Have you ever been truly parched? This goes way beyond a simple thirst or the thought, “Hmm, a nice cold lemonade sounds good about now.” If you’ve ever experienced intense thirst, you know that it’s all you can think about. Your tongue feels swollen somehow, thick in your mouth. You may even get a headache. You can’t get your mind off of one thought: “Must. Have. Water.” Thoughts of getting that drink consume you until at last you are able to sip that wonderfully quenching liquid. Keep that thought in mind as we look at Jesus’ shortest word from the cross: I thirst.
Only John’s account of the crucifixion includes Jesus’ cry of thirst, and I love how John reports this. “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill 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” (John 19:28-29). Jesus knew that all was now finished. What exactly does that mean? He knew that His work of salvation for you was complete. He had come down to earth in humility, taking on human flesh. He had lived a perfect life. He had been tempted by Satan and prevailed. He had been given a sham trial and had been beaten and crucified, all to win salvation for you, dear one. As He hung there upon the cross, He knew His task of coming as the sacrifice for sin was complete. And so He said, “I thirst,” to fulfill Scripture, as John points out. What Scripture is that, you may ask? Psalm 69:21 says, “…for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” Again, even in His dying moments, Jesus fulfills yet another prophecy.
Think about the physical ailments Jesus was suffering while He was hanging upon the cross. Think about The Passion of the Christ. Gory, yes, but probably one of the most accurate portrayals of Jesus’ physical suffering. This wasn’t just a trickle of blood coming from a small wound on His head. Jesus was beaten severely, savagely. His back was ripped to shreds, blood was pouring from His head, hands, and feet. He had lost a lot of bodily fluid, and was therefore dehydrated. So of course He was physically thirsty. But Jesus wasn’t talking only about His physical thirst. He was thirsting spiritually for our salvation.
Look back with me at Isaiah 51:17-23. This refers to “the cup of God’s wrath.” God is calling to repentance the Old Testament people of Israel, pleading with them to turn from their sins. “You who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering… Thus says your Lord, the Lord, your God who pleads the cause of His people: ‘Behold, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering; the bowl of my wrath you shall drink no more'” (Isaiah 51:17, 22). You see, Jesus ultimately drunk that cup of wrath for us. In the garden of Gethsemane when He was wrestling with His Father in prayer, He asked “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42, emphasis mine). He knew exactly what the cup of God’s wrath was. And now, hanging here on the cross, that’s the cup for which He thirsted.
No doubt about it, Jesus was parched on the cross. He was parched physically, yes, but more importantly, He thirsted for that cup of wrath for you. Jesus’ thirst for you was all He could think about. That occupied His mind entirely. He knew He was suffering there on that cross in your place, and His thoughts were consumed with your salvation. He knew death was not the end, for in the not-too-distant future stood the empty tomb, declaring His victory over sin and death for all mankind. He thirsted for you, and through His death and resurrection that thirst has been quenched. He drank the cup of God’s wrath to the bitter end so that in return He could offer you His living water. “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” (John 4:14). So drink, dear one. Drink of Jesus’ living water, which wells up to eternal life with your Savior.