The Yearning Christ :: I thirst

Each of the seven sayings from the Cross gives us a glimpse into the nature of Jesus Christ. In the fifth saying, Jesus shows us that he is the Yearning Christ when he said, “I thirst”.

While this saying can be studied to understand and express the humanity of Jesus, which makes it possible for God to empathize with us (Hebrews 4:15), for Jesus, like each one of us, felt weary (John 4:6), sleepy (Mark 4:38), hungry (Matthew 4:2), and expressed human emotions such as grief by his weeping (John 11:35; Luke 19:41) and sorrow (Mark 14:34; Matthew 26:38), closer reading of this Bible scripture reveals to us that this saying was a fulfillment of prophecy. A prophecy that particularly references to messianic Psalms, which king David records in Psalm 22 and Psalm 69. Psalm 22:15 states that the Messiah’s strength would be dried up like sunbaked clay and his tongue would stick to the roof of his mouth, as one would experience in extreme dehydration and thirst. Psalm 69:3 records how the Messiah’s throat will be dried and Psalm 69:21 records how he will be offered gall and vinegar to drink, which was fulfilled on the Cross (Matthew 27:34), further establishing that Jesus is the Messiah who was prophesied in the scripture.

Knowing that all things were now accomplished (John 19:28), it would have been apt for Jesus to have said “It is finished” (John 19:30), but instead, he did not want any scripture to go unfulfilled and so he aptly said “I thirst”.

When he was offered vinegar mixed with gall to quench his thirst, Jesus refused to take it (Matthew 27:34), which further establishes that it was not necessarily his physical thirst that he was interested in satisfying but his spiritual thirst. Hours ago, in deep anguish, alone in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had cried out, asking for the cup of God’s justice to be passed from him, but as the obedient Son of God and Savior of all man, he willingly accepted to drink the cup of God’s justice (Mark 14:36; Matthew 26:39) by submitting to the will of God (Isaiah 53:10). And now here on the Cross, he expresses that after knowing that he had accomplished all things, he was thirsty and yearning to drink from the cup of God, to the dregs.

Points to ponder:

Jesus yearns to fulfill the scripture and to fulfill the will of God.  Jesus is the yearning Christ.
The wearied Savior offers to all who come to him that they shall find rest; eternal rest (Matthew 11:28-29) and those who are hungry and thirsty shall hunger and thirst no more i.e., they will be eternally satisfied (John 6:35), for the water he gives will be in that person a well of water springing unto everlasting life (John 4:14).

Have you drunk of the water Jesus gives? Is your spiritual thirst quenched? In other words, have you come to Jesus and believed in him? And if you have been spiritually quenched, like Jesus, are you and I yearning for doing and finishing God’s will? Can you, like the Savior, Lord and Messiah, Jesus, say “I thirst”?

John 19:28 (KJV)
28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.

I thirst

Jesus’ fifth saying on the Cross was an expression of his need (not want). To thirst is to yearn for a drink. Imagine you are in a desert and you are parched… You would give anything to have a drop of water.

In this fifth saying, Jesus’ thirst could have been a mere expression of his physical thirst after enduring the scourging, stripping and crucifixion. Servants of God, including I (the least of the servants), have exposited on this saying and attempted to explain what Jesus could have meant by this curt expression. One explanation is the yearning of Christ for the souls of men, which is substantiated by the verse that God desires (longs for) all men to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

As I meditated on this and pondered, I wondered, Jesus had drunk the cup of God’s wrath (Matthew 26:39), so what did he thirst for? Jesus had told the woman at the well, that the Holy Spirit of God was the living water (John 7:39), whom he could pour into her life so that she would never thirst again (John 4:13-14). Now he himself was thirsty. Was it because his own Holy Spirit could not be with him in his earthly form for he had become sin (2 Corinthians 5:21)? He expressed that he was forsaken by God, and he cried out My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? Was the first address of My God, to God the Father and the second address of my God, to God the Holy Spirit – both the personas of God who were not with Christ Jesus (God the Son). I can only imagine. The more I pondered, the more I realized that Jesus’ thirst is likely for his own Holy Spirit – so that he would never have to thirst again. We know that his Holy Spirit responded to his yearning cry, for Jesus’ last act on the Cross was to commend his Holy Spirit into the Holy hands of God the Father.

Points to ponder:
Do we yearn for the Holy Spirit of God to indwell in us, so that we may never thirst again? Does our soul long for God as a deer pants for water, yearning and crying out to God, “I thirst for God” as he thirsted for us on the Cross. Jesus said, “I thirst” and expects you and me to do the same for him.

John 19:28 (KJV)
28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.

John 4:13-14 (KJV)
13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

I thirst

The fifth saying of Jesus as He hung on the Cross, living up to His Name, which was to save His people from their sins was a request in which Jesus expressed a need. His saying was ‘I thirst’ (John 19:28). Though cursorily it may seem like an expression of his physical condition, is there more to this than what is evident.

One of the dictionary definitions of the word, ‘thirst’ is an ardent desire, craving or longing. Interestingly, one can go without food for days, but not without water. Thirst is a physical condition that can bring the strongest of the strong to their knees, some even to the point of death. Samson the strong after killing a thousand warriors in battle cried to the Lord when he felt thirsty, questioning, now shall I die of thirst? (Judges 15:18-20). The grumbling Israelite pilgrims questioned Moses, if he had led them out of Egypt to kill them and their children and cattle with thirst (Exodus 17:3). When no water in the desert of Beersheba was found, Hagar, unable to bear the possibility of her son, Ishmael dying of thirst, goes a bow shot length away until God miraculous opens her eyes and she sees a well (Genesis 21:14-16). So thirst can make the strong weak, and the living dead.

And here we hear Jesus saying that He thirsted. Why did Jesus say that he thirsted?

The logical human explanation was that He experienced a human physical condition and that is certainly plausible. Jesus hungered (Matthew 4:2), slept (Mark 4:38), grew (Luke 2:42), groaned (John 11:33), wept (John 11:35) and so in his Humanity also thirsted (John 19:28). Now if this was merely a personal physical need to be satisfied, isn’t it interesting that Jesus only asks for being quenched after he accomplished all the things He knew He had to fulfill (John 19:28). Jesus’ personal needs came only after doing what God wanted Him to do. He satisfied God before He prayed to be satisfied himself. We must have the same attitude as well.

But the scripture gives us evidence that there is more. Jesus said, ‘I thirst’ so that the scripture may be fulfilled (John 19:28). Jesus came to fulfill the scripture and fulfilled it (Psalm 69:21). Jesus, who knew no sin was made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) and the imputation of our sins on Him made him experience a separation from God the Holy Father as expressed by the prophet Isaiah who said “… your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2) . So Jesus’ relationship with God the Father had been broken because of our sins. This is further substantiated by the fact that Jesus addressed God, in His previous saying as My God, my God (Eloi, Eloi) and not as Father (which is how He addressed God in the first saying from the Cross). Jesus very well could have thirsted for the oneness He had with God the Father (John 10:30). Another explanation as to why Jesus thirsted is that he experienced the thirst of hell. Acts 2:27 and 31 are very explicit that God would not let soul of his Holy  One (Jesus) in hell.  In Matthew 12:40, we hear Jesus saying that “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly: so shall the Son of man (Jesus) be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. ” Revelation refers to hell as the bottomless pit or abyss (Revelation 9:1-2). Ephesians 4:9 tells us that Jesus ascended into heavens, but that he also first descended into the lower parts (heart) of the earth.

So Jesus descended down to hell on our account, but what is the state of affairs in hell? An overbearing need to be quenched. We see this in the parable that Jesus told about Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man died and was buried and in hell he was tormented by thirst. (Luke 16:19-31). So it is not implausible that when Jesus’ soul descended to hell, he thirsted as well.

But in hell, the thirst that is to be quenched is not physical as the rich man describes but more in the spiritual realms. Jesus spiritually thirsted that his desire to bring many sons unto glory be quenched (Hebrews 2:10); that all are saved and none perish (2 Peter 3:9); that God’s eternal wrath would now be quenched as he accomplishes his task of saving all men and women in totality and that all will drink of Him (Jesus) and receive from Him living water (the Holy Spirit – John 7:38-39) so that they will no longer be thirsty.

Finally, when the curtain falls, we can find ourselves in only one of two states – eternally thirsty or eternally quenched and this depends on whether we agree to drink of (believe) Him, Jesus Christ, who with a craving, a longing and an ardent desire said, ‘I thirst’ [for you].