After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), "I thirst." (John 19:28 ESV). He said, "I thirst." I AM thirsty. I AM the One Who thirsts. I AM experiencing for you, such thirst-your thirst. In your place, "I thirst."
Among all the other sayings of the last words before his crucifixion, this one perhaps represents the total humanity of Jesus. These few words may very well also reflect the profound distance He felt-the large, huge gap he experienced at that moment when he was keenly aware of the "forsakenness" of God in the very face of the totality of humanity's sin. The veritable massive volume of the sheer weight of sin - yours, mine and ours, together - was bearing down upon His body and being upheld on the cross by the nails of His spirit. The nails He chose, as Max Lucado writes, out of His love for us - for you, and for me.
In his book, "Come Thirsty," at the beginning of chapter one, entitled, The Dehydrated Heart, the writer, preacher and pastor reflects upon physical, human thirst:
"You're acquainted with physical thirst. Your body, according to some estimates, is 80 percent fluid. That means a man my size lugs around 160 pounds of water. Apart from brains, bones and a few organs, we're walking water balloons. We need to be. Stop drinking and see what happens. Coherent thoughts vanish, skin grows clammy, and vital organs wrinkle. Your eyes need fluid to cry; your mouth needs moisture to swallow; your glands need sweat to keep your body cool; your cells need blood to carry them; your joints need fluid to lubricate them. Your body needs water the same way a tire needs air.h
In the words of Charles H. Spurgeon, "Our Lord... endured thirst to an extreme degree, for it was the thirst of death which was upon him, and more, it was the thirst of one whose death was not a common one, for 'he tasted death for every man.'" It was literally the dying thirst of God - the thirst for God as it would have been experienced by those who are put far from him. "I thirst," is his human body tormented by grievous pain. Here you see how the mortal flesh had to share in the agony of the inward spirit."
In "The Physical aspect of suffering in the crucifixion," we can contemplate what Jesus went through as Matthew 27:26 recounts that "... after having Jesus scourged, he delivered Him to be crucified."
"By the time he had been scourged, Jesus was already in great pain, suffering severe blood loss, and was becoming very weak and thirsty. How much more thirsty he would have been as He was being crucified on the cross of Calvary....
"With the severe loss of blood from the scourging and crucifixion, Jesus would have become dehydrated and His body would have less blood to carry oxygen. Breathing becomes increasingly difficult. Soon, the body gets to the point of no return and the heart either ruptures or the person dies from asphyxiation. But, before that happens, the blood loss results in extreme thirst as the body craves water to restore the lost blood.
"A death by crucifixion seems to include all that pain and death can have of the horrible and ghastly. While each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there was added to them the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst. (Farrar's "Life of Christ")
When Jesus said, "I thirst," (John 19:28), among other reflections Spurgeon suggests that "I thirst" meant that His heart was thirsting to save us. He was thirsting to save you. He was thirsting to save me. He was thirsting to save us. This thirst had been on him from the earliest of his earthly days.
"Did you not know," He said essentially, while still a boy, "That I must be about my Father's business?" (Luke 2:49) Did He not tell his disciples in (NLT) Luke 12:50 "There is a terrible baptism ahead of me, and I am under a heavy burden until it is accomplished?"
As the hours wore on, Jesus sensed approaching death. He perceived three threats to His vital functions of which we read in David's Psalm 22:14-15. This is the same Psalm which begins with the Hebrew words quoted in Aramaic as uttered by Jesus (and followed by the Greek) in the Matthean 27:46 and Markan 15:34 Gospel accounts: Eloi Eloi lema sabach'thani' - which as translated, means, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"
In view of Jesus' thirst, we can hear Psalm 22:14-15 (NLT): 14 My life is poured out like water ... 15 My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.
These later words from Psalm 22 would have been familiar to Jesus as he passionately uttered His fifth saying on the cross: "I thirst."
As we meditate at the end of March on Good Friday upon the dying thirst of God, the question comes to mind: Are you in touch with your own thirst for God? Have you been thirsting for that which only Jesus can satisfy? Do you yourself thirst for others to thirst after Him? As David the Psalmist (42) wrote, "As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs and yearns after you." Through the rest of this Lenten season approaching Holy Week, may we thirst after Him as well as others, even as Jesus thirsts for us.