that to this man in the Great Day Jesus will say, “I was thirsty and you gave me drink”.
But there is a thirst other than a physical one. To the woman at the well he asked her, “Give me to drink” (John 4 :7). This was his way of establishing a basis for conversation with her, but very soon he was telling her of the water that he had to offer. “Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water . . . Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:10, 13-14).When we come to him and receive of him the water of life which he offers to us, it is then we drink of him and live, and know the experience of refreshment of our souls. Then we can start to live a life of serving Christ’s brethren.
“I heard the voice of Jesus say, ‘Behold I freely give The living water; thirsty one, Stoop down and drink, and live.’
I came to Jesus, and I drank Of that life-giving stream; My thirst was quenched, My soul revived, And now I live in Him.”
2. THE CRY OF DERELICTION; MY GOD, MY GOD WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?
Matthew 27:46 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It is now the ninth hour. The land is still in darkness. Jesus has reached the lowest point in his humiliation. It is the most awful moment of his agony. The physical pain had always been excruciating, but now it is joined by a tormented soul: “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?” The words are taken from the Scriptures, from Psalm 22. These words are a reminder that what Jesus suffered as a servant of God had its parallels in the lives of other men of God or even in the lives of Christian believers. There are parallels I say, but parallels don’t mean identity. Jesus stands where no-one ever stood before or since, knowing himself to be the bearer of the sin of the world, that he was destined to pay the price for its redemption, and now is drinking the bitterest dregs of that cup which had brought him so low in Gethsemane.
What was going on in the soul of Christ here? Who can tell? There is nothing in the Scripture that explains it. I am asking what the loss of God meant to him personally on Golgotha. In its very nature, the spiritual content of his suffering is inaccessible to us. Even he himself had to take and quote the words of the Bible, as if he could find no words of his own. Perhaps there are no human words to express what Jesus’ ‘hell’ on the cross meant.
The most striking thing is the form of address: ‘Eloi’ (this is Mark’s Aramaic; Matthew gives the Hebrew ‘Eli’). This is the only occasion, even on the cross, when Jesus does not invoke God as ‘Father’. In Gethsemane, for all its anguish, he had held fast to this: ‘Abba, everything is possible for you’. Even in the moment of his immolation he retained this sense of his own divine Sonship ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they arc doing’ (Luke 23:34). And by the end, after the dereliction, he’s recovered it: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”. Clearly, the forsakenness is just a moment in the long journey of Calvary, six hours in length, from the third to the ninth hour, and for much of the time Jesus remained in communion with his Father. But now comes a moment of well-nigh unsustainable awfulness. Abba is out of reach; Abba is not listening. Intimacy with Abba is broken; an intimacy that had never been broken before. It was a breach for which nothing could have prepared Jesus. Like Abraham and Isaac going up to Mount Moriah, Father and Son had gone up to Calvary together, and throughout his life Jesus had been assured that he was not alone, but that the Father was with him. Even at the cross, his Father, like his mother, had been there. But now, at the ninth hour, Abba was not there, and Jesus can
say only ‘Eloi!’ God is certainly there, but not as Abba, There is now no sense of his own divine sonship, no sense of God’s love and no sense of his Father’s approval. God is not hearing him. He cries, but there is no answer, and God even seems to mock his trust. Trouble is near but there is no one to help. There are no comfortable scriptures to fill his mind, nor any assurance of ultimate victory, nothing of the anticipated joy set before him. no vision of a redeemed multitude too great to count. At every other time of crisis, Abba had spoken great words of encouragement: ‘This is my Son, whom I love’, How he needed these words now! But no such words came. He hears only the derision of the spectators, the curses of the soldiers and the whispers of the Prince of Darkness. He is on his own.
But didn’t the forsakenness involve more than loss and deprivation? It certainly did. In everything he saw around him, and everything he heard, there was the hand of God. It was the Father who was delivering him up and everything spoke of his anger. That anger was no additional fact or circumstance. It was in the circumstances: in the pain, in the loneliness, in Satan’s whispers and in heaven’s deafness; and under that anger his identity contracted to the point where the whole truth about Jesus was that he was the sin of the world. He was carrying it, heaven held him answerable for it, heaven laid it on him and he was it. It was here, all of it, in his body, being condemned in his flesh; because of it he was a doomed and ruined man, korban, in other words he was devoted to destruction. God’s pure eyes could not look with affection on him, nor heaven entertain his cry. Christ was crying in effect, “Isn’t there a word, dear Father . . . even a look?” And God answers, “No, not a look for a world.”
Yet, somehow, there is no despair. Even at the lowest point, in the black hole of dereliction, faith and hope still breathe, as they must, for unbelief and despair are sin, and would have rendered his sacrifice void. Faith must walk where there is no light.. Even when Jesus cannot say ‘Abba’, he can say “Eloi”, my God: the God he loves and serves and still, somehow, trusts. Maybe this is what he dreaded as he trembled in Gethsemane, that his mind would break in an unbearable anxiety of separation, when he realized that Abba was out of sight and out of hearing. But in the end, though hope may not burn, it flickers, even in the darkness.
Yet there is a ‘why?’, It is not the ‘why?’ of protest or self-pity, but the ‘why?’ of the Righteous One, conscious of personal innocence and knowing that not even Holiness itself can find a spot in him. But it is also the ‘why?’ of a unique sufferer who has momentarily lost sight of the great divine purpose which his suffering was progressing, and asking, like the great Afro-.American spiritual, ‘Lord, how come me here?’
Let us remember that Jesus’ human mind was finite and that at any one moment he could be in possession of only some, not all, of the facts. Had the great mutual undertakings and promises of the covenant of redemption receded to the back of his mind so that all he sees and breathes and tastes and smells and hears and feels is our wickedness? Is he losing that vision of what he had earlier known so clearly: that his life would be a ransom for many? Was the fact that he had a future as well as a present, a rising again as well as a dying – were these realities slip sliding away? Almost certainly, for a moment. All he ‘knows’ is that he is a ‘worm and not a man’; and his faith is shown in a question, not in an answer: ‘why?’ Don’t disparage a faith that goes to God in utter perplexity as you see, for example, your dearest in the agonizing, losing struggle with death, and it is so painful to see them suffering, and you ask God, ‘Why? Why?’ Don’t belittle yourself. Your Lord asked why.
3. ‘IT IS FINISHED’
The greatest word Jesus ever spoke was the word of John 19:30 ‘It is finished!’ Consider some of the extraordinary things Jesus said. We can see why the people were astonished. Our Lord made some extraordinary claims! For example: pre-existence, “Before Abraham was I am…”, John 8:58. Equality with God, “I and my father are one”, John 10:30. The likeness of God, “…he that has seen me has seen the Father…”, John 14:9. His return to earth; “…I will come again, and receive you unto myself…”, John 14:1-3. The giver of eternal life; “Verily, Verily, I say unto you, He that believes on me has ever lasting life”, John 6:47.
Every single one of those statements is a goldmine of moral and spiritual truth and is absolutely necessary in our understanding of just who Jesus Christ really is. Either what he says is true or he is a megalomaniac. Up there, with them, maybe above them in importance, could be the single greatest word Christ ever uttered is ‘It is finished.’ It was just one word in the original, ‘tetelestai’, but everything else our Lord said and did either stands or falls on the truth of that claim that he made in verse 30.
As Jesus came to the end of his atonement on Golgotha, giving his life a ransom for sin, He cried with a loud voice, Finished! surely the single, greatest word that Jesus Christ ever spoke.
Liberals and unbelievers have said that this cry of Jesus from the cross is a cry of defeat. “Well, it’s all up. I’ve tried to help, done my best but failed. It’s all over now.” They claim that it’s the word of a man who’d lost everything. However, they are a million miles from the truth of the matter. This phrase is very expressive and filled with meaning. It’s a word that was commonly used in many areas of society. Some of which were:
i. A Servant’s Word – Used when a task had been completed reporting back to his master.
ii. A Priest’s Word – Used when a sacrificial animal was found to be worthy.
iii. A Farmer’s Word – Used when a perfect specimen had been born into the flock.
iv. An Artist’s Word – Used when the final touches had been applied to a masterpiece.
v. A Merchant’s Word – Used when a deal had been struck and all the haggling had ended. Its usage meant that the parties were satisfied.
Therefore, it is plain to see that this word is not the cry of a defeated man, but it is instead, the claim of a victor. This is the cry of one who has now achieved a triumph. It is really the cry, “Accomplished!” When Jehovah Jesus said that single word, he was telling the world that something glorious and eternal had been achieved for the whole cosmos. In fact, there were a number of great matters that were forever settled the day Jesus died on the cross. In our brief time let’s look together at ‘The Greatest Word Jesus Ever Said’ and see for ourselves just was got finished there at Calvary.
I. THE PAIN OF REDEMPTION WAS FINISHED
A. The death Christ died on the cross was one of absolute torture. We cannot even begin to imagine all the pain that Jesus was forced to endure for our sakes. Allow me to refresh your mind about the terrible price Jesus paid for you as he suffered for sin that day. He was Scourged, Hit and punched, Spat upon, Mocked, The hairs on his beard plucked from his Face, Stripped Naked, and Nailed to the Cross. These truths don’t even begin to scratch the surface of Jesus suffered for you and me. His was a bitter cup, but one that he drank willingly so that we might drink the cup of communion and fellowship at the Lord’s Supper.
B. Not only was there pain which the Saviour endured for you and me, but there was also shame. Think of it, the clothing of Jesus of Nazareth the Son of God was removed with rough hands and then exposed before the world he was nailed to the cross. He endured the most shameful death that anyone could ever know. In fact the crucifixion was one of the primary reasons the Jews refused to believe he could be the Christ, the Son of the living God, and the Moslems today feel the same.
C. There was severe pain, cruel shame, but perhaps the greatest agony Jesus suffered while on the cross was the judgement that came from his Father. When Jesus was on that cross, He bore cosmic guilt, the sins of the world. The Father judged the Lord Jesus as if he were every sinner that ever lived! This was greatest agony that Jesus was forced to endure, the loss of his Father’s presence and blessing. While he was on that cross, for the first time ever, there was a gulf between him and the Father. His Father had become his judge and executioner. Jesus experienced every man’s death and every man’s hell while on the cross.
D. Why did he suffer these things? Why did the Lamb of God willingly offer up his life as an atonement for our sins? Because of his love us. Paul cries in wonder – “he loved me and gave himself for me.” But more than that, he was demonstrating his love for us. It is the progress between courtship and then the marriage ceremony itself. They clearly love one another and have been going out with one another, but there comes a time when solemnly and publicly they make vows of love and those words and actions on that occasion are a public demonstration of their love. So the Lord Jesus had told them of his love, that he would not call them servants but sons, and had shown them his love for three years, but now he demonstrates his love in that while they were yet sinners he died this accursed death for them.
2. THE PLAN OF REDEMPTION WAS FINISHED
A. When Jesus reached the end of his ministry on the cross, he was finishing a work that had been set into motion before the world was ever formed. From the beginning of time, God had always planned to send his Son to die for sinners and Jesus came for this eternal vocation. This was his promise of Gen. 3:15, the bruising of the Serpent’s head in the bruising of his heel. It was portrayed in the Levitical sacrifices and all the offerings of the Tabernacle and Temple, even in the furnishings and the clothes worn by the high priests. Everything God required in O.T. worship pointed to this day when Jesus would lay down his life on the cross.
B. Since the dawn of time, when man sinned in the Garden of Eden and God killed an animal to cover their nakedness, death, suffering and bloodshed were always a part of mankind’s coming to the Lord. That is the nature of the only living God. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. We see it in Gen. 4, when Abel brought a lamb to be offered. We find it in Gen. 8, when Noah offered a sacrifice after the flood. We see it in Exodus. 12 when the children of Israel killed the Passover lamb on the eve of the Exodus. We see it on the Day of Atonement when the lambs were killed to make atonement for the people. We see it in the blood that was shed for 20 centuries in millions of sacrifices, that would run like a vast river if it were collected and allowed to flow together.
However, all this bloodshed, and all this death and suffering saved no one! All that blood and all that death did one thing. It merely rolled the sins of one offering onto the sacrifice ahead. It withheld the judgment of God because the person offering the sacrifice did so in the knowledge that a more complete sacrifice was coming on day. Those Old Testament believers were saved by faith just as the repentant and the believer is saved today! They were saved by looking forward to a promised Messiah who would die for sins, while we are saved by looking back to the promised Messiah who did die for sins!
C. While the Old Testament sacrifices did nothing to remove the sins of the people, the death of Jesus on the cross did everything to deal with the sin issue forever. Remember these powerful verses from the book of Hebrews, Hebrews 9 & 10. This great plan that was formulated in eternal glory before the light was created or the mud flats of the estuaries of this world were ever laid, then it was perfectly, completely and forever finished when the Lamb of God died on the cross!
D. Now, everything God requires to make men righteous and to take away their sins is found in the blood of Jesus Christ. There is just one means of salvation, and regardless of who you are you must be washed in the blood of Jesus if you expect to see Christ in heaven, “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! So
1. The Pain Of Redemption Was Finished
2. The Plan Of Redemption Was Finished
3. THE PAYMENT OF REDEMPTION WAS FINISHED
A. I’ve said that this phrase that Jesus uttered was a business term. It was used when a deal had been reached between two parties and both were satisfied. When Jesus said, “It is finished”, it meant that God the Father in Heaven was satisfied with what Jesus the Son had done on the cross.
God accepted the Son’s death and shed blood as the perfect payment for our sins. He has in fact seen of the travail of his soul and is satisfied.
This is why the Bible can tell us that Jesus is the propitiation for our sins in the 3 places where the word is found in the Scriptures, Rom. 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10. The word “propitiation” carries the idea of appeasing and placating anger. It also literally refers to the covering of the Ark of the Covenant, the place where the blood was applied on the Day of Atonement. Literally, Jesus’ violent death is that which satisfies and appeases God and that alone.
B. That is good news for people like you and me. After all, we could never be good enough to get to God. The Bible plainly tells us that the best we can do is like filthy rags in the sight of the Lord. The Bible goes so far as to remind us that in ourselves, we’re “no good” in God’s sight as Romans says. At our best we are still sinners. We defile everything we touch. However, since Jesus has satisfied the Father, then I don’t have to. If I am in him, then the Father accepts Christ’s appeasing, atoning death for me also. What are the consequences?
i. It means that we don’t have to work and pay and sacrifice for our salvation. Even if we tried, we could never wholly please the Lord, because we will never be more than sinners. However, God is completely pleased with Jesus!
ii. It means that if I can be found in him, then I will be accepted by God because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.
iii. It means that the foundation of our hope is not personal morality or accomplishment.
iv. It means that our salvation comes to us through another and so in trusting in the merits of the name of the Lord Christ. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will indeed be saved.”
v. It means that while God would never accept me as I am in and by myself, that he can never reject me when I am one with his Son.
C. Now, men and women, because in Jesus our redemption is truly accomplished and finished, then God asks no more of a sinner than that he place his faith and hope in the work that Jesus finished on the cross. If you can accept the truth that he died on the cross, that he rose from the dead the third day and that his shed blood will wash away your sins, then you can be saved.
This word is the greatest single word that Jesus ever said. Because “it is finished”, you and I can enjoy salvation as a gift from God, through the blood of Jesus without having to fear that our works aren’t good enough. We can enjoy fellowship with the Lord knowing that he will accept us because we have been joined to his Son by trusting him.
All that remains to be asked is, “Do you know and love Jesus?” If you were to die right now, do you know that your sins have been washed away in the blood of the Lamb? Are you trusting the Lord Jesus Christ plus nothing else in this world to save your soul? You need to be sure of this one thing. To be saved from hell and judgment is to come to God as a sinner and receive Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. As far as Father, Son and the Holy Ghost are concerned, it is finished! What about in your heart and life? Is it finished for you?
God is satisfied with Calvary. Are you? Do you know for sure that you will miss the fires of hell were you to die right now? Come to him just as you are, to him just as he is, meek and lowly of heart, and he will give you rest. His yoke is easy and his burden is light.