We are now in the Lenten season, the forty-day period before Easter, where the Church has traditionally remembered Christ in His sufferings and death on the cross for our sins. During this season of Lent we are spending time remembering the seven last statements of Jesus as He hung on the cross. Jesus cried out, “I thirst” shortly before He died. This was one of His seven statements from the cross.
Was this just a cry for a drink from our dying Savior, or was there a deeper meaning in these simple words from the cross? Let’s read the passage: “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst”. Now a vessel full of sour wine vinegar was sitting there: and they filled a sponge with sour wine vinegar, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth.” (John 19:28-29)
It says in this passage that Jesus spoke the words “I thirst” in order “that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” What does that mean? What Scripture that Jesus was fulfilling by crying out that He was thirsty? Most scholars think it is Psalm 69:21b which reads: “For my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”
When Jesus cried out that He was thirsty and was offered wine vinegar, He was fulfilling the prophecy in Psalm 69. The other gospels, Matthew and Mark says that “they” took a sponge, placed it on a stick and dipped it in wine vinegar and gave it to Him to drink. Jesus’ thirst on the cross had been written about centuries ago. It was part of God’s plan that was set in place long before
Jesus is fully God and He is also fully human. Before His death, He thirsted as we thirst, and then He died as we die. Jesus’ words “I thirst” are one more example of Jesus’ humanity.
On many occasions, Jesus used the idea of drinking a cup filled with a drink as a picture for the suffering He would endure. On one occasion when Peter drew his sword to keep the soldiers away from Jesus as He was being arrested, Jesus told Peter: “Put your sword away. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given Me?” (John 18:11) Jesus was willing to drink the cup of suffering and death and sin down to the dregs.
One other time in Jesus’ ministry, the Scriptures say that He said that He was thirsty. You may remember the story when Jesus and his disciples were traveling through Samaria and they came to the town of Sychar. Jesus sat down at Jacob’s well while his disciples went into town. While the disciples were gone a Samaritan woman came to the well to draw out water and Jesus asked her for a drink. When she gave Him a drink He said to her, “If you knew who you were talking to, you would ask of Me and I would give you living water and you would never thirst again.” (John 4:10)
The Samaritan woman talked with Jesus and He told her everything that had happened in her life. She was amazed and realized that Jesus must be a prophet or perhaps the Messiah since He knew everything. She believed in Him and He gladly gave her the spiritual living water that He had promised. This Samaritan woman was so excited about who Jesus was and what He had done for her that she ran back to her town of Sychar and brought everyone in the town out to see Jesus, the one who could give them this living water. Jesus’ message to the people back then and to us now is: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me, and let the one who believes in Me drink.” (John7:37)
Since Jesus is our Living Water, what did it mean when the One who offers living water, was himself thirsty, when He was on the cross? Water is essential for life. But the Living Water, Jesus Christ, the Source of Life, is dying on the cross. God in the flesh has come to earth to offer living water to humans, and humans have chosen to try to destroy the Spring.
A passage of Scripture in Jeremiah 2:13 reads: “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the Fountain of Living Water, and have dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.” This passage describes people who have rejected Jesus, the Fountain of Living Water and they are looking for water in all the wrong places.
Jesus said: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. For they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6) What are you thirsting for most in your life? What do you hope will satisfy you? Jesus calls us to thirst after Him. When He gives us His living water He gives us spiritual life. We receive the Holy Spirit to guide us and help and comfort us. When we open our lives to Him, it is all we will ever need. We will never thirst again!
This blog has taken many of the ideas here from Adam Hamilton’s book: “Final Words from the Cross”