John 19:28-29 “After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to His mouth.”
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord…The Incarnate Son of God says “I thirst” in order to fulfill the Scripture. This was not an item on our Lord’s to-do list dictated by Psalm 22. Jesus didn’t say, “Well let’s see, I have everything done on the Divine checklist except say the words, ‘I thirst.’ So, I will say them in order to fulfill the Word.” No. Jesus truly did thirst with a thirst that no one else has ever experienced, and this fulfillment of Scripture is a statement of that fact. Jesus said “I thirst” because He had a thirst that permeated His Body and seared His Soul…and because He had more to say.
As we consider the Biblical account, there is no incident recorded when Jesus drank anything after the Passover when He “took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you; for this is My Blood of the new Testament which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s Kingdom'” (Matthew 26:27-29).
From there Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane where the only cup before Him is the one that contains all your sins of thought, word and deed, sins of omission and commission, sins of weakness and will; and not your sins only, but, as St. John writes in I John 2:2, “also for the sins of the whole world.” As Jesus beholds this cup of sin, death and Divine wrath, He states to His sinful, sleepy disciples, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Matthew 26:38) and He petitions His Father, “‘Father, if You are willing, removed this cup from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’ And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:42 & 44). In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus’ soul was being wrung out for you and His Body began to be dehydrated for you. Is it any wonder that we hear Him say, “I thirst”?
Jesus is taken prisoner and hauled before the officials and the courts of church and state where He is verbally assaulted and physically abused. He does receive a bit of moisture but it was when “they spat in His face” (Matthew 26:67). What a wretched, ugly, awful business this is! The men of this world spit in the face of God! Man would not put up with this degrading act when committed by another man. What in the world would God do?
Behold, He takes it without a word, bearing every disgusting transgression of man in His soul and in His body. Jesus is mocked and slapped. The Christ is cursed and struck. He is taunted and hit. In His soul, Jesus was being parched for you, and in His body, He continued to suffer the loss of water for you. Is it any wonder that from the cross we hear Him say, “I thirst”?
The Roman governor ordered Jesus to be scourged. The infliction of this cruel form of punishment, sometimes termed “the forty lashes minus one,” could kill. The scourge would lay open the back of the victim and blood would flow and result in further dehydration. So badly was Christ damaged in this scourging that, though He started to carry His cross to Golgotha, He was not able to finish the death march because, as Matthew records, “as they were marching out, they came upon a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; this man they compelled to carry His cross” (Matthew 27:32). The scourging of Jesus the Christ resulted in a further loss of water and blood, and once again, “they spat on Him” (Matthew 27:30). Is it any wonder that from the cursed tree we hear Jesus say, “I thirst”?
St. Mark records these words in his 15th chapter: “And they brought Him to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). And they offered Him wine mingled with myrrh; but He did not take it. And they crucified Him” (Mark 15:22-23). Crucifixion causes a raging thirst as the shock and pain and suffering and the loss of blood combine to bring forth a tremendous desire for water. Jesus has now shed His precious blood from His back at the scourging, from His head because of the crown of thorns, and from His hands and feet when the Roman nails pierced Him.
During His crucifixion, Jesus suffers spiritual thirst as He endures the consequences of the hellish fires, of being forsaken by God and of bearing your awful sentence for your sin. Even after His sin-atoning death, the Water of Life and the blood of Jesus poured forth when “one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once there came out Blood and Water” (John 19:34).
Dear baptized – those of you who have been cleansed by the water and the Word – those of you who have washed your “robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14), listen to Him as He speaks from the cross, “I thirst.”
Jesus has taken your thirst upon Himself and said from the cross, “I thirst” … and He says this because He has promised that “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).
The very Water of Life Himself said, “I thirst” … in order that we may join the psalmist and say, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:2) and that we may be among those who are blessed and satisfied, namely “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6).
The Righteous One said, “I thirst” …so that you might never have to thirst a single instant in hell, but instead, may drink deeply of and from “Yahweh, the Fountain of Living Water” (Jeremiah 17:13).
The Fountain of Living Water said, “I thirst” … in order that you might be one of those whom John saw in Paradise. Of them the apostle whom Jesus loved wrote: “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:16-17).
“The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) said, “I thirst” for another reason, namely, that we might “Listen to Him,” for He has more to say. And what He will say needs to be heard by both the world and the church. His mouth and lips and tongue are parched and dry. He needs water for what He will say next. For the words that follow, He needs to have His mouth moistened that He may be heard.
“A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to His mouth.” There is no compassion here. Those in charge of this gruesome form of execution will moisten the mouth but surely the acidic vinegar would also burn, thus adding to the pain. These vultures have kept this mixture at hand so that they might be able to hear what the dying said. There are also bystanders who are interested in what Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews might have to say. Indeed, everyone at the foot of the cross ought to hear what He will say.
Hyssop, as it was prescribed by Yahweh to spread the blood of the lamb on the doorposts at the first Passover during the days before the Exodus, is here used to swab the mouth of Jesus. And just what does our Lord say? Something about finishing His work.
But that will be preached next Wednesday.
It is enough for us tonight to know and to hear that Jesus, our Lord, thirsted for and won your forgiveness by His suffering and death. And that He rose again on the third day to give you every certainty of life everlasting with Him in heaven.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.