Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Word of Agony

Leslie Basham: What suffering are you facing? Nancy Leigh DeMoss reminds you that Jesus can relate.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You see, there's nothing that you and I will ever experience in the physical, emotional, spiritual, relational, or the psychological realm—nothing that we will experience in the realm of suffering that in some way Jesus did not partake in on our behalf.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, March 30, 2015.

"I thirst." As we're about to hear, this isn't just a request for a drink. It's a profound statement. Nancy continues in the series "The Incomparable Christ."

Nancy: As we've been considering the seven words of Christ from the cross, the sufferings of Christ are now drawing to a close. He's been through his most intense agony—that period of darkness for three hours, from noon to 3 o'clock in the afternoon. He's been condemned and forsaken by His Father—not because He did anything to deserve this, but because He had become sin on our behalf. He was hanging there on that cross in our place, dying the death that we deserved.

In the last session, we considered the fourth cry from the cross, spoken there at 3 o'clock p.m., at the flood stage of Christ's suffering and agony on the cross when He cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Now the final three cries follow that one in rapid succession. Today we want to look at the fifth and the shortest of the seven words that Jesus spoke from the cross.

Let me invite you to turn in your Bible to the Gospel of John 19. Beginning reading at verse 28:

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 (vv. 28–30).

Now today we want to consider that word, “I thirst.” In the Greek it's actually one word, two syllables. The previous word, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” was a cry of spiritual anguish. This word is a cry of physical anguish. As Oswald Sanders says in the book we've been reading through this series, The Incomparable Christ, “He who began His ministry with gnawing hunger (there in the desert temptation) is closing it with raging thirst.”

Let me make several observations about the thirst of Jesus, this word that He spoke from the cross, and some of what perhaps it entailed. First of all, there is the obvious acute physical suffering. In the past twenty-four hours, Jesus had been in the Garden of Gethsemane.

  • He had sweat great drops of blood there in the garden as He travailed in prayer with His heavenly Father.
  • He'd been through the unjust series of trials—taken from one leader to another—each one of which involved physical torment and beatings.
  • He'd been through the crucifixion.
  • He had lost a lot of body fluids: sweat and blood.

Intense dehydration is one of the effects of crucifixion. In fact, extreme thirst, if you think about it, is really one of the worst forms of physical distress.

So He cries out, not about His hunger, but about His thirst. It's amazing if you think about it, that the Creator of oceans, rivers, and rain, the One who sent a flood to cover the earth, the One who caused water to gush from a rock for the thirsty Children of Israel was now Himself thirsty, desperately needing water.

This word, I think for us, is a sweet, precious evidence of Jesus humanity. We've talked about that though the series, the fact that He was fully God, but also the fact that He was fully man. He endured and experienced all the weaknesses and limitations of our humanity, yet without sin.

God doesn’t get thirsty. But as God in human flesh, Jesus suffered thirst. He wanted to fully experience, He had to fully experience all the infirmities of our humanity. From His birth all the way to His final breath, He shared in our humanity, He identified with us, He entered into our sufferings so He could be a sympathetic, “merciful and faithful high priest” (Heb. 2:17).

You see, there's nothing that you and I will ever experience in the physical, emotional, spiritual, relational, or the psychological realm—nothing that we will experience in the realm of suffering that in some way Jesus did not partake in on our behalf.

So when we are suffering, even in very physical, practical areas of need and deprivation, we have a great High Priest who has been there before us, who knows, who understands, who is sympathetic and merciful and can help us in our time of need. Praise God!

Now, earlier Jesus had been offered a drink of myrrh and gall. That was a potion that was a sedative to deaden the pain. But as you may recall, He had refused that drink so He could be in full possession of His senses, to experience the full cup of suffering that God gave to Him, which included the thirst, but to experience that full range of suffering in order to fully pay the price for our sin. He declined that first drink because He wanted to keep His mind clear, to be able to meditate on Scripture, to pray. He refused to deaden the pain. He had tuned down that sedative, that first cup that was offered to Him.

Now that His sufferings were coming to an end, now that He had nearly finished drinking the cup of God’s wrath, He accepted the sour wine that was offered to Him. That sour wine would have been a cheap wine that was common in the day, that was used by common people and soldiers drank a lot of it. So it would have been there at the foot of the cross, likely. It was a wine that was highly diluted with water, so it could effectively quench thirst. With that drink He moistened His lips, which enabled Him to make a final triumphant shout before He died. Even taking that drink, part of it was to enable Him to fulfill the rest of His mission there on the cross.

It's interesting to me that He did not cry out about His thirst until very close to the end of His suffering. It's not because He wasn’t thirsty earlier. He was parched with thirst. The Scripture tells us that; we'll see that in a moment. But it says to me that He was not obsessed, as He was suffering there on the cross, with the physical demands of His body. He more concerned about the needs of others. He was focused on the spiritual nature of the battle. The fact that He was being offered as a sacrifice for sin.

Then the fact that not until the very end here does he even mention His physical sufferings, we see an amazing demonstration of self-control. Only one time during those six excruciating hours on the cross did He cry out in relation to His physical suffering. And when He did, it was in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and according to His Father’s will that He cried out in this way. Otherwise, throughout all those hours, there is no evidence of His crying out for relief, no complaining—just quiet suffering.

I read one commentator from the 1800s who had this quaint way of describing it. He said,

How easily we are made to cry out. How peevish and ill-tempered we become under slight annoyances! A headache, a toothache, a cold or some other slight affair is supposed to be a sufficient justification for losing all self-control and making a whole household uncomfortable.1

He had no food, no pain killers, no water, no relief for human appetites and needs. Plus this suffering from being cut off from fellowship with the Father. He did all of it for me, for you, and us! While I am so focused on the needs and cravings of my flesh—just one little twinge of hunger and I think I’m going to pass out. Everybody around me needs to know. I've been fasting for twenty minutes; I can't stand it. Always looking for and demanding ways to meet my needs and get those cravings fulfilled. I have such difficulty denying myself for just a matter of moments. But here is Jesus, the incomparable Christ, enduring with dignity and self-control.

Now this cry of thirst, I think, was more than just an expression of physical anguish. It was that, but I think there was more to it than that. First of all, it reveals a deep respect and reverence that Jesus had for God's Word.

You say, “I thirst? How does that reveal a deep respect and reverence that Jesus had for the Word of God?" Well, look at John 19:28, “Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), 'I thirst.'" He said it to fulfill the Scripture.

Numerous Old Testament prophecies had already been fulfilled in the course of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. In fact, every prophecy had now been fulfilled except for one. That one prophecy is found in Psalm 69. It's a Messianic psalm (let me encourage you take some time to read through the entire psalm) that gives us a graphic description of the passion of Christ, the sufferings of the Messiah. Let me read to you just a few verses from that psalm.

More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause;
mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies (v. 4).

Does that sound like what Jesus went through? It's a Messianic psalm, a prophecy of His suffering.

For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me. . . . Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none (vv. 9, 20).

Forsaken. Utterly and absolutely alone and forsaken. All of those predictions had been fulfilled. But one in this passage that had yet to be fulfilled.

I am weary with crying out; my throat is parched. . . . for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink (vv. 3, 21).

Written hundreds of years earlier, the prophecy of the suffering Messiah: thirsty, crying out, being given sour wine to drink. There is a similar passage in Psalm 22 that we've referenced earlier in this series, another prophetic Messianic psalm.

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death (vv. 14–15).

Those were Old Testament prophecies that Jesus knew. He was familiar with them. He had been meditating on them. He knew that they talked about Him. He longed for them to be fulfilled. He was intent that they should be fulfilled. Every prophecy that had ever been spoken about Him should be fulfilled. The entire Word of God should be fulfilled. So He cries out, “I thirst,” in order for these Scriptures to be fulfilled.

What an incredible picture of Jesus honoring the Word, and His supreme care that it should be fulfilled, obeyed, and that He should be submissive to it. I think as a I ponder Jesus attention to that little detail of Scripture, first of all how many of us would have even known about that detail of Scripture, much less been thinking about it at that moment, much less caring enough to, in excruciating pain heave ourselves up on the cross once more to be able to get those words out after unspeakable torture and agony, struggling to breath, to say those words so one little phrase from God's Word could be fulfilled?

  • Do we love God's Word that way?
  • Do we honor it that way?
  • Are we that familiar with it?
  • Do we meditate on it?
  • Have we memorized it?
  • Do we bring it to mind in our sufferings?

When I'm saying, “I'm thirsty; I'm hungry,” and I'm whining about my circumstances, I'm not saying that to fulfill Scripture. I'm saying that to fulfill my flesh. Jesus said it not to fulfill His flesh, but to fulfill the Scripture.

  • Do I care that God's Word be honored in the midst of my suffering?
  • Do I care that I reflect well on God in how I suffer?

When God's Word in 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your care upon him, because he cares for you,” do I care that the way I respond to pressure will show the world what it looks like for that passage to be fulfilled? When God's Word says, “In everything, give thanks,” (Philippipans 4:6) do I give thanks, not just because it's the right thing to do, but also because I want others to see the Word of God fulfilled through my life? It's convicting to me just to think about it. The reverence, the respect, the honor for the Word of God we see. He said it so that Scripture might be fulfilled.

To be like Christ is to have that same heart that every word of God would be fulfilled in and through us. In this cry, “I thirst,” I see also—and again, beyond the physical thirst—a picture of spiritual thirst, a picture of Jesus longing for that restoration of fellowship with His Father which He has sacrificed on our behalf. It brings to mind a passage in Psalm 42:1–2. Maybe Jesus was thinking about this psalm during those hours.

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.

Remember what the previous word from the cross was? "Why have you forsaken me?" So in saying “I thirst,” there was the physical dimension there. But also He was saying, “I thirst for You, O God. I want You. I don't want Your gifts. I don't want Your blessings. I want You more than I want anything else in this world.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

“O God, I long for your presence. I long to be restored to fellowship with You. I long to be with You as We have been for all eternity past, and as We will be for all of eternity future.” There's this thirst, this longing for the presence, for the sweet, refreshing, filling, thirst-quenching presence of God, knowing that nothing else on this earth or in heaven can quench the thirst of our souls like God Himself.

I also see in this cry, “I thirst,” that Jesus was enduring on our behalf the torments of hell. Of course, one of the torments of hell that He suffered was separation from God. In those hours, Jesus endured an eternity of separation from God. So fierce was the Father's judgment poured out upon Him. But another torment of hell that we read about in the Scripture is unquenchable thirst.

Remember in Luke 16 the parable of the rich man and Lazarus that Jesus told. There was a rich man in hell. He begged Abraham to send Lazarus—a poor man that he had despised and had not cared for—to dip his finger in water and cool his parched tongue in hell. Just a drop of water. Excruciating thirst. As Jesus cries out, “I thirst,” it reflects the anguish of His soul in tasting the fires of judgment of hell for all mankind.

My friend, Krummacher, from the 1800s, his book I’ve quoted many times though this series, The Suffering Savior. He talks about the vicarious enduring of the curse by Jesus Christ. He says that,

[Jesus] tasted, as far as was possible, all the torments of the damned. To spare us sinners the thirst of an infinite absence of comfort, He submitted to such torment in His mediatorial capacity!

As our mediator, as our representative, He endured that infinite absence of comfort, that infinite deep thirst, those unquenchable fires of hell, so that we would not have to endure them. Then he goes on to say,

O what a well of consolation has He opened for us by His thirst!

He endured intense thirst so that our thirst might be relieved, that it might be quenched. You read this over and over again in the Scriptures. Remember Jesus saying to the Samaritan woman:

Jesus said to her, ". . . but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:13–14).

Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water'" (John 7:37–38).

Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price (Rev. 22:17).

Can I just remind you that He is the only one who can quench those deepest thirsts of your heart, that your thirst will never ever be satisfied with anything or anyone other than Jesus. So today, let me appeal to you, come to Jesus. Put out your cup and say, “Lord, fill my cup.” He will.

We give you thanks, O Lord, for all that you endured on our behalf. We are not worthy. We should have been the ones up there saying, “I thirst.” But You endured those unquenchable torments of hell, that acute physical thirst, the acute thirst of separation from Your Father, so that we might be filled with living water. O Lord, thank you. Amen.

Leslie: I thirst. These two words that Jesus spoke from the cross were deep and profound. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has shown you why. That message is part of a series explaining who Jesus is and what He has done. The series is called "The Incomparable Christ." To hear all the messages for yourself, just visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

For a lot of women, the resurrection season comes and goes and they don’t give a lot of thought to the deep meaning of the life of Jesus. Imagine sharing the kind of message you’ve just heard with other women who need to hear it.

Can you imagine yourself teaching other women and sharing what you’ve discovered? Revive Our Hearts wants to encourage a new generation of women who are able to teach other women. So we’re excited to host the conference, Revive '15: Women Teaching Women.

At this conference, you’ll learn how to study the Bible in a meaningful way for yourself. And then you’ll learn how to pass the truth on to other women. That might look like a one-on-one meeting or in a small group or a class.

However God wants to use you to teach other women, we’d like to help. At Revive '15, you’ll hear from Jen Wilkin. Her excitement for getting women in God’s Word is contagious. And Nancy Leigh DeMoss will show you how to begin teaching others. Lauren Chandler will be leading in worship.

Revive '15: Women Teaching Women is coming to Indianapolis September 25–26. Get all the details at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1–800–569–5959.

What was the single greatest word ever uttered in the history of mankind? Nancy says that word was proclaimed by Jesus on the cross. She’ll tell you what it was, tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

1James Stalker. Pulpit Legends: Studies on the Person of Christ. (Chattanooga, TN: SMG Publishers, 1995).

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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