I Thirst – A Word for Good Friday

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I Thirst – A Word for Good Friday

Text: John 19:28 - "After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!”[1]


Jesus was in total control during the crucifixion

All of the pain, beatings, suffering; the crown of thorns in his head, the spear in his side; the nails in his hands and feet; all of it was anticipated and taken into account by Jesus when he made that prayer in Gethsemane, "Not my will but yours be done" (Luke 22:42).

A Cry to Fulfill Scripture

"After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), 'I thirst.'"

Jesus is in complete command during his crucifixion. The will of the Father had to be completed, at any cost.

Jesus knew that all was now completed as noted in his prayer found in John 17:4, "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do."

·        The work has been completed, his suffering was coming to an end, and so to fulfill Scripture Jesus said, "I thirst."

·        The whole scene is one of total devotion and commitment to the Father's will for his life and total command of the situation.

No specific scripture is identified here, but some think it comes from Ps. 22:15, or Ps. 69:21. Either way, the picture is one of Jesus, even in the midst of the most intense physical agony, very much aware of the word of his Father in Scripture and very much committed to order all of his life, even these last few moments, by it.

This scene speaks volumes about Jesus' commitment to Scripture and should speak very loudly and very clearly to us about our need to order all of our lives by Scripture, especially in the moments of our deepest suffering.

Jesus knew, even in this dark hour, that God’s word to him was his ONLY source of hope and life, and he intended to fulfill all of God’s word for his life.

Spiritual Thirst 

Now in spite of the reality and intensity of Jesus' physical thirst, I am convinced that something deeper is being expressed by this fifth word. Underlying his physical thirst is another kind of thirst that Jesus experienced in a deeper, more profound way on the cross—spiritual thirst.

The word “thirst” used here is an action word, a verb. This word for thirst is found 5 more times in the gospel of John and always refers to spiritual thirst.

All five are in contexts referring to spiritual thirst.

Three of these usages occur in John 4:13–15 in the course of Jesus' discussion with the woman at the well. Jesus offers himself to her as the one who can give her living water to drink. And he says that "who ever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (v. 14).

In John 6:35 Jesus says, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."

And in John 7:37–38 Jesus declared, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from him."

And John helps us understand what Jesus meant by adding in the next verse, "By this he (Jesus) meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive."

Putting all this evidence together, we can see that this thirst that Jesus was speaking about is a spiritual craving for God, a longing that operates deep within the heart of every human being created in the image of God, a thirst that Jesus and Jesus alone can satisfy for all eternity. According to John's gospel this universal spiritual thirst can be quenched and satisfied only by the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised to give to all who will believe in him, and who will give to the believer eternal life. And it is this kind of thirst, this spiritual thirst, which Jesus experienced on the cross.

Christ our Substitute

So in the same way, our thirst can be quenched, we don't need be thirsty forever, precisely because Jesus was thirsty for us. That's the message of the fifth word for us today. That's the reason for great faith among us as we embrace this thirsty Jesus, and for great joy as we receive from him living water to quench our thirst for all eternity.

A Different Picture in Matthew and Mark 

Now this is clearly different from what is recorded in Matthew 27:34 and Mark 15:23, where at the beginning of his crucifixion Jesus was offered a drink of wine mixed with myrrh, a drug offered to help dull the pain. At that point Jesus refused the drink, desiring to face his hour of suffering and death with a clear head. Now approaching the moment of his death Jesus accepts this drink of wine vinegar to meet his own physical needs, to moisten his mouth so that he might offer clearly and loudly his next words, the triumphant "It is finished" (John 19:30), and as our text indicates so that the Scripture might be fulfilled.


[1]  The New King James Version. 1982. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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