“I Am Thirsty”

You understand thirst. You have felt thirsty. Have you ever experienced a burning thirst, a fearful life-or-death thirst, a dangerous thirst? Long distance hikers know the dangers of dehydration and the importance of locating water sources. They carry filtration systems for purifying water from streams, ponds or springs along the trail.

The fifth word of Christ from the cross came near the end when he said, “I am thirsty.” He knew that everything was about to be accomplished (John 19:28). He had been suffering the judgment of God for sin. This was to make possible our deliverance from the penalty for our sins. He identified with humanity in another way we all understand: “I am thirsty.”

Jesus had been hanging on the cross since 9:00 in the morning. It was nearing 3 pm. His physical sufferings were unspeakable. They were compounded by a burning thirst. He gave voice to a physical need. He had this is common with all humanity as before when he experienced temptation, fatigue, sorrow, hunger and righteous anger. In thirst, common to all people, Jesus understood how it felt to be human.

The “I” in this statement opens another window on the person of the Savior. It is a reminder that this dying, thirsting man on the cross was also God in his very nature. Repeatedly in John’s gospel, our Lord Jesus identified himself as the “I AM,” who had boldly declared, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:10). John purposefully selected seven statements from the discourses of Jesus to affirm his divine authority: I am the Bread of Life, I am the Light of the World, I am the Gate, I am the Good Shepherd, I am the Resurrection and the Life, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, I am the True Vine.

Then in John 8:58 he said, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” Not “I was,” but “I am” the eternal One, the self-existent One (Exodus 3:14; John 1:1). Jesus, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” ( Philippians 2:6-8).

Think of it! The one who “was with God in the beginning” and through whom “all things were made” (John 1:2-3) inhabited and was dependent upon the creation he himself had brought into existence. The one who created the springs, rivers and aquifers to slake the thirst of living creatures; the one who sent the seasonal rains to water thirsty crops, to provide abundant harvests; the one who covered three-fourths of the surface of this planet with water to dissipate the heat of the sun and to make the earth habitable — this mighty creator humbled himself to die on a cross and before he died he said, “I am thirsty.”

The historic teaching of the Christian gospel is that Jesus is both human and divine, God and man in one person. Because he was man, he was able to bear our sins. Because he was God, his sacrifice was perfect. Because of his perfect sacrifice he is able to bring believers to Paradise. Let us say to Jesus, as Thomas did, with reverence and gratitude, “My Lord and my God!”( John 20:28).

Pastor Randy Faulkner





The God-forsaken Savior

It has been called the “cry of dereliction” or of “desolation.” Amid the unnatural darkness that fell over his crucifixion, Jesus cried out in the language of his people, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). He was quoting scripture, Psalm 22:1. It was a prophecy being fulfilled.

Angels had supported Jesus when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. They helped him as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. The New Testament tells us a voice from heaven spoke approvingly of him on several occasions.

But on the cross no angels attended him. There was no voice saying, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). Instead there was the pall of darkness at noon and the consciousness of being abandoned.

Jesus’ cry was not one of unbelief, despair or cowardice. At the last Supper and in Gethsemane Jesus had expressed his intention to  fulfill the Father’s will through his death. He had repeatedly predicted to his disciples the death he would die in Jerusalem. This cry of dereliction was a fulfillment of another prophetic word: “We considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4).

J.C. Ryle of England explained it this way, “There is a deep mystery in these words which no one can fathom. They express the real pressure on his soul of the enormous burden of the world’s sin.” His suffering was not merely physical, but spiritual. He was forsaken by God because he was bearing our sin.

The famous hymn of Isaac Watts describes it: “Well might the sun in darkness hide and shut his glories in/ when Christ the mighty Maker died for man the creature’s sin.” This is Jesus becoming a curse for us to redeem us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13). Until then, he could always say, “My Father is with me” (John 16:32). But now he is absolutely alone, abandoned, forsaken.

Why? Because “We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). In suffering the abandonment of the Father, Jesus endured the very sufferings of hell. “God made him who knew no sin to be made sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Yet despite the desolation, we recognize his belief that the essential unity of the Trinity was not broken. Jesus never lost the knowledge that God was his God. Fellowship was broken by our sin, but not his relationship. Not long after these dreadful words were spoken, Jesus would call God his Father again, praying, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

This season of the year is an annual reminder of what our Lord endured for us in dying for our sins. As we meditate on his words from the cross, let us humble ourselves in grateful worship, deep faith and confident witness. He was forsaken so that we might be accepted. This is good news.

Years ago I wrote these lines: “How the glory once was muted/ when upon a tree, accursed/ in the terror of earth’s darkness/ Jesus took God’s wrath for us.”

Pastor Randy Faulkner

“Here is Your Mother”

Compounding the agonies of dying by crucifixion, was the sorrow Jesus felt for his sorrowing mother. The tenderness of his care for her contrasts with the savage brutality of the scene. The gospel of John gives us our Lord’s third statement from the cross. “He said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother'” (John 19:27).

Think of the bravery of Mary, following the mob to Calvary, standing at the foot of the cross, watching her son being shamed and tortured. We can only imagine the depth of her anguish as she endured the mockery and hatred directed at Jesus. Surely this was a fulfillment of the prophecy of the aged Simeon, who, in Jesus’ infancy, had said to Mary, “A sword will pierce your own soul” (Luke 2:35).

The unnamed disciple is “the disciple whom he loved,” universally understood to be the writer of this story. The apostle John was a son of Zebedee, who owned a fishing business in Galilee. His mother may have been Salome, a sister of Mary. If this is true, then John was Jesus’ cousin. (See Mark 1:20, 15:40; Matthew 27:46; John 19:25.) This may help explain why the Lord entrusted the care of his mother to her nephew. John was familiar to her, staying with her now, supporting her in her grief. It is clear that the Lord Jesus was asking John to care for her as he would his own mother.

John 19:27 says John “took her to his own home.” The inference is that he took her away immediately to a dwelling he maintained in Jerusalem. We know Mary stayed in Jerusalem for many weeks after this because  later we find her in the upper room praying with the other disciples (Acts 1:14). The scriptures are silent about her remaining years. Did she return to Galilee? Did she accompany the apostle John to Ephesus, where tradition tells us he concluded his ministry?

The fact that Jesus did not entrust her to other family members is probably due to the fact that his half-brothers did not believe in him at this time. Yes, Jesus had brothers and sisters who were born to Joseph and Mary after he, the “firstborn son,” was born (Luke 2:7; Matthew 1:25). The scripture says that at first his natural brothers did not believe in him (Mark 6:3-4; John 7:5). After his resurrection, however, they became believers and joined the other disciples (Acts 1:14).

Jesus addressed her as “woman.” The expression may be close to the British “my lady,” or the common American “ma’am.” This is not the only time our Lord spoke to his mother this way (John 2:4). Devout Bible students have come to the conclusion that when Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit to begin his public ministry, something changed in his formal relationship to his mother. He was now committed to the work his Father in heaven had given him to do  (Matthew 12:46). He was carrying out his role as Messiah.

The emotional distance implied in this form of address meant that she must hereafter be subservient to him as Savior and Lord. This implies no disrespect toward his mother. But it indicates his recognition that she is now to be numbered among his followers. The mother/son relationship is now woman/Lord.

It was a great honor to John that Jesus trusted him for this sacred duty. It is a testimony to his loyal love. No doubt John considered it a privilege to serve his Lord by caring for his mother for the rest of her life.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

“With Me in Paradise”

Grace. Mercy. Acceptance. These come to mind as we read the words of the dying Savior to the thief on the cross next to him, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus’ words were in reply to the man’s prayer, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

You know the details of the story. Here was a dying man in agony of body and soul. He was a condemned criminal experiencing the cruelest form of Roman retribution, execution by crucifixion. The scene is a cacophony of mockery, cursing, shrieks of pain and groans of mourning. Amid the confusion, he has a moment of clarity: “Jesus, remember me.”

Luke’s gospel (23:40-43) tells us he feared God, acknowledged his guilt, and recognized the kingly authority of Jesus. A skeptic might dismiss this as a desperate man’s dying delusion. But seen in contrast to the  other thief’s obstinate rejection of Jesus, his plea for salvation is familiar to all who have faith in Jesus. He had faith, and it was faith alone that brought forth the Lord’s promise of life beyond death.

We do not know much about Paradise. In ancient history it was a word for a beautiful garden. In the Bible, Paradise is a synonym for heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2-4; Revelation 2:7).

Nor are we told much about the intermediate state of souls between death and resurrection. Jesus gives us this certainty: the spirits of the redeemed enter into conscious and happy fellowship with him. “Today,” tells us it is immediate.  “With me,” tells us that it is his presence that makes Paradise a state of blessedness. (John 12:26. 14:3, 17:24). “To depart and be with Christ … is better by far” (Philippians 1:23).

The dying thief had no opportunity to do good deeds. He did not benefit from any ceremony of religion. He could not make restitution for his sins. All he could do was ask, “Jesus, remember me!” And the Lord did.

Jesus’ second statement from the cross is a word for us. No matter who we are or what we have done, Jesus offers grace, mercy and acceptance. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). This is a word of assurance that death, for a  believer, is not the end of life.

Pastor Randy Faulkner