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Tonight, with Gods blessing, well move on in the Puritan study we began several weeks ago. Its called Matthew Henry on the Seven Sayings. Henry was an English pastor and writer, whose commentary were using to lead us through the seven words our Lord spoke on the cross. He might have said far more, of course, but these are the ones we need to hear and to think about.
Thus far, weve looked at four of His sayings. The first and fourth are directed to God: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do and My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? The words are full of suffering and glory: the Son of God forsaken by His Father so that weenemies of God by nature and choicewould be forgiven by the same Father.
The second word was spoken to the Penitent Thief. The man who had lived his whole life in sinand long served a false Messiahis now redeemed by the true Messiah. When the worst sinner cries for mercy, he receives itand more: Lord, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom. Truly I say to you, this day you will be with Me in paradise. The believers hope is in a kingdom that may be thousands of years in comingbut not only in that kingdom: for to die in faith is to wake up in Christ. How comforting this is to people steeped in sinWhere sin abounded, grace did much more abound!
The Lords third saying was made up of two parts: He spoke first to His mother and then to His favorite disciple, John. To Mary, He said, Behold your sonthat is, from now on, youre to look to John for your support and care and love him as you loved Me.
To the disciple, He said, Behold your motherthat is, youre to care for her as if you were her first-born son, treat her with love and respect and support her in her old age. Here we see the Lord thinking of others even when He might have thought only of Himself. On the worst day of His life, Jesus Christ put the interest of others above His own. This ought to be admired, but not only that: it ought to be imitated.
The saying I read a few minutes ago is the shortest of the seven and Henry has the least to say about it. So before we get to that, let me say a few things myself about the saying, things that I hope will make you know the Lord better and love Him more.
The most obvious thing to say about the words, I thirst is that it proves that the Lord Jesus Christ is a Man. God is a Spirit; angels are spirits; and, if there is such a thing as ghosts, they too, are spirits. Being spirits, they are not dependent on material things like fluids. But men are. The cry, therefore, bears powerful witness to the Lords humanity!
Being a man, our Lord was subject to the full range of human experienceboth the joys and sorrows of being a man. The sorrows He knew better, of course: He was misunderstood by His parents and rejected by His brothers. He grew up in a captive nation and on the bottom rung of it. He probably lost His father at a young age and had to take care of His mother, brothers and sisters, when He Himself was little more than a boy. When He came of age, He first knew piercing hunger, solitude, and temptation in the wilderness
When He came to His own they wanted no part of Him. When He performed miracles, the people ascribed it to the devil. When He needed His friends most, they werent there for Him. He died young, a long and disgraceful death. This is a sampling of His sorrowsand a small sampling at that!
Angels dont suffer these thingsmen do! The Lords acute sufferings show that He is a Man, a Man who understands you, one whos walked in your shoes, and sympathizes with you in all your pain, fear, and grief.
This was hinted at in the Old Testament. Isaiah said of the Lord,
The devout Jew believed this, of course, but he had to wonder how it could be true. How can Godwho cannot be touched by wicked mensuffer the same pains that we do? He never felt the Egyptian whip come down on His back; He never wasted away with hunger or felt the pain of thirst. The Jew believed in Gods sympathy, but could not understand it.
But we can, for God added a human nature to His Divine nature andas a Mansuffered everything we do (and more). This means we can cry to Him when we hurt and pray when we worry and sigh for Him when we don't know what to say. And do it all with confidence: for
I thirst means our Lord is as human as you are. And thats good to know when you hurt.
The next thing the saying hints at is our Lords self-control. The Lord had been on a cross for almost six hours and this is the first time He asked for anything. He needed many other things: He needed a break from the pitiless crowd, He needed the company of His friends who said they loved Him, perhaps He even needed a soldier to break His legs and put Him out of His misery. But He makes no request; He utters no complaint.
Why? Because even in death, He practiced self-control. This rebukes the believers whos always got His hand out or who never gets tired of talking about Himself, His needs, His wants, His problems, and so on.
Its right to pour out your heart to God and there is a time to let others know your needs. But self-pity and whining? These do not look good on disciples of the Man who didnt complain.
These are things Matthew Henry did not say, but I think theyre helpful, and we have the time to say them. Now, we move on to Henry and what he says about the words, I thirst.
Thirst is one of the pains of hellmaybe the worst one. Did you know that? The Bible says so. The rich man Henry refers to, lifts up his eyes and hell and wants only one comfort for himselfa drop of water on his tongue. Because hes thirsty. The prophet described hell as the pit where there is no water. Think about that: no one can live for more than a few days without water. And what agonizing days they must be! Think of your tongue stuck to the roof of your mouth; think of the dizziness it would induce, the cramps, and other things that must rack the body until the lack of water kills you. And then think that in hell there wont be a drop of water. And that sinners will suffer a growing thirst forever and without relief.
Its a shocking thought, isnt it? Yet the punishment fits the crime. Sinners are offered the water of life. When they refuse to drink it, it is just for God to revoke the offer and to let them live with the consequences of their choice.
That is the choice we made too. By nature we do not want the water of life and have refused it more often than we can say. God would be perfectly just to cut us off from it forever.
But He didnt. The punishment we deserved, Jesus Christ took for us. Is hell a dark place? Then the cross is shrouded in darkness. Is hell a place without God? Then from the cross He screams My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Is hell a place without water? Then on the cross our Lord suffers an extreme thirst.
Not because He deserved it. But because you do. When we say, Christ died for us, we dont mean for our benefit (though thats true). We mean He died in our placeand suffered everything on the cross that we would have suffered in hell. Including thirst.
How thankful we ought to be! You couldnt go a week without water, no less an eternity. Yet you would have thirsted forever if your Savior had not thirsted for you.
Thats the theology of I thirst. Its a theology of substitution. Peter calls it
Isaiah fleshes it out,
Finally, the words, I thirst fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament. Note how John mentions this:
If he hadnt put this down for us, we would have probably missed the significance of His saying. And not just we, but the people who heard Him say it. By making this allusion to the Old Testament Scriptures, our Lord was telling us that He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures, in other words, the Messiah! Henry says,
Many prophecies had already been fulfilled by the Lordfrom His birth in Bethlehem (cf. Micah 5:2 to the soldiers gambling for His clothes (Psalm 22:18). But theres one Scripture not yet fulfilled. And with His dying breath it comes to mind and our Lord means to fulfill it too! Nothing left undone!
What Scripture does it fulfill?
Directly, it answers Psalm 22:15 which saysin His sufferingMessiahs
Tongue clings to His jaw.
Thats what happens to you when youre thirsty. But though this may be the most obvious fulfillment (the one you find in your Bible references), Henry mentions another. He says
Samson, an eminent type of Christ, when he was laying the Philistines heap upon heap, was himself sore athirst (Judges 15:18).
This shows a sharp eye for typology. Without turning the whole Bible into an allegory, Henry sees that experience of Gods Old Testament people (especially the leaders) often foreshadows our Lord.
Samson nearly died of thirst while saving Gods people from the enemies. The Lord suffered the same thirst when He was saving us from enemies worse than the Philistines.
Without spending too much time on it, other Scriptures came to mind. Joseph was thrown into a pit where there was no water (cf. Genesis 37:24). This may look forward to the Lords betrayal at the hands of His own family! Jeremiah was thrown into another waterless hole (cf. Jeremiah 38:6). Maybe this stands for the Lords suffering as the prophet of Israel. And, speaking of Israel, which is an Old Testament type of Christ, didnt the nation wander in a wilderness without water to fulfill their destiny?
Whether all these Scripture fit or not, whats clear is that our Lord died just as the prophets said He would and that, in fact, we
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