Christ’s Thirst

In reflecting on the work of Christ upon the Cross this week, I came upon the following in A.W. Pink’s commentary on The Gospel of John from chapter 66: Christ Laying Down His Life. In matchless form, Pink dives into the depths of Jesus’ fifth cry from the cross, “I thirst.” If you have never stopped to consider the magnitude of these words from the cross, I urge you to read on.

“After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst” (John 19:28). What a sight is this—the Maker of heaven and earth with parched lips! the Lord of glory in need of a drink! the Beloved of the Father crying, “I thirst!” First, it evidenced His humanity. The Lord Jesus was not a Divine man, nor a humanized God; He was the God-man. Forever God, and now forever man. When the eternal Word became incarnate, He did not cease to be God, nor did He lay aside any of His Divine attributes; but He did become flesh; being made in all things like unto His brethren. He “increased in wisdom and stature” (Luke 2:52); He “wearied” in body (John 4:6); He was “an hungered” (Matthew 4:2); He “slept” (Mark 4:38); He “marvelled” (Mark 6:6); He “wept” (John 11:35); He “prayed” (Mark 1:35); He “rejoiced” (Luke 10:21); He “groaned” (John 11:33); and here, He “thirsted.” God does not thirst; there is no hint (so far as we are aware) that the angels ever do; we shall not in the Glory (Rev. 7:16). But Christ did, as man, in the depths of His humiliation.

This fifth Cross-utterance of the Savior, “I thirst,” followed right after the three hours of darkness, during which the light of God’s countenance had been withdrawn from the Sin-Bearer. It was then that the blessed Savior endured the fierceness of the outpoured wrath of a holy God. It was this which made Him exclaim, “My moisture is turned into the drought of summer” (Ps. 32:4). This cry, then, tells of the intensity of what He had suffered, the awful severity of the conflict through which He had just passed. “He hath made Me desolate and faint,” He cried (Lam. 1:13).

But unparalleled as had been His sufferings, great as was His thirst, it was not desire for the relief of His body that now opened His lips. Far different, far higher, was the motive which prompted Him. This comes out clearly in the first part of John 19:28. Carefully has the Holy Spirit guarded the Savior’s glory, with delight has He brought before us His unique perfections. First, the very fact that He did now “thirst” evidences His perfect submission. He that had caused water to flow from the smitten rock for the refreshment of Israel in the wilderness, had the same infinite resources at His disposal now that He was on the cross. He who turned the water into wine by a word from His lips, could have spoken the same word of power here, and instantly met His own need. Why, then, did He hang there with parched lips? Because, in the volume of that Book which expressed the will of God, it was written that He should thirst! He came here to do God’s will, and ever did He perfectly perform it.

In death, as in life, Scripture was for the Lord Jesus the authoritative Word of the living God. In the temptation He had refused to minister to His own need apart from that Word by which He lived; so now He makes known His need, not that it might be relieved, but that “the Scriptures might be fulfilled”! Observe that He did not Himself seek to fulfill it—God can be trusted to take care of that; but He gives utterance to His distress so as to provide occasion for the fulfillment. “The terrible thirst of crucifixion is upon Him, but that is not enough to force those parched lips to speak; but it is written, ‘In my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink’—this opens them” (Mr. F. W. Grant) Here, then, as ever, He shows Himself in active obedience to the will of God, which He came to accomplish. He simply says, “I thirst,” the vinegar is tendered and the prophecy is fulfilled. What perfect absorption in the Father’s will!

But mark how His Divine perfections come out here: “Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished.” How completely self-possessed the Savior was! He had hung on that cross for six hours, and had passed through suffering unparalleled: nevertheless His mind was perfectly clear and His memory entirely unimpaired. He had before Him, with perfect distinctness, the whole truth of God. He reviewed in a moment the entire scope of Messianic prediction. He remembered there was one prophetic scripture yet unaccomplished. He overlooked nothing. What a proof was this that He was Divinely superior to all circumstances! Finally, mark the wondrous grace here: He thirsted on the cross, that we might drink the water of life and thirst no more forever!

Pink, Arthur Walkington. Exposition of the Gospel of John. Swengel, PA: Bible Truth Depot, 1923–1945. Print.

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