After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 18:28-30
Jesus’ suffering on the cross was excruciating. The intensity was beyond our imagination. He certainly was thirsty in a physical sense, but I wonder if it was more than that. Could it be that Jesus was expressing His spiritual thirst as well? A profound, deep thirst?
Let’s look back at the verb “thirst” and how it is used in John. It is found five other times in the gospel of John in addition to today’s passage in John 19. In every other occurrence, the context is referring to spiritual thirst:
The first three times occur in John 4:13–15 when Jesus is speaking with the woman at the well. Jesus offers living water to her- He offers himself! And he says that “who ever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (v. 14).
In John 6:35 Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
In John 7:37–38 Jesus declared, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from him.” And John helps us understand what Jesus meant by adding in the next verse, “By this he (Jesus) meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.”
It seems to me that when Jesus talks about thirst, He is referring to a spiritual craving for God, a deep longing, a thirst that Jesus and Jesus alone can satisfy for all eternity. It is great news indeed that this universal spiritual thirst can be quenched! Jesus promised to give living water to all who will believe in him, and He promised to send the Holy Spirit.
On the cross, Jesus was physically thirsty, but more profound thirst was spiritual, thirsting after his Father, from who he was separated as he hung on the cross paying the penalty for our sins.
For us! He was thirsty so we don’t need to be thirsty! Our thirst for God can be quenched because Jesus was thirsty for us. This is substitution. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Are we thirsty for God? Or are we trying to fill ourselves with the polluted water of this world?
Psalm 63:1, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”