Christ’s Thirst – John 19:28

There is a great mystery in this term I thirst’. Christ suffered on behalf of His people. His sufferings evidenced His true humanity, (Heb.2:17), and the intensity of His pain (Ps.22:15). This thirst is a combination of the pains of soul and body. The Second Person had undertaken in the Covenant of Grace to experience all the suffering which His people deserved according to divine justice. This cry was one of His last acts of obedience. What was agreed in eternity was now fulfilled in time. The Scriptures were given in time as a record of Christ’s transaction in eternity (Ps.40:7), to suffer in soul and body, to be obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil.2:8). He suffered and He thirsted.

The Thirst of the Sufferer
The fire of God fell upon Him as the sacrifice for His people (Nah.l:6, Lam. 1:13). He thirsted vicariously in the experience of damnation under the burning wrath of God. The rich man in hell thirsts (Lk. 16:24) but Lazarus does not thirst (Jn.4:14; Rev.7:16) because Christ thirsted in his place. The Rock was drained when smitten so that He might ‘pour water upon him that is thirsty’. The cup which He drank, unlike any other cup, caused Him by its ingredients to thirst as He shed His blood in satisfaction to divine justice. Hell is a place of thirst, a place of judgment. ‘To spare us sinners the thirst … He submitted to such torment in His mediatorial capacity. O what a well of consolation has He opened for us by His thirst!’ (Krummacher). His thirst brought our satisfaction (Is. 12:1-3).

‘I thirst, but not as once I did
The vain delights of earth to share.
Thy wounds, Immanuel, all forbid
That I should seek my pleasures there.’

The Thirst of the Warrior
After his battle with the Philistines Samson cried out to God hi his thirst (}udg.l5:18-19). A greater than Samson is here, meeting a greater foe – ‘the strong man armed’ with his legions. Christ must fight for His people’s salvation. It was on the cross that He spoiled principalities and powers and triumphed over them (Col.2:15); which means that He had been engaged in a battle. This was their hour and the power of darkness; demonic forces unleashed their venom against Him without restraint. Their aim, as always, was to deflect the second Adam from the path of obedience, the obedience (active and passive) which the Lord required for our salvation. Satan had made many recorded attempts, e.g. in the wilderness and from the spectators at the cross urging Him to ‘come down’. There had also been an attempt to lessen His sufferings by giving Him an anaesthetising drink – which He refused (Mt.27:34). He would suffer all that was required. Now He emerged from the darkness ‘wounded for our transgressions’ but ‘mighty to save’! After the battle Christ thirsted. Samson slew all enemies and saved none alive. Christ defeated Satan and saved many – the many who were once His enemies. Now He would drink and lift up His head in triumph (Ps.llO:7), marshalling His strength for the cry of the Victor, ‘It is finished!’

The Thirst of the One Set Apart
When Christ cried, ‘I thirst’, it was just before He died. He had come from the Father (Jn.l3:3) and now, having finished the work, He expressed in these words His desire to go home (cf Ps.42:2; 63:1). He had been judicially deserted by the Father in the darkness on the cross. He thirsts for restored communion: ‘Turn unto me … hide not thy face … Draw nigh unto my soul’ (Ps.69:16-18). Krummacher also highlights the vicarious aspect of His ascension. ‘He longed to be again received into fellowship with God because His reception into it would be a pledge of theirs’
(cf Heb.2:13). This is the thirst of love, a thirst which draws to the fountain, to the full experience of that which is desired. It was this thirst which empowered Christ to endure the suffering and the enmity on the cross. There was a joy set before Him and He knew ‘that His hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father’ (Jn.l3:l). Indwelling sin has a hardening effect, against which we must watch and pray. Hardness leads to pride. One way to maintain humility is to contemplate the suffering of Christ for our individual sins, as Anselm expressed himself: ‘How do Thy sufferings, O Lord Christ, burn into my conscience! For it was indeed I who mingled that bitter cup of which Thou didst drink. My transgressions caused Thy death, my sins Thy wounds. O the grace of Him who delivered Thee up! O the love of Him who died!’
If you do not see that the sufferings of Christ were necessary for your salvation, then it will be necessary that you suffer for your own sins. If you do not thirst for Christ, then you shall have cause to thirst for ever where ‘the fire is not quenched’. If you thirst for Christ, that thirst shall be satisfied – by Himself.

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