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