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Thirsty No More

May 28, 2023 Speaker: Jonathan McLeod Series: Sayings of Jesus on the Cross

Topic: Cross Scripture: John 19:28

The Fifth Saying on the Cross

Can you remember a time when you were extremely thirsty?

I remember a day—a hot, sunny, summer day—way back when I was in my late teens. I was working for a construction company, and I was the guy who always got the dirty jobs … due to my lack of carpentry skills. That day I was banished to foundation work.

It was the middle of the afternoon. I had been working for hours in the dust and the dirt, with the sun beating down mercilessly upon my back.

Just when the heat threatened to consume me, my salvation appeared. It was my boss, who arrived at the job site with cans of ice-cold Coke.

That was refreshing!

But my thirst on that day was nothing compared to the thirst Jesus experienced while on the cross. And that leads us to the fifth saying of Jesus on the cross. It’s found in John 19:28, where Jesus says, “I thirst.”

Given Sour Wine to Drink

When Jesus says, “I thirst,” the soldiers soak a sponge with sour wine. Then they put the sponge on a hyssop branch and hold it to Jesus’s mouth. This type of wine “relieved thirst more effectively than water and, being cheaper than regular wine, it was a favorite beverage of the lower ranks of society.”

Earlier, Jesus had been offered wine “mixed with gall” (Matt. 27:34). But once Jesus had tasted it, he refused to drink it. Why? Because it was an anesthetic. 

He was determined to endure the agony of the crucifixion without a dulling of his senses by a sedative. And it was for precisely the same reason that he later accepted the sour wine—to revive and sharpen all his senses and avoid the clouding of his physical and spiritual sensibilities, especially his mind, that so easily occurred with the passage of time under the torment of crucifixion. In this way he was ensuring that this final self-surrender to God in death (Luke 23:46) was a fully conscious act.

That a hyssop branch was used might not be an insignificant detail. It could be that John is making a connection with the Exodus story. In Exodus 12, Moses told the people to take “a bunch of hyssop” and dip it in the blood of the Passover Lamb and then spread the blood on the lintel and doorposts of their houses (vv. 21-22).

Some will say that it’s a coincidence that the soldiers use a hyssop branch to give Jesus a drink. But let’s not forget what happens at the beginning of John’s Gospel. In chapter 1, John the Baptist sees Jesus and declares him to be “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (v. 29).

The Reason for “I Thirst”

Why did Jesus say, “I thirst”?

  1. He was thirsty.

This is an obvious reason. Jesus probably had no fluids since the Last Supper, which happened about 18 hours earlier. In the Garden of Gethsemane, “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). One of the causes of death by crucifixion was dehydration.

The fact that Jesus was thirsty supports the genuine humanity of Jesus.

  1. He wanted to fulfill Scripture.

Look at verse 28. John says that Jesus said he was thirsty “to fulfill the Scripture.” What Scripture? One possibility is Psalm 22:15: “My tongue sticks to my jaws.” Probably the right answer is Psalm 69:21: “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.”

  1. He was preparing for his final words.

Verse 28 says, “Jesus, knowing that all was now finished ….” He had completed his mission. So he asks for a drink so that he can announce to all around his cross, “It is finished” (v. 30).

Jesus once said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34). And he said to Peter when he was arrested, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11; cf. Isa. 51:22).

You could say that he thirsted to do the Father’s will. 

Living Water

When John tells us that Jesus said, “I thirst, it’s possible that John wants us to think of two episodes in his Gospel. [Read John 4:10, 13-14; 7:38-39.]

We will always get thirsty. We will always want more water. Water can be a metaphor for anything this world offers.

The one who said, “I thirst,” is the one who is able to quench our spiritual thirst.

[Read Rev. 7:16-17.]

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