Two words. Only one in the Greek language. But powerful. Penetrating. Expressive. “I thirst,” said Jesus before he bowed his head and surrendered His spirit back to the Father. Just two words. But they speak volumes about the events that Friday afternoon on Calvary’s hill.
The text says, “…Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” (John 19:28; Ps 66:21). These words show His memory was sharp enough to remember Scripture. It demonstrates the understanding of His Messianic mission. And it speaks to His willingness and submission to the “Father’s business.” But I think there is more.
The first four sayings seem more in keeping with our vision of Jesus. Words of Forgiveness. Salvation. Affection. Even the anguishing words, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” In these words we see His Deity. They express his Godhood. They depict his love. They even manifest His intimacy with the Father.
But, I thirst?
These words two bring us face to face with a reality. The Word became flesh. Jesus was a man. We see His humanity. His fleshly feelings. His bodily suffering. His mental anguish. His emotional trauma. These two words sum up the commonality He experienced with all humankind. With all of us. “I thirst. “Think about it.
Here’s God who created the rivers, the seas, the lakes and the streams. The one who sent the torrential rain that flooded the earth to purify it of sin and save Noah. The One who brought forth water from a rock to sustain Israel in the wilderness. The One who said, “I am the water of Life.” Now, it is He who can only muster the strength to utter “I thirst.”
We see the man Jesus seriously dehydrated as He dangles from the cross. For six hours the only moisture that has touched his lips is the briny sweat running down his face. His aching muscles flinch and throb under the weight of His body pulling against the nails. And now with parched throat, chapped lips and cotton mouth he breathes these two words. “I thirst.
How fitting that one more time at the very end we are reminded of Jesus’ humanness. We saw Him tempted in wilderness, hungry for food. Eating and drinking at the wedding feast. Angry at the disrespect in the Temple. His tired body resting by Jacob’s well. Sleeping on a boat on Galilee’s Sea. Weeping at Lazarus’ tomb. And now, His dried up lips say “I thrist.”
You see we’ve all been there. Tired. Hungry. Sleepy. Tempted. Heart broken. Angry. Thirsty. And yes, eating and drinking! Those are actions and emotions of human beings. The Son of Man shared in the feelings of the flesh. He knows what we’re going through. He’s been there too.
But that was Friday.
Thanks be to God for Sunday! Now man and God come together. Resurrected. Alive. Able to understand how we feel. Yet able to bring God’s grace to earth. The One, who in His humanity said, “I thirst,” now is truly “the water of life” to all who will drink. And if you drink of that water you will never be thirsty again!
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman