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TEXT: John 19:28
SUBJECT: Last Words #5: I Thirst
If you were going to die in the next sixty seconds what would say between now and then? Your words would differ from mine, of course, but both of us would want to say something important. All of us would. Including our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is where we are in His Story. Nailed to the cross at nine o'clock in the morning, it is now 2:59 in the afternoon. Our Lord has one minute to live, and three things still to say. The first of which is-
On hearing the words you might be disappointed. You expect the Greatest Man to say something deeply spiritual at the end, but what He says is rather shallow and ordinary. Feeling the words are unworthy of our Lord, some have spiritualized them-what He's thirsting for, they say, is the Water of Life. While I agree He did thirst for Living Water, it is not the drink He called for on the cross. He wanted a sip of what the soldiers were drinking, and that was cheap wine.
Earlier in the day they offered Him a drink of wine mixed with myrrh. This He refused because myrrh was a kind of painkiller-and the Lord wanted no relief on the cross. The night before God handed Him the cup of suffering and He agreed to drink it-down to the dregs.
Now He wants the drink, not to relieve His suffering, but for a couple of other reasons. First, He had something to say and He had to say it loudly. It's hard to yell when your throat is dry, and His was very dry. I doubt He had had a drink since the night before. Add to this the hot sun, the loss of blood, and the terrible stress He was under. All these make for a cotton mouth. David, describing his own suffering-and the Messiah's-said-
In the next few seconds, He would say, It is finished and Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit. Another Gospel says He shouted the words out for all to hear. Why? Because all need to hear them. We need to know that Christ is not only the Beginner of our salvation, but it's Finisher as well. What's more, we need to know He died with the approval of His Father, that He is the Beloved Son in whom God is well pleased.to the end.
If He wanted everyone to hear His words, He needed the voice to say them, and this means He needed a drink.
As true as this is, however, it is not the reason John had in mind. He explained the cry--
.that the Scriptures may be might be fulfilled [He] said, 'I thirst'.
No one knew the Bible as our Lord did and no one was more aware of His place in it than He. While good men believed and hoped He was the Messiah, our Lord knew He was! The Messiah, Scripture says, would feel the awful pain of deadly thirst.
What Scripture says the Messiah will thirst? Commentators often name two verses, Psalms 22:15 and 69:21.
My tongue clings to my jaws.
For my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
In favor of this interpretation, both Psalms prophesy of the Coming Lord and describe His sufferings in some detail, including His thirst. Thus I agree with the commentators as far as they go.
But they don't go far enough. I don't think John had only a verse or two in mind. If he did, he would probably quote or give the reference. But he doesn't. He's not alluding to a particular place in the Old Testament, therefore, but to the whole thing.
Thirst is one of the major problems God's people faced back then.
Starting with Joseph. Joseph was Jacob's favorite son and the object of his brothers' bitter envy and cruel hate. One day he was sent by their father to check up on his brothers, but when they saw him they stripped him of the fine coat Jacob had given him and thrown into a pit-and the pit was empty-the Bible says-there was no water in it. The brothers then sat down to eat and drink while Joseph wilted in the pit bruised and forsaken, betrayed, and thirsty.
Years later Jacob's family had grown into a nation of more than one million people and rich in livestock. God freed them from their slavery in Egypt and promised to bring them into a land flowing with milk and honey. But the two places were not next to each other. They were separated by a wide wilderness where the watering holes were few and far between. We would expect them to make camp by one of the springs and stay there. But they didn't do that. God led them away from the green spots and into the one desert after another. In these dry places they despaired for their flocks and their own lives.
Why have you brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?
For forty long years, God's People thirsted.
Samson was Israel's mightiest judge. Fearing their Philistine lords, the men of his own tribe arrested him, tied his hands, and led him to the Philistia. When the enemies shouted against him, God's Spirit fell on Samson, he pulled the ropes to pieces, and charged with nothing in his hand but the jawbone of an ass. With that funny weapon he piled up his enemies and made up a funny poem--
With the jawbone of a donkey,
Heaps upon heaps,
With the jawbone of a donkey
I have slain a thousand men.
No sooner did he recite the rhyme than a terrible thirst got hold of him. Though he was the strongest man in the world, that's all he was, a man-dying of thirst.
If Samson was a mighty man of valor, David was mightier. He spent much of his life in the field with his men, and like other soldiers, he was worn down by thirst-
O God, you are my God;
Early will I seek you;
My soul thirsts for you,
My flesh longs for you
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
In the days of Elijah, the nation had no rain, and for three and a half years, water was measured not by the barrel, but by the teaspoon.
Thirst was one of the things God's People would suffer if they forsook the Lord. Deuteronomy 28:48 warns of the thirst that must come, and Lamentations 4:4 describes it when it does--
If you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God.You shall serve your enemy, whom the Lord will send against you in hunger and thirst and nakedness and in need of all things; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you.
The tongue of the infant clings to the roof of its mouth for thirst.
When the Lord's people were carried off to Babylon, they did not move into the dewy and fertile parts of the Empire, but into the brown spot, a place not fit for man or beast. Zechariah calls it-
A waterless pit.
Finally, thirst is the damned soul's worst pain. In the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Dives lifted up his eyes in hell and cried for one thing only-
Father Abraham have mercy on me and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water.
God's people have always thirsted, some painfully, and some to death.
Do you remember The Boat People? Thirty years ago, Saigon fell, and to escape the North Vietnamese, little boats set sail for parts unknown with ten times the people they were designed to carry. Their sufferings were atrocious-overcrowding, disease, lack of sanitation, even quarrelling and murder. But nothing compared to the deadly thirst. Muscles cramped, bellies bloated, eyes went dim and minds were deranged without drinking water. What an awful thing it is to thirst!
That is human suffering at its worse, and Jesus Christ chose it for Himself! Unlike others, He could have avoided thirst. He could have remained in heaven and forever drunk of the water of life. Or, He could have chosen a different life to live on earth-a rich and pampered life would have been His if He wanted it. But He did not want an easy life. He chose a life of doing without! Without the luxuries some have and the necessities nearly everyone has. He wanted the life of blood, sweat, tears.and thirst!
In choosing this life, Jesus Christ identified with His People in all their hardships and pain.
God has always done this, of course. In all their affliction He was afflicted. When the whips cut into the backs of the Jewish slaves, God winced. This is what all the prophets said about Him. He was not a God far off, but a Lord who was near His people, catching their tears in His bottle and writing them in His book. When Shadrach, Meschach, andAbed-nego walked in the fiery furnace, they didn't walk alone. One like the Son of God walked with them. When Daniel was lowered into the lion's den, he found Someone already there--it was The Angel of the Lord, who is the Lord Himself. The burning bush was a symbol of God suffering with and in His people.
But there were no symbols at the cross; only the One symbolized. God thirsting.like the Man He is.
A church full of Seraphim and Cherubim could not find the words to praise Him! How can we? How do we thank Him for loving us enough to become one of us-one of us, I said! I have heard many sermons on the verse-and preached a few myself-but I have never heard anyone get close to the meaning of II Corinthians 8:9. Who could?
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you, through His poverty might become rich.
If the first message of the sermon is: Praise the Lord, the second is trust Him.
It is hard to trust God because we feel so alone. While we wouldn't admit it, we sometimes wonder if He really understands. The Bible says He does; preachers say He does; we sing He does in our hymns. But does He? Does He truly know what it means to be a man? Cock your ear toward the cross and hear Him cry-I thirst. And then you'll know He understands, and more than He 'understands'. You'll know He feels for you because He Himself felt the same thing. And worse.
The writer of Hebrews was a man like you and me. He struggled to believe God cared for him and that his prayers mattered in heaven. But then He remembered what God became-not an angel, but flesh and blood. And this God of flesh and blood is.touched with the feeling of our infirmity. Pain is not an intellectual thing with Him. An oncologist knows what cancer is and what its symptoms are. But He does not feel cancer or the fear it breeds. God is not only the doctor, but in Jesus Christ, He became the patient.
This means, in short:
Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.
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