************ Sermon on John 19:28 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 29, 1998
"The Fifth Word From the Cross: Thirst"
"I am thirsty." These words were spoken by our suffering Lord just before "he bowed his head and gave up his spirit" (Jn 19:30b). Only the Gospel writer John records these words.
"I am thirsty." How tragic: the Maker of heaven and earth with parched lips; the Lord of Glory in need of a drink.
When we examine Scripture we see that every important detail of Christ's sufferings had been written down beforehand. The betrayal by a close friend (Ps 41:9), being forsaken by the disciples (Ps 31:11), false accusations (Ps 35:11), His silence before the judges (Is 53:7), His numbering with the transgressors (Is 53:12), the crucifixion (Ps 22:16), the mockery of the crowd (Ps 109:25), the taunt that the Lord does not save Him (Ps 22:7,8), the casting of lots for His garments (Ps 22:18), the prayer for His enemies (Is 53:12), being forsaken by God (Ps 22:1), the committal of His spirit into the hands of the Father (Ps 31:5), His bones not being broken (Ps 34:20), His burial in a rich man's tomb (Is 53:9) — all these were plainly foretold centuries before they came to pass. In today's passage Jesus drinks wine vinegar. This too was foretold (Ps 69:21). What convincing evidence we are given here of the inspiration of Scripture.
I A Word of Jesus' Humanity
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 cried 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.
II A Word of Jesus' Sufferings
A "I am thirsty." This word of the Savior also expresses His sufferings. So you can understand this, I want to review with the boys and the girls the sufferings of Jesus (STEP OFF PULPIT).
I hear something. Do you hear it too?
Voice: "Do this in remembrance of me ... (pause) ... This is my body ... (pause) ... This is my blood."
Whose voice is that? (GET CHILDREN TO RESPOND THAT IT IS JESUS AT THE LAST SUPPER; POINT TO CUP AND PLATE ON LORD'S SUPPER TABLE.)
The Bible tells us that this is the last time Jesus ate and drank before He was crucified the next day.
Now I hear something else. Do you hear it too?
Voice: Father, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.
Whose voice is that? (GET CHILDREN TO RESPOND THAT IT IS JESUS' VOICE IN THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE.)
The Bible tells us Jesus was so nervous and upset about His upcoming crucifixion that He was sweating. His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
I hear another sound. Do you hear it?
Voice: (Rip cloth before and while saying with anger) He has spoken blasphemy.
Anyone know whose voice that is? (GET CHILDREN TO SAY IT IS THE VOICE OF THE HIGH PRIEST; HE WAS SO UPSET WITH WHAT JESUS SAID THAT HE TORE HIS CLOTHES.)
The Bible tells us that the high priest said and did this after Jesus said He was God's Son. Then they began to spit on Him and struck Him with their fists and slapped Him. (PUT RIPPED CLOTH ON LORD'S SUPPER TABLE.)
I hear another noise.
Crack a ruler against the table top and grunt and moan.
Who knows what that sound is? (GET CHILDREN TO SAY IT IS THE SOUND OF JESUS BEING WHIPPED.)
Here is a whip (HOLD UP WHIP). But the whip used on Jesus had pieces of lead tied to the end. Back then people were whipped until their back was one big bleeding and open mass of flesh. They were whipped until they were almost dead. (PUT THE WHIP ON THE LORD'S SUPPER TABLE.)
One more noise.
Hammer on a board or table top.
What is that noise? (GET CHILDREN TO SAY IT IS JESUS BEING NAILED TO THE CROSS.)
Describe the method of crucifixion. (PUT HAMMER AND NAILS ON LORD'S SUPPER TABLE.)
Think about all the pain and suffering Jesus went through. Think of how He has gone a night and a day without anything to eat and drink. Think of how He has not had a chance to sleep or rest. Think of how He sweated. Think of all the blood He has lost. Is it any wonder that Jesus says "I am thirsty?" This word of the Savior expresses His bodily suffering.
B The Bible tells us that "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" (Jn 19:29).
This was now the second time Jesus had been offered a drink of the wine-vinegar. The soldiers first offered it to Jesus when they arrived on Golgotha Hill and before they pounded the nails into Him. Matthew's Gospel tells us that "they offered Jesus wine to drink ... but after tasting it, he refused to drink it" (Mt 27:34).
Why did Jesus refuse the wine when it was first offered to Him? We know He must have been thirsty then already. What we have to remember, congregation, is that crucifixion is a most excruciating and painful form of death. The Roman executioners regularly took pity on those condemned to die in this fashion and offered them wine as a sedative, as a means of deadening the pain. But Jesus needed His full senses about Him because He was bearing God's anger against our sin and couldn't have anything to lessen the pain, anything which would somehow take away from His suffering on our behalf.
But now, after the three hours of darkness, after being forsaken by God, Jesus could have a drink. "Knowing that all was now completed," knowing that He had sufficiently borne God's anger against our sin, knowing that His work of redemption on our behalf was now finished, Jesus could now have a drink of wine-vinegar.
C It is most significant that the wine is given Jesus by means of a hyssop stalk. Hyssop was used in the Passover ceremonies. The Israelites were to take a stalk of hyssop, dip it into the blood of the Passover lamb, and smear the blood onto the door frames of their houses.
"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." That hyssop is a reminder of the Passover Lamb sacrificed in the place of the Israelite first-born. That hyssop is a sign that the Passover Lamb has been slain — namely, Jesus "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the whole world!" (Jn 1:29).
III A Word of Jesus' Reverence for Scripture
A "I am thirsty." This word of the cross also shows Jesus' reverence for the Holy Scriptures.
Listen to the entire text this fifth word from the cross is found in:
(Jn 19:28) Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty."Jesus said "I am thirsty" so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. The Scripture referred to is Psalm 69 — a Messianic psalm which describes the Messiah's sufferings. In this psalm the Spirit declares,
(Ps 69:21) They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.This remained yet unaccomplished. The Messianic predictions of the previous verses of this psalm had already been fulfilled. Jesus did "sink in the miry depths" (vs 2); He was hated "without reason" (vs 4); He had endured scorn and shame (vs 7); He did become a stranger to His brothers (vs 8); He was mocked and reviled (vs 11,12); He had cried to God in His distress (vs 17-20). Now all that remained to be accomplished at this point was the drink of vinegar and gall [cf John 19:36,37 for some further fulfillment of Scripture]. For this to be accomplished Jesus cried out, "I am thirsty."
(Jn 19:28) Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty."
I find this to be remarkable! Jesus had hung on that cross for six hours and had passed through unbelievable suffering yet He knew and remembered that one prophetic word of Scripture still remained to be fulfilled. He overlooked nothing. He submitted to Scripture and took steps to fulfill it. But this should not surprise us. Didn't Jesus Himself say,
(Mt 4:4) Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. (cf Deut 8:3)
B Now let us pass from our Savior to ourselves. Jesus bowed to the authority of Scripture both in life and in death. How about you? Do you live on every word that comes from the mouth of God? Do you meditate on God's law day and night (Ps 1)? It is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (Ps 119:105)? Are you, like the Savior, anxious to fulfill Scripture?
IV A Word of Jesus' Sympathy with the Suffering
A "I am thirsty." This fifth word from the cross is also a word showing us how Jesus can sympathize with His suffering people.
The problem of suffering has always been a perplexing one. Why should there be suffering in a world that is governed by a perfect God — a God Who not only has the power to prevent evil, but Who is love. Why should there be pain and cancer and death? When we look out at our world we rightly recognize that too often it is a Vale of Tears.
B The cross shows us, however, that God is not ignorant of our sorrows, for in the person of His Son He Himself "took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows" (Is 53:4). The cross shows us that God Himself suffered.
The book of Hebrews touches on the value of this when it says,
(Heb 4:15-16) For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses ... (16) Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.Is your body racked with pain? So was His! Are you misunderstood, misjudged, misrepresented? So was He! Have those who are nearest and dearest to you turned away from you? They did from Him! Are you in the darkness? So was He — for 3 hours!
(Heb 2:17) For this reason 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.
V A Word Expressing a Universal Need
A "I am thirsty." This word finally expresses our Lord's and every man's spiritual thirst. 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 had fled, Jesus' family and friends kept quiet, the jubilant crowds had turned against Him. And even God forsook Him too. This tore from Jesus the cry, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" — "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 here 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, as I already said, expresses a need universal to all of mankind. Whether he realizes it or not, the natural man the world over is crying, "I am thirsty." Why else does he have a consuming desire to acquire wealth? Why else does he crave for the honors and acclaim of the world? Why else does he rush madly after pleasure? Why else does he engage in an endless search for wisdom? Why else does he endlessly explore the earth and the heavens? Why? Because there is an aching void in his soul. Why? Because there is something in every natural man that is unsatisfied.
"I am thirsty," cries natural man. "My soul is empty."
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 He goes after wealth, honor, pleasure, wisdom, power, and knowledge. Jesus said, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again" (Jn 4:13).
C "I am thirsty." This universal need is a spiritual need: that is why natural things cannot satisfy it. Unknown to natural man what he desires — like Jesus — is God. God made us and He alone can satisfy us. So Jesus said,
(Jn 4:14) ... whoever 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."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 you 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 natural 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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