The Savior’s Thirst

“After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst.”

John 19:28

THE early Christians were known to think and talk far more of our Savior than we do. Some of them were, perhaps, not quite so clear upon justification by faith as they ought to have been, but they were very clear about the merits of the precious blood. And if they did not always speak very clearly about the Doctrines of Grace, they spoke with wonderful power and savor about the “five” wounds–about the nail marks and the spear wound. I could wish that our religion would go back somewhat more to that personal apprehension of Christ than it does. By all means let us have dogmatic teaching, setting forth those most precious Truths of God that are our consolation, but better than all is the Person of Christ Himself–the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We should do well if we more often stood in meditation at the foot of the Cross and viewed His wounds, counted the precious drops as they fall and sought fellowship with Him in His sufferings. Some of those early saints wrote long treatises on the solitary wounds of Jesus–many of them passed whole days in contemplation of some minute part of His passion. We cannot imitate them in this respect–we have not the leisure. I am afraid we have not the mental application they possessed. Nevertheless, let us explore the sacred mystery as best we can. At this time would we get away to Calvary and there stand and hear our Redeemer crying, “I thirst,” as He bears for us the guilt of sin.

Very briefly we shall regard the text, first, as our Savior’s cry, and as only such. its relationship to ourselves. First, then, we will–


Is it not clear proof that He was certainly Man? Certain heretics sprang up in the early Church who asserted that the body of our Lord was only a phantom–that as God, He was here, but as Man He only exhibited Himself to the outward sense and did not actually exist in flesh and blood. But He thirsted. Now, a spirit has not thirst! A spirit neither eats nor drinks–it is immaterial and knows not the needs that belong to this poor flesh and blood! We may, therefore, rest quite sure that, “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father, full of Grace and truth”

No better proof could we have of the substantiality of His Manhood than the cry, “I thirst.” Herein, at all events, we can sympathize with Him. From the moment when He rose from the Communion Supper, saying, “I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s Kingdom”–from that moment He had had no further refreshment, either of meat or of drink. Yet well He needed drink, for all through that long night in Gethsemane He sweated–we know what kind of sweat–as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground! Such toil as His might well have needed refreshment. Then He was hurried away to Caiaphas and afterwards to Pilate. He had to encounter the accusations of His enemies and a strong bridle He had to put upon Himself, that, like a sheep before her shearers, He might be dumb. There was a strain upon His system such as none of us ever have had to endure, or ever shall have–a strain such as we can never imagine–and yet not one morsel of bread, nor one drop of water crossed those blessed and parched lips! Well might He cry, “I thirst,” when, after so many hours of wrestling with the powers of darkness, He was now about to die!

You remember, also, the peculiar way in which our Lord was put to death. The piercing of the hands and the feet was sure to bring on fever. Those members, though far remote from the vital parts, are yet full of the most delicate and tender nerves–and pain soon travels along them till the whole frame becomes hot with burning fever! Our Lord’s own words in the 22 nd Psalm will occur to you–“My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue cleaves to My jaws; and Youhave brought Me into the dust of death.” Those of you who have been afflicted with fever far less serious than this, will recollect how it parched you like a potsherd and dried up all the juices of your system and all the moisture of your body like the parched fields of summer! You had, then, a thirst, indeed! But your Savior had a double cause for thirst–long fasting without food or drink and then the bitter pangs of death! Sympathize with Him then, Beloved, and remember that all this was for you–and for you as His enemies–for you as if there were no others in the world! Though He suffered for all His elect, yet especially for each one of His people were the nails driven, for each one did He thirst and for each one did He take a draught of the vinegar and the gall. Come, then, and kiss those blessed lips and bow before your Savior in reverent praise!

Further, my Brothers and Sisters, we are quite certain that our Lord, in saying, “I thirst,” must have felt the extremebitterness of thirst. He was no complainer. You never heard a word come from His lips when it might have been withheld. He must have been driven to dire extremity, indeed, when He thus proclaimed to friends and foes that He was thirsting for a drop of water. Some have said that this cry, “I thirst,” coming, as it does, after the far more bitter and awful cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” was an evidence of a turn in the Savior’s conflict–that during all the first part of our Savior’s suffering He was taken up with such anxious thought and with such internal anguish that He could not think of the thirst, which, grievous as it was, was but a minor pain in comparison with what He felt when His Father in justice turned away His face from Him–and that now He begins to collect His thoughts for awhile and is able to fight with His own personal bodily pains. It may be so. Possibly that cry was an indication that the battle had turned and that victory was coming to the suffering Hero. But, ah, Brothers and Sisters, however there may have come a gleam of sunshine in this cry compared to the blacker darkness, you can never dream what a thirst that was that parched the Savior’s mouth and lips! You will never feel such a thirst as He felt to its direst extent. Cold, hunger, nakedness and thirst may fall to your lot, but there was more of grief in His thirst than you can ever know! There was a bitterness here which my language cannot possibly bring out!

Another thought rises up to my mind–I will not mislead you here. I feel thankful to our Lord for saying, “I thirst!” Ah, Brothers and Sisters, sometimes when we are sorely afflicted, or have some little infirmity, perhaps not anything vital or mortal, though it pains us much, we complain, or at least we say, “I thirst.” Now, are we wrong in so doing?Ought we to play the stoic? Ought we to be like the Indian at the stake who sings while he is roasting? Ought we to be like St. Lawrence on the gridiron? Is stoicism a part of Christianity? Oh, no! Jesus said, “I thirst,” and herein He gave permission to all of you who are bowed down with your griefs and your sorrows to whisper them into the ears of those who watch by the bed, and to say, “I thirst.” I daresay you have often felt ashamed of yourselves for this. You have said, “Now, if I had some huge trouble, or if the pangs I suffered were absolutely mortal, I could lean upon the Beloved’s arm. But as for this ache, or this pain, it darts through my body and causes me much anguish, though it does not kill me.” Well, but just as Jesus wept that He might let you weep on account of your sorrows and your griefs, so He says, “I thirst,” that you might have permission patiently, as He did, to express your little complaints–that you might not think He sneers at you, or looks down upon you as though you were an alien–that you might know He sympathizes with you in it all!

He does not use language like that of Cassius when he laughed at Caesar because he was sick and said–

“And when the fit was on him I did mark
How he did shake–‘tis true this god did shake–
His coward lips did from their color fly!
And that same eye whose head does awe the world
Did lose its luster–I did hear him groan!
Yes, and that tongue of his that bade the Romans
Mark him, and write his speeches in their books,
Alas, it cried, 'Give me some drink, Titinius,’
As a sick girl.”

And why should it not? He was but a man. He was but “as a sick girl,” and what is there in a sick girl to despise, after all? Jesus Christ said, “I thirst,” and in this He says to every sick girl, and every sick child, and every sick one throughout the world, “The Master, who is now in Heaven, but who once suffered on earth, despises not the tears of the sufferers, but has pity on them on their beds of sickness.”

Jesus said, “I thirst.” As our Lord used these words, may I ask you for a minute to c ontemplate it with wonder? Whowas this that said, “I thirst”? Know you not that it was He who balanced the clouds and who filled the channels of the mighty deep? He said, “I thirst,” and yet in Him was a well of water springing up unto everlasting life! Yes, He who guided every river in its course and watered all the fields with grateful showers–He it was, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, before whom Hell trembles and the earth is filled with dismay! He whom Heaven adores and all eternity worships–He it was who said, “I thirst!” Matchless condescension–from the Infinity of God to the weakness of a thirsting, dying Man! And this, again I must remind you, was for you. He that suffered for you was no common mortal, no ordinary man, such as you are, but the perfect and ever blessed God, high above all principalities and powers and every name that is named! He it was who, with this condescending lowness of estate, stooped and cried, as you have done, “I thirst!”

Once more, in this cry of our Lord, “I thirst,” I think I see a trace of the Atonement which He was then offering. Thepangs of Christ upon the Cross are to be regarded as a substitution for the sins and sorrows of ungodly men–

“He bore that we might never bear
His Father’s righteous ire.”

Now, Brothers and Sisters, a part of the punishment of the wicked in Hell is the deprivation of every form of comfort. Man refused to obey His Creator–the time will come when the Creator will refuse to succor man! Man refused to minister to God–the time will come when God’s creatures will not minister to man! Remember those solemn words of the Master when He said that the rich man was without a drop of water to cool his tongue and was tormented in the flame? And yet the water was withheld from coming near the sinner who had died in willful rebellion against God! Oh, my dear Friends, if we had our due, we should have none of the comforts of life! The very air would refuse to yield us breath and bread, the staff of life, to yield us nourishment! Yes, we would find the whole Creation in arms against us because we are up in arms against God! The time shall come when those who stand up against the Most High shall find no comfort left them–and no hope of comfort–everything that can make existence tolerable shall be withdrawn and everything that can make it intolerable shall be poured upon them! For upon the wicked, God shall rain fire and brimstone, and a horrid tempest–this shall be the portion of their cup!

Behold, then, when Emmanuel stood for us and suffered in our place, He, too, must thirst! He must be deprived of every comfort, stripped naked to the last rag and hung up on the Cross as though earth rejected Him and Heaven would not receive Him! Midway between the two worlds He dies in the most abject poverty! And because of our sin, He cries, “I thirst!” Beloved, never seek for companionship with any who would ignore the miseries of the Lord, for, depend upon it, in that proportion they lessen the glory of the Atonement. If it is but a light thing for the sinner to rebel against God, it was not a light thing for Christ to redeem him! It covered Christ with the greatest luster, for, after all, it stands out as one of His most resplendent works that He has redeemed us from going down into the Pit, having found a ransom for us! By so much the greater the love, by so much the greater is the salvation. Think not lightly of sin and its punishment, lest you come to think lightly of Christ and what He suffered to redeem you from your guilt! The cry, “I thirst,” is part of the substitutionary work which Christ performed when He thirsted, because, otherwise, sinners would have thirsted forever and have been denied all the pleasure, joy and peace of Heaven.

The meditation upon this cry as proceeding from our Lord invites one more remark. Will it be straining the text too far if we say that underlying those words, “I thirst,” there is something more them a mere thirst for drink? Once, whenHe sat upon the well of Samaria, He said to the poor harlot who met Him there, “Give Me a drink,” and He got a drink from her–a drink that the world knew nothing about when she gave her heart to Him, obedient to His Gospel. Christ is always thirsting after the salvation of precious souls and that cry on the Cross that thrilled all who listened to it was the outburst of the great heart of Jesus Christ as He saw the multitude, and He cried unto His God, “I thirst.” He thirsted to redeem mankind! He thirsted to accomplish the work of our salvation! This very day He still thirsts in that respect, as He is still willing to receive those who come to Him, still resolved that such as come shall never be cast out and still desirous that they may come! Oh, poor Souls, you do not thirst for Christ, but you little know how He thirsts for you! There is love in His heart towards those who have no love to Him! Christ would not have you die. Christ would not have you cast into Hell! Give yourselves up, then, to the gentle sway of Him who for your souls' good, said, “I thirst.” Oh, I wish that all we who love Christ knew more of this hungering and thirsting after the redemption of our follow men. The Lord teach us to sympathize with them! If He wept for sinners, may our cheeks never be dry! He was in anguish for their souls, and we will not restrain our anguish because they will not be saved, but ignorantly, carelessly, or resolutely despise the Gospel of Christ!

Thus much upon this point, so far as it concerns our Lord, Himself. Turn not away your eyes, but look and listen as He cries, “I thirst.” Very briefly, now let us notice–


I shall address myself on this head to the people of God. And the first remark is this–Brothers and Sisters, because Jesus Christ said, “I thirst,” you and I are delivered from that terrible thirst which once devoured us. We were awakenedby the Holy Spirit, some of us, years ago, to perceive our danger. We had not known before what sin was–what a destroying fever it was. We had cherished it in our bosom, but when we began to discover our desperate position, we were compelled to thirst and cry for mercy. With some of us, our thirst was very great–we could scarcely sleep–and as for our meals, we left them untouched often in the agony of our despair. I do remember how my soul chose strangling rather than life! It seemed so hard to live under the frown of God, awakened to a sense of sin, but unable to get rid of the sin! Now at this moment that thirst has gone, for we have received the adoption, the salvation, the forgiveness! You came to Jesus as you were with all your thirst and you stooped down and drank of the crystal stream. And now you rejoice with unspeakable joy because your thirst is gone! Oh, clap your hands for very joy at the remembrance of it! Be humble that you should need His thirst to save you from thirst, but oh, be glad to think that the work is done and that you shall never thirst again as you did then, for, “he that drinks,” says Christ, “of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, for it shall be in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life.” Your insatiable desires are stayed! The horseleech within you that cried, “Give, give,” at last is satisfied! The cravings of conscience that had been awakened by the love of God are satisfied! Now, oh, joy, your sorrow is over! Your peace, like a river has come, and your righteousness is like the waves of the sea! Live happily, live joyously! Tell others what Christ has done for you. Eat not your morsel alone, but publish to the world that through the thirst of a dying Savior you have ceased to thirst!

And as you have done with that first thirst of bitter agony, now seek to be filled with another thirst–a thirst aftermore of Christ! Oh, that sweet wine of His love is very thirst-creating–those who have once tasted it need more of it! Thirst after a closer walk with Him! Thirst to know more of Him! Thirst to be more like He! Thirst to understand more the mystery of His sufferings and to be more full of anticipation of His blessed Advent–

“Nearer, my God, to Thee; nearer to Thee.”

Be this your cry. Open your mouth wide, for He will fill it. Enlarge your desires, for He will satisfy them all. Be eager after more of Christ! Hunger and thirst after more of righteousness. All your desires shall be supplied you. Do not, therefore, stint yourself by narrowing them. Oh, that you could ask more at His hands, for–

“All your capacious powers can ask,
In Christ do richly meet.”

Were your imagination to stretch her wings and soar ever so far beyond the narrow bounds of space, she would weary long before she reached the fullness of God which dwells bodily in our Lord Jesus Christ!

Let me also invite you to cultivate another thirst–a thirst like that which we read our Lord thirsted with –for theconversion of our souls. Give us but a score of men that hunger and thirst for the conversion of others and we shall see good work done! But oh, we are so cold, callous and sleeping, though men are perishing every day! Behold the mass of people gathered in this Tabernacle! We can never all meet again. Some of us will probably be in eternity before another Sabbath shall have dawned–and of those who shall have departed this life, some will, perhaps, have gone down to the Pit. And yet we have no tears for them! Oh, God, strike our hearts with a rod more powerful than that of Moses and fill our eyes with sympathetic tears! Think what it is that your own child could be lost, that your own relative could perish! Oh, wake yourselves up to passionate prayer, to longing desire and to constant effort–and never, from this moment on, cease to thirst with a passionate desire, which, like that of your Lord, shall fill you and compel you practically to say, in the industrious application of a spiritual life, “I thirst!”

My last point is a very heavy one. I could wish it has not to be delivered. It is addressed–


If the Lord Jesus Christ thirsted when He only carried the sins of others, what thirst will be upon you when God shall punish you for your own sins? Either ‘Christ must thirst for you, or you mush thirst forever, and ever, and ever! There is but one alternative–Justice must be vindicated through a Substitute, or it must be glorified in your everlasting destruction! Think what it will be to have your sweet cup and your flowing bowl all put away from you, and not a drop of water to cool your tongue–to have your dainty meat and your gay festivals forever abolished–no light for your eyes, no joy for any one of the senses of your body and your souls made to suffer unutterable woe!

I shall not stay to picture, even in Christ’s own words, the agony of lost spirits. But I bid you keep this on your minds. If Christ, who was God’s Son, suffered so bitterly for sins that were not His own, how bitterly must you, who are not God’s sons, but God’s enemies, suffer for sins that are your own? And you must so suffer unless Christ, the Substitute, stands for you! He was no Substitute for all, but only for His own people. You say to me, “Did He stand for me?” I can tell you if you can answer this question, “Do you trust Jesus Christ? Will you now trust Him?” If so, a simple childlike faith in Jesus will bring you salvation! Now, remember, if you believe, all your sins are laid upon Christ and, therefore, they can never be laid upon you! If you believe, Christ was punished in your place and you can never be punished, because he was punished for you! Substitution–this is the groundwork of our confidence! Because He was accursed, we cannot be accursed, for, if we believe in Him, all that He suffered was for us–and we stand absolved before the Judgment Seat of Christ. The Lord give you this simple faith in the Redeemer this very night! And then He will see in you of the travail of His soul and the thirst of His great heart will be satisfied! The Lord bless you. Amen.