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Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. (John 19:28-29)

There are many places in which you can see the love of Christ—an answer to prayer, the provision of a job, the healing of an illness or in the blessings and the joys of life. But if you want to see the full extent of Christ’s love, you will find it at the cross.

If you do not feel or know the love of Christ, I am glad you are here today.  My prayer for you is that you will see and know that Christ loves you and that you will find his love irresistible.

The story of the cross

It is good for every Christian to know what happened at the cross because it is at the very center of our faith. Let me remind you of the story: Jesus was nailed to the cross at nine o’clock in the morning, and between nine and noon, he spoke just three times…

‘Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.’

‘Today you will be with me in Paradise.’

‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’

Jesus spoke just three sentences in three long hours. For the rest of that time, He hung there and suffered in silence. Three hours, and every minute must have seemed like an eternity.

Then at noon something completely different happened. For three hours, he had suffered pain and ridicule at the hands of men, but now he was plunged into something far worse. Darkness covered the land and Jesus entered all the dimensions of hell on the cross.

We saw that hell is conscious suffering, in blackest darkness, surrounded by demonic powers unleashed. It is bearing sin, being under the judgment of God, and worst of all, being beyond the reach of the love of God. Christ endured all that hell is on the cross. And he did that so that you need never know what it is like. This is real. It really happened.

The darkness lasted for three hours, and in all that time Jesus did not speak a single word. Now Jesus has been on the cross for six hours, and he has only spoken three times.

The jigsaw puzzle of Jesus’ last words

After the six hours, suddenly the silence is broken. Jesus speaks, not once, but four times in quick succession. When you put the accounts in the four gospels side-by-side, you see how quickly these events unfolded. If you like doing jigsaw puzzles, you’ll enjoy this.

Mark tells us, “At the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice…

‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:34)…

  1. Why have you forsaken me?

Matthew tells us that when Jesus said this, they said “‘He’s calling Elijah.’ Immediately one of them got a sponge, filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick and offered it to Jesus to drink” (Matthew 27:47-48)…

  1. Why have you forsaken me?
  2. They gave him wine vinegar.

John says they brought him vinegar on the stick after he said “I am thirsty.” That must mean that Jesus said these two things together…

  1. Why have you forsaken me?
  2. I am thirsty.
  3. They gave him wine vinegar.

Then Mark tells us that Jesus “breathed his last,” when they brought him the vinegar…

  1. Why have you forsaken me?
  2. I am thirsty.
  3. They gave him wine vinegar.
  4. He breathed his last.

John tells us that when they brought the vinegar, Jesus said, “‘It is finished,’ and then gave up his Spirit” (John 19:30)…

  1. Why have you forsaken me?
  2. I am thirsty.
  3. They gave him wine vinegar.
  4. It is finished.
  5. He breathed his last.

Luke tells us that when Jesus breathed his last he said, “‘Father, into your hand I commit my Spirit’” (Luke 23:46)…

  1. Why have you forsaken me?
  2. I am thirsty.
  3. They gave him wine vinegar.
  4. It is finished.
  5. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.
  6. He breathed his last.

Putting these accounts together, it’s clear that events happened very quickly. Jesus cries out from the darkness “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Then, “I am thirsty” (John 19:28). Someone holds up a sponge soaked in vinegar. Then, “It is finished.” And “Into your hands I commit my Spirit,” as he breathes his last.

Jesus speaks three times in six hours and then four times in just a few moments. The speed is even more striking when you look at it in the original language. Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” That is three words in English, but it was just one word in the Greek: “dipso.” The triumphant cry that followed, “It is finished,” was also just one word: “tetalesthai.”

After six hours hours in which Jesus had only spoke three times, suddenly, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” “Dipso. Tetalesthai.”

“Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

What is happening here is full of life-transforming power for our lives today. As we look at this fifth cry from the cross, and I want us to see what it meant for Jesus and what it can mean for you.

Jesus said, “I am thirsty…”

When He was Suffering in Agony

Jesus has been on the cross for six hours. I can scarcely imagine what it would be like to be on the cross for six minutes. With every hour that passed his suffering increased.

Fever would have raged in him as the wounds around the nails in his hands and feet widened under the weight of his body. As his blood seeped from these wounds, dehydration would set it. It must have felt as if his whole body was burning.

And Jesus, who had said, “If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37), says in the agony of his flesh, “I am thirsty.” This fifth word of Jesus is of special importance, because it is the only time that our Lord Jesus refers to his own suffering on the cross.

Jesus’ other words were spoken to forgive others, to open paradise, to provide for his mother, to reveal the anguish of hell, to announce the atonement and to trust his spirit to the Father in death. But on this occasion, his words come out of his physical suffering. Jesus knows suffering from the inside.

Jesus has seen suffering from the inside.

When you see what this thirsting meant for Jesus, you will discover what it means for us. Jesus thirsted because of his suffering, so he is able to help those who suffer

We all suffer in various ways, but at some point in your life, you will suffer in a way that pushes you to the outer edge of your endurance. I’ve been praying for some folks, who I will not name, and they are at the outer edge of their suffering. Christ has been there. A. W. Pink writes,

Is your body wracked with pain? So was His! Are you misunderstood, misjudged, misrepresented? So was He! Have those who are nearest and dearest turned away from you? They did from Him! Are you in the darkness? So was He. For this reason, He had to be made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a faithful and merciful high priest.[1]

Do not talk about God as if he was removed from suffering. Our Lord was on the outer edge of suffering at the cross.

Edward Shillito was an English minister who survived the horrors of trench warfare in the First World War. He saw appalling suffering, and it persuaded him that no religion has anything to say to this world unless it can address the problem of suffering. He wrote a poem called “Jesus of the Scars…”

The other gods were strong, but You were weak;
They rode, but You did stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but You alone.[2]

Look at all the religions of the world. Where do you find a God who suffers? You will not find one, except in Jesus, the God who’s seen suffering from the inside.

Where can you go when you are at the edge of your endurance in suffering? You can come to the Savior who has wounds in his hands and his feet. When your suffering seems unbearable, draw near to the Savior who said, “I am thirsty.” There is no one else like him in all of human history, and you can come to him.

But there is more here than the physical suffering of Jesus. Jesus said nothing about his suffering when they scourged him, or when they put the crown of thorns on his head. So after all that he had endured, why does he speak about his suffering now?

Jesus said, “I am thirsty…”

So the Scriptures Would Be Fulfilled

“So that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’” (John 19:28)

When Jesus said, “I am thirsty,” he said this not only because of the agony of his suffering, but also so that the Scripture might be fulfilled. You could list page after page of Scriptures that are fulfilled in this moment. We will focus on two of them.

Psalm 22 begins with the words, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” This psalm is an amazing prophecy of the death of Jesus, depicting the crucifixion in extraordinary detail a thousand years before the time of Christ, in a culture where crucifixion was unknown. Listen to these words and think about how they were fulfilled by Jesus…

“They have pierced my hands and my feet.” (22:17)

“All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.” He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. (22:7-8)

“They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” (22:18)

“My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.” (22:15)

A potsherd is a fragment of broken pottery dug up in an archeological dig.

After six hours on the cross, Jesus is so dry that his tongue sticks to the roof of his mouth.  Psalm 69 is even more specific. Notice how these Scriptures are fulfilled by Jesus on the cross…

“I am worn out calling for help. My throat is parched. My eyes fail looking for my God.” (69:3)

“They… gave me vinegar for my thirst.” (69:21)

They were unconsciously fulfilling the Scriptures, while Christ was consciously fulfilling them. His eye was on this: “So that the Scripture would be fulfilled,” he said, “I am thirsty,” and they brought him a sponge, soaked in vinegar, on a stick. He wants us to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the one who fulfills these Scriptures.

Matthew Henry says,

When heaven denied Him a beam of light, earth denied Him a drop of water and gave him vinegar instead.[3]

Jesus is living water for your soul.

When you know what this thirsting meant for Jesus, you discover what it means for us. Jesus thirsted to fulfill the Scriptures, so he is able to deliver what the Scriptures promise.

On the cross Jesus fulfilled not only the Old Testament Scriptures, but also the words he had spoken himself. Jesus said, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst” (John 4:14). That’s what he said. And he said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). Christ gives living water because he is the living water.

But how does this living water get to us? There’s a story in the Old Testament when God’s people were in the desert that points to the answer. They needed water and God said to Moses, “Strike the rock and water will come out of it for the people to drink” (Exodus 17:6). Striking the rock was a picture of what happened at the cross. Christ was struck, and through that striking, the living water that is in him flows to us.

The Living water became thirsty so that we who are thirsty might receive the Living water. A. W. Pink says helpfully,

Why this consuming desire to acquire wealth? Why this craving for the honors and plaudits of the world? Why this mad rush after pleasure…turning from one form of it to another…? Why this…ransacking of the writings of the ancients, this ceaseless experimentation by the moderns?…Why? Because there is an aching void in the soul.[4]

This is true in every culture. It’s true in every generation. Look at your life and you’ll see that it is the playing out of the deep thirsts in you. The Lord Jesus Christ says to us today, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink!” (John 7:37). “Lord Jesus, I am thirsty. My life is the evidence of these thirsts.”

Then Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit.” (John 7:38). Being a Christian is more than living your life for Jesus. It is Jesus Christ living his life in you. He says, “I am the vine; you are the branches” (John 15:5).

Christ is the living water, but he’s not at a distance from you. When faith unites you to Christ, his death and resurrection become yours. Faith brings the presence of Jesus into your soul by his Holy Spirit. Christ’s presence in your life will be like a spring of water in you welling up to eternal life (John 4:14).

Won’t you say with me today, “Lord Jesus, give me this water! Pour out your Spirit on me. Let your life well up in the dry and thirsty land of my soul.”

Jesus said, “I am thirsty…”

Because He Knew He Had Completed His Work

“Knowing that all was now completed… Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’” (John 19:28)

All was now completed and Jesus knew it. When a student finishes the last question of her final exam, her mind turns to graduation day. When the prisoner knows it’s the last day of his sentence, he thinks about freedom beyond the prison walls. When a mother knows she is making the last push of her labor, she thinks about holding her baby. When you buy a costly gift for someone you love, you anticipate giving it to them.

When you know that all is now completed, your mind turns to the joy that lies ahead. While these words of Jesus express the awful pain that is searing through his body, they also express his intense longing to enter the full joy of his reward.

Jesus has borne the guilt of sin and absorbed the pains of hell. God’s wrath has burned itself out on him, as far as his people are concerned. After enduring all this, Jesus says, “I am thirsty.”

What does he thirst for? He longs to feel again the joy of his Father’s love. He longs to bring the people he has redeemed into the presence of the Father. He thirsts to taste the fruit of his suffering.

You may say, “Is that really in the mind of Jesus here?” Absolutely. Jesus is consciously, deliberately fulfilling Psalm 69, and the end of that psalm says, “Let heaven and earth praise him… for God will save Zion… and those who love his name will dwell there” (Psalm 69:34-36). That’s how it ends. Christ thirsts for that day and longs for that joy.

Hell has been vanquished, sin is atoned for and forgiveness is purchased. Jesus knows that “all is now completed.” All that needs to be accomplished for the salvation of all God’s people for all time and for all eternity has been done.

Jesus looks forward to this gift being ours. I hope you will be there. He looks forward to the great day when he’ll say to the Father, “Here I am and the children you’ve given me.” As he anticipates this joy he cries out, “I am thirsty! It is finished! Into your hands I commit my Spirit!”

Then Jesus breathes his last. He lays down his life. He gives himself into the hands of the Father. Jesus thirsted as he completed his redeeming work, so he is able to lead you into joys that will never end.

You will not make this journey alone

Let me tell you one of the downsides of being a pastor. Some people who don’t know you, when they find out that you are a minister, it’s either the end of the conversation as far as they’re concerned or they feel that they have to tell you one of their religious jokes.

These are usually pretty lame, but one thing I’ve noticed is how many of them begin by saying, “A man died and arrived at the door of heaven. He knocked on the door…” and you know what happens next. Saint Peter comes to the door and asks him some questions.

Jokes of this kind get repeated so often that some people get the idea that the door of heaven is closed, and when we arrive at the closed door, we have to get through an interview with a burly fisherman.

Not if you belong to Christ! Heaven is not a place with a closed door and a burly fisherman waiting to ask you questions. Christ is longing for the day when he will say, “Here I am and the children God has given me” (Hebrews 2:13).

As the father runs out to meet the prodigal coming home, so the Son stands at the gate of heaven ready to usher you in!

He will keep me till the river
rolls its water at my feet.
Then He’ll bear me safely over,
made by grace for glory meet![5]

That’s your assurance, the reason Jesus suffered and died—to bring many sons to glory. You will not make this journey alone. He will bring you through the gates of heaven and into the Father’s presence.

Having purchased you at such a cost, Christ will never let you go. His eye is on you. His grace is with you. He holds you in his hand, and when the moment of your death comes you need fear no evil. He will bear you safely over and usher you into the presence of the Father in heaven.

That will not be the end, but the beginning, “The Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water” (Revelation 7:16-17). Your eternity will be one in which the Lord will continually lead you into new discoveries that will fill your heart with joy like you’ve never known before. It will be an eternity of exponentially increasing joy.

The Lamb is their shepherd. Is he your shepherd? Do you see why I say that his love is irresistible? When you see what he went through to bring his people to glory, why would you not want to be his? With Christ you are rich, no matter what you face. Without Christ you are poor, no matter what you have.


[1] A. W. Pink, The Seven Sayings of the Savior From the Cross, p. 96, Baker, 2005.


[3] Paraphrase, Matthew Henry, M. H. Commentary, vol. 5, p. 970, Hendrickson, 1998.

[4] A. W. Pink, “The Seven Sayings…,” p. 97.

[5] Francis Rawley, from the hymn, I Will Sing the Wondrous Story, 1886.


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