“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





“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

“Father, Forgive Them…”

We might be tempted to wonder, Why a sacrifice? Couldn’t God simply forgive sins without requiring the death of Christ? After all, God is love and it is his nature to forgive. Why was the cross a necessity?

An answer may be found in the first statement of the dying savior from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).  We cannot understand, any more than Jesus’ tormentors could, the depth of our sin or the height of God’s holiness. If we did, we would more fully understand the necessity of Jesus’ sacrifice as an atonement for sin.

A reading of the crucifixion narratives in the four gospels arouses our amazement. Jesus offered no resistance during his arrest, unjust trials, savage flogging, public mocking, and torturous crucifixion. We hear no cry for revenge. There is only empathy: “They do not know what they are doing.”

This fact did not relieve them of responsibility, however. Their ignorance was willful ignorance. They rejected him in the face of the overwhelming evidence that he was the divine Son of God. It was lazy ignorance, the apathy of indifference to the truth that he preached. It was blind ignorance because “they loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).

It is the same for us. We are responsible for our sins, even those of which we are not aware. We must recognize that we, too, are guilty of sin (Romans 3:9-20). If not the same sins as of those who crucified our Lord, they are sins that are equally offensive to God’s righteous nature and holy law. His perfection requires the satisfaction of a perfect sacrifice in order for forgiveness to be possible. He must be true to himself (2 Timothy 2:13).

“He was numbered with the transgressors,” Isaiah prophesied (Isaiah 53:12). It is noticeable, then, that Jesus prayed for their forgiveness as he was dying on the cross. It was his death on the cross that accomplished satisfaction. It was on the basis of his sacrifice that Jesus was asking the Father in heaven to withhold his wrath. Yes, God is love, and he is willing to forgive sins. But his love is a holy love. His holy nature requires satisfaction (1 John 2:2).

Their forgiveness depended upon their response to Jesus’ sacrifice. One of the hardened Roman officers at the scene confessed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54). Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish high council, had “become a disciple of Jesus” (Matthew 27:57). The faithful women disciples who had followed Jesus from the beginning of his ministry mourned his death amid the mockers at the foot of the cross.

This precious word, “forgive,” means to remove, to send away, to release from a debt. It refers to restoration of a relationship that is broken by sin. It involves two parties, the one offended, and the offender. There must be a granting and an acceptance of forgiveness. This acceptance involves confession and confession involves a change of outlook toward sin. This is called repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10).

What about those who deny their moral responsibility and who refuse to acknowledge their sin? Are they covered by Jesus’ prayer from the cross? Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus was not forgiven. Jesus said of him it would have been better if he had not been born (Mark 14:21). Caiaphas and his co-conspirators thought it would have been better for Jesus to die than for them to lose their political influence (John 11:49-53). They remained embittered toward Jesus and his followers (Acts 4:5-7). The criminal dying at Jesus’ left side joined the chorus of willful defiance against Jesus (Mark 15:27-32; Luke 23:39). These who rejected Jesus then represent all who now exempt themselves from the benefits of his prayer for God’s forgiveness.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” shows us the compassion of the Lord Jesus, even toward those who reject him. It shows us God’s willingness to forgive those who confess their sin and trust in his Son. It shows us that forgiveness before a holy God is available for all who believe the message of the cross: “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner




Seven Words of Love

In 1986 the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article detailing the likely physiological and psychological effects of the crucifixion of Jesus. In 2004 Mel Gibson produced “The Passion of the Christ,” a movie that graphically portrayed the extremity of the Lord’s agony. Yet the descriptions we have in the gospels seem relatively unemotional when compared to the violence and terror of the actual event.

We are approaching the time of year when Christians are called again to contemplate the cross and its significance. The writers of the New Testament must have felt a deep reverence and devotion as they described the crucifixion. But they were remarkably restrained.

To be sure, they reveal much in their telling of the scenes of mockery, flogging, hardened soldiers, condemned criminals, thorns, nails, and spear. But there is no lurid sensationalism or cheap emotionalism. Instead, their purpose is instructive, not merely descriptive. The writers want us to see beyond the physical horrors of the crucifixion to something deeper, its spiritual meaning and purpose.

This is evident in the recorded words of Christ from the cross. Students of scripture have always found in these statements a revelation of the divine-human nature of the Lord Jesus, and of the value of his finished work of redemption. For this reason, I invite you to join me in meditating on the “Seven Last Words of Christ” during the coming weeks.

I hope a re-reading of these seven words of love will attract us to the dying Savior. This was his intention. He said, “And I if I am lifted up from the earth, “will draw all people to  myself.” “He said this,” the apostle John reports, “to show the kind of death he was going to die” (John 12:32-33). 

This is the universal attraction of the gospel. It is for people of every nationality, economic status, and ethnic identity. People of all cultures can identify with the emotional, relational, physical and spiritual states reflected in our Lord’s seven words from the cross.

Beginning next Friday, in this space, we will contemplate his prayer for his tormentors, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). This will be followed by an examination of his promise to the criminal on the cross next to him, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

“Woman, here is your son,” spoken to Mary, and to the apostle John, “Here is your mother” (John 19:26-27), provided an earthly home for his mother, whom he entrusted to that beloved disciple who stayed with Jesus until he died.

The words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) take us into the mystery of the Holy Trinity and the meaning of Christ’s sacrificial death. “I am thirsty” (John 19:28) is a stark reminder of the Lord’s humanity and his identification with the rest of humanity.

The final words are rich in spiritual and theological significance. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” ( Luke 23:46) and “It is finished” (John 19:30), remind us that the Lord Jesus gave his life voluntarily to pay the debt for the sins of the world. This is the teaching of the New Testament.

Whether or not you were brought up in a church that observed the liturgical practices of the Christian year (I was not), it can be spiritually edifying to use the weeks between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday as a season of preparation. To meditate on the Lord’s death, remembering what he endured on the cross. To give thanks for his sacrifice. To worship the One who came to draw us to himself for salvation. To repent of our sins and deepen our faith in him.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner