************ Sermon on John 19:28-29 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 6, 2014
"I Am Thirsty"
Fifth Message Lent 2014
"Thirst is deadlier than hunger. Deprived of food, you might survive for a few weeks, but deprived of liquid refreshment, you would rarely last more than a few days. Only breathing matters more."
These are the opening words of a book I just finished reading on my Kindle. The name of the book: "A History of the World in Six Glasses." The author studied human history in terms of what we drink. The six glasses, in quick order, are beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola. It is a rather ingenious way of looking at history. The author reminds us there are many ways to look at the past: as a list of important dates; a conveyor belt of kings and queens; a series of rising and falling empires; or a narrative of political, philosophical, or technological progress. He chose to look at history in terms of the drink we humans consume.
I thought of the "Six Glasses" as I studied Jesus' fifth word from the cross: "I am thirsty" (Jn 19:28).
I Wine Vinegar
A John tells us "a jar of wine vinegar was there" at the foot of the cross (Jn 19:28).
What was the jar of wine vinegar mentioned by John? Well, it wasn't straight wine. In the Ancient World, wine was always mixed with water. Drinking even a fine wine without first mixing it with water was considered barbaric by the Greeks. This was done to keep wine safe – that is, prevent (quick) intoxication. But wine also made water safe. The Greeks and Romans were familiar with the dangers of drinking contaminated water; they preferred water from springs and deep wells, or rainwater collected in cisterns. And, they observed that wounds treated with wine were less likely to become infected than those treated with water. So, at the very least, Jesus was offered wine with water. Back then a mixture of equal parts of water and wine was regarded as "strong wine"; usually, it was ratio of one to two or one to three parts wine to water.
We are told Jesus was offered "wine vinegar." Back then, just like now, the rich drank the finest wines, poorer citizens drank lesser vintages, and so on down the social ladder. The coarser, cheaper wines were often mixed with various additives, either to serve as preservatives or to conceal the fact that they had spoiled. Pitch was occasionally added to wine as a preservative, as were small quantities of salt or seawater. Herbs, honey, and other additives were commonly added to lesser wines to conceal their imperfections.
Below these coarser, cheaper wines was posca, a drink made by mixing water with wine that had turned sour and vinegar-like. Posca was commonly issued to Roman soldiers. When a Roman soldier offered Jesus Christ a sponge dipped in wine, the wine in question would have been posca.
B We read from Psalm 69 this morning. There was a reason, of course, that I selected this psalm. Our Bible reading makes a point of telling us Jesus said, "I am thirsty" "so that the Scripture would be fulfilled" (Jn 19:28). The Scripture in mind is Psalm 69.
Last week someone asked me a very interesting question. I was asked which psalms were messianic. I quick scanned through the psalms in my mind. "All of them," I said. Well, Psalm 69 certainly fits this billing. It has strong messianic tones throughout.
-note Psalm 69:3 and how it applies to Jesus: "my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God." Don't forget, Jesus has just finished the three hours of darkness and ended it by crying out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me"? (Mt 27:46).
-in John 15:25 Jesus explains the hatred of the world as a fulfilment of Psalm 69:4: "Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head; many are my enemies without cause, those who seek to destroy me."
-when Jesus cleared the Temple of the merchants and money-changers His disciples remembered the words of Psalm 69:9: "zeal for your house consumes me" (cf Jn 2:17)
-throughout the sufferings of Christ we have seen fulfilled the psalm's emphasis on shame and scorn and insults (Ps 69:7-10, 19-20)
-and, the jar of wine vinegar points us to the words of Psalm 69:21: "They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst"
What's the point? Let's go back to our opening verse this morning:
(Jn 19:28) Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty."Is Jesus an accidental victim? Is Jesus truly helpless? Is Jesus but a pawn in the hands of Pilate, the Sanhedrin, and the soldiers? These words indicate our Lord knew what was going on. He was fully in control as He obeyed the Father’s will. He purposely fulfilled the words of Scripture. He knew what He needed to do and undergo in order to accomplish our salvation.
Earlier, in keeping with this, Jesus refused to drink the wine that was always offered to those about to be crucified (Mt 27:34). At that point in the process, wine deadened or lessened the pain. Jesus didn't take the wine because then He would not fully suffer the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race. Because then He would not fully experience what He needed to experience according to the plan of God for our salvation.
But now, when everything has finally been completed, He can drink from the wine vinegar. So, in fulfilment of Scripture, He said "I am thirsty." And, He was offered a drink.
C Did you notice anything odd about how Jesus was given a drink?
(Jn 19:29) A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips.Jesus' drink was "on a stalk of the hyssop plant" (Jn 19:29).
In a Bible inspired by God's Spirit, it is not accidental nor is it incidental that the hyssop is mentioned. The Bible mentions hyssop several times, mostly in the Old Testament. Hyssop was first used in the institution of the Passover. Moses instructed the children of Israel to take a bunch of hyssop and dip it into the blood of the Passover lamb and then apply it to the doorframes. In Leviticus, God commanded His people to use hyssop in the ceremonial cleansing of people and houses (Lev 14:1-7; 33-53). Looking back at the Old Testament, Hebrews mentions that the scroll and the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies were cleansed with hyssop (Heb 9:19-22). The hyssop was dipped into blood which was then sprinkled on the person, home, or thing that needed cleansing.
In Psalm 51 a repentant David uses hyssop as an image for salvation: "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow" (Ps 51:7). In other words, sprinkle the cleansing blood of the lamb on me. David admits and David realizes that cleansing only comes because of the shedding of blood.
So now, at the cross, the hyssop is lifted to Jesus' lips. It doesn't need to be first dipped in the blood. It doesn't need to be because, don't forget, Jesus needs no cleansing. Jesus has no sin. He is fully obedient to the will and commands of God. His is both a passive and an active obedience. No, Jesus needs no cleansing. The hyssop is lifted up to Jesus. Why? Because His is the cleansing blood. His is the shedding of blood. It is His blood and His sacrifice that washes me and makes me whiter than snow.
II Physical Thirst
A Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty."
Yes, Scripture was being fulfilled. Yes, hyssop was being dipped in His cleansing blood. However, we cannot forget that His was also a real thirst.
The last time Christ had anything to drink was at the Last Supper. Since then He has lost a considerable part of His body fluids. In the Garden His sweat was like drops of blood. When the soldiers whipped His back and jammed the crown of thorns on His head, we know He lost more precious body fluids. On the cross His wounds continued to bleed. He hung beneath the heat of the noonday sun. So of course He was thirsty.
B "I am thirsty." We see here the full humanity of Christ.
While here on earth the Lord Jesus gave full proof of His humanity — His sinless humanity. He entered this world as a baby and was wrapped in strips of cloth (Lk 3:7). Like any normal human child, "Jesus grew in wisdom and stature" (Lk 2:52). As a man He became tired (Jn 4:6). He was hungry (Mt 4:2). He fell asleep (Mk 4:38). He prayed (Mk 1:35). He rejoiced (Lk 10:21). He was troubled (Jn 11:33). He wept (Jn 11:35).
In our text, Jesus cries out, "I am thirsty." This is further evidence of His full humanity for God does not get thirsty, nor do the angels, nor do we in glory (Rev 7:16). We thirst now because we are human and thirst is part of being human now. And, Christ was thirsty because He was and is fully man. The book of Hebrews says this about Christ :
(Heb 2:17) ... he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.
C "I am thirsty." Or, quoting from Psalm 69, "my throat is parched" (Ps 69:3). Or, quoting from Psalm 22, another psalm that focuses on the suffering of the Christ:
(Ps 22:15) My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.As I said at the beginning of this sermon, thirst is deadlier than hunger. One can endure hunger for a fairly long time. And, it is amazing how much physical pain the body can take. But thirst is like a consuming fire.
Here is the God of the gospel, a poor, pathetic, dying man Who pleads for a little fluid to moisten his lips and tongue and throat. I find it ironic that the One Who is the Water of life (John 4:14; 7:38–39) is dying of thirst!
We see here the intensity of Christ's physical sufferings on our behalf.
III Spiritual Thirst
A "I am thirsty." Remember the context. If we carefully compare our text with Matthew 27 we see that this fifth word from the cross is spoken by our Lord right after the three hours of darkness. During those three hours God had turned His face away from Jesus. During those three hours Jesus had to bear on His own the weight of the whole world's sin. The disciples have fled, Jesus' family and friends keep quiet, the jubilant crowds have turned against Him. And even God has forssken Him too. This tore from Jesus the cry, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mt 27:46).
"I am thirsty." After the three hours of darkness, the three hours of forsakenness, Jesus is crying here for God. Jesus has in mind those beautiful words that He inspired in the psalmist:
(Ps 42:1-2) As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. (2) My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?Jesus has been without God for three awful hours. No wonder He cries out for God. No wonder He says, "I am thirsty."
B "I am thirsty." This fifth word from the cross expresses your need and my need and the need of every other person. Every person is thirsty. Every person wants to satisfy the quenching of their soul. Whether we realize it or not, we all are crying, "I am thirsty."
"I am thirsty." "My soul is empty."
So what does man do? He desires to acquire wealth. He craves for the honors and acclaim of the world. He rushes madly after pleasure. He engages in an endless search for wisdom. He endlessly explores the earth and the heavens. Why do we do all this? Because there is an aching void in our soul. Why? Because there is something in every natural man that is unsatisfied.
Yet, as Jesus makes plain in more than one place, natural man looks to the wrong things and goes to the wrong places to fill his soul. When man goes after wealth, honor, pleasure, wisdom, power, and knowledge he will not be satisfied. Jesus said, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again" (Jn 4:13).
C "I am thirsty." Only God can quench the thirst of our soul. Only a relationship with Jesus can leave us satisfied. Anything else and everything else is but a poor substitute that leaves us craving for something more. Christ alone can quench our thirst. He alone can meet the deepest need of our heart, our soul, our person.
Congregation, come to Jesus. Do not reject Him. For if you die in your sins your eternal cry will be the moan of the damned: "I am thirsty." In the Lake of Fire the lost suffer the flames of God's wrath for ever and ever with none to quench their thirst. If Christ cried, "I am thirsty," after He had suffered the wrath of God for three hours, what is the state of those who have to endure it for all eternity?! When millions of years have gone by, ten millions more lie ahead. There is an everlasting thirst in hell which has no relief. Remember the awful words of the rich man in hell:
(Lk 16:24) ... 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'Again I say, come to Jesus and drink of Him Who is the living water. For only in Him can you satisfy your thirst.
"I am thirsty," said the Lord as He hung on the cross for our sins.
"I am thirsty," says man as he looks for meaning and purpose in life.
"I was thirsty," says the Christian who has come to Jesus, and found in Him the well of living water.
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