Words From the Cross: Distress

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” John 19:28

How long had it been since Jesus had anything to drink?

After the Last Supper he prays for agonizing hour in Gethsemane sweating great drops of blood. Then Judas and the temple guard arrest him and drag him before Caiaphas where he is condemned by a kangaroo court. In the morning they bring him before Pilate who gives orders for him to be scourged. Then they haul him across the city to Herod and again he is delivered into the hands of cruel soldiers who mock and scourge him a second time. Then they shuffle him back across the city to Pilate, who delivers him to be crucified and he is made to carry his cross through Jerusalem under the blistering morning sun until he can carry it no more.

When they reach Golgotha, outside the city, the soldiers drive spikes through his hands and feet. They crucify him at nine in the morning and he hangs there bleeding for three hours in the blazing sun until at noon darkness covers the whole land and he hangs in the darkness for another three hours as God pours out his wrath upon him. At this point Jesus is near the end. He’s lost almost all his blood and bodily fluids. No liquid has passed his lips for many hours. Now he whispers, “I thirst.”

What a heartbreaking picture! He is the Creator of the universe – the one who made the oceans, who sends the rain, the one who is himself the fountain of life, who promised living water to fill anyone who asks. He is the one who has no needs and satisfies all needs. But now he whispers through cracked, parched lips, “I thirst.”

Why did Jesus endure all this? So he could satisfy our thirst.

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters…” Isaiah 55:1

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. John 7:37

Jesus’ thirst displays his human nature. He had a real body. He suffered real pain. He suffered real thirst. “The One who refreshed others is now in need Himself.” (EF Harrison). That the infinite God would take on human flesh is an amazing mystery. Jesus was fully God and fully man, not part God, part man. From all eternity he had been fully God. He wasn’t God simply appearing to be a man. He was fully man.

As a baby he was wrapped in swaddling clothes and cared for by his mother. When he grew up he experienced fatigue and hunger. He needed to sleep. He wept. He groaned. Now he is parched and his tongue is probably sticking to the roof of his mouth.

Because Jesus took on our nature he can sympathize with our struggles.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16

Jesus can sympathize with our every temptation, need and thirst. He knows what it’s like. He’s been there. And he feels for us. He doesn’t say, “Buck up!  It’s not that bad!” He says, “I know how you feel. I know what it’s like to suffer horrifically. I know what it’s like to be in desperate need. So come to me.  Let me quench your thirst and satisfy your deepest needs.”

Next time you are tempted to grumble because you don’t get something you want, remember how Jesus thirsted for you. How can we grumble and complain knowing Jesus hung in the burning sun thirsting to rescue us? Remember, Jesus satisfies! He thirsted so he could satisfy us with his living water and his very own joy.

Lord Jesus, satisfy me today. You alone are my portion. Thank you for suffering such intense distress so you could flood me with your thirst-quenching love.