John 19:28-29 – After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth.
“I thirst.” As I considered these words of Jesus, three things stood out. First, as the passage states, prophecy was being fulfilled. Second, an immense price was being paid for the forgiveness of our sins. And third, even in the agony and suffering of our Lord, we can find the promise of eternal life.
As the passage directly states, Jesus words were meant “to fulfill the scripture.” One of the places we can turn to find prophetic words foreshadowing Christ’s suffering and death is Psalm 22. Verses 14 and 15 are especially poignant when it comes to the passage at hand, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.” Another place to turn is Psalm 69:21 where we find these prophetic words relating to our passage, “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink,” which plays out in the guards’ response to Jesus’ thirst.
Even with the many prophecies fulfilled in Christ’s life and in his crucifixion, as well as several occasions where he foretold his own suffering and death to his disciples, there had been an expectation of an earthly king and kingdom which in this moment would appear to be lost. If we had been there, we probably would have had similar expectations and lost hopes; although, from our vantage point we know that Jesus offers much more.
A Price Paid
Which brings us to the next point; this passage confronts us to consider the price that had to be paid for the forgiveness of our sins. We see before us on the cross the Creator of the universe in agony, thirsting for the very water he created, suffering and dying one of the more cruel and painful deaths invented by the mind of sinful man, demonstrating that although he was fully God, the great “I AM,” he was also fully man.
Even his closest disciples did not fully grasp this despite witnessing the many miracles he had performed during his earthly ministry demonstrating his divinity. He turned water into wine, he fed the multitudes with a few fish and loaves, he exercised dominion over his creation by walking on water and calming the storm, he healed the disabled, sick, and blind, and brought the dead back to life, and yet here he hung on a cross, suffering an unjust and agonizing death alongside common criminals. Paul sums it up well in Philippians 2:5-8, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” An immense price, indeed!
The Promise of Eternal Life
Finally, Jesus’ words bring to mind the promise of eternal life, particularly the one found in John 4:13-14. Jesus’, in his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, makes this promise, “Everyone who drinks of this water [that is, the water from the well] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
“I thirst.” Jesus’ words on the cross fulfilled prophecy, they confront us with the immense price Christ paid for the forgiveness of our sins, and ultimately point us to his promise for something much greater than just the satisfaction of our physical thirst, they point us to the promise of eternal life with God.
© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2022. This piece was presented as part of the North Cincinnati Community Church Good Friday service, “The Seven Last Words of Christ” on April 15th, 2022.