On the Cross, Jesus Cried, “I Thirst!”
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
I remember only once being so thirsty I thought I’d die. One Saturday morning I woke up early, already burdened down by the umpteen things I had to get done by 4:00 o’clock. Walt and I had agreed that I would drive our three teenagers to Atlanta for a youth conference, since he had conflicting responsibilities at the church. To meet my 4:00 deadline, I threw the first load of clothes into the washing machine. (Seven children, one husband, and one dear mother-in-law made that a daily chore.) On top of that, I had grocery shopping, house-cleaning, meals to prepare, a Sunday School lesson to get ready, floors to mop-the list, as any mother well knows, was endless.
It was a dreadfully hot day, and we had no air-conditioning. I worked as fast as I could, while monitoring the children’s work. But suddenly I felt faint. I lay down on the dining room floor, breathing hard.
Then I realized it was that I was thirsty, desperately thirsty. I struggled to the kitchen sink. No time for ice. No time for explanations. No time for anything except to gulp down water, precious, life-giving water. I drained the glass, filled it and drank again, and was tempted to dump a glass of water on my head. I was consumed by my thirst.
That’s such an inadequate picture of the unquenced thirst of the Lord Jesus as He hung on the cross that crucifixion day. He’d been up all night. In the Garden, praying, He’d been taken captive by Judas the traitor and the religious leaders. They took Him to the high priest’s home, abused Him there, then to Pilate’s judgment hall, then to King Herod, and back again to Pilate. Declared not guilty, He nevertheless was condemned to die. He was beaten and mauled by the Roman soldiers so badly that Isaiah 52:14 says, “His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and His form marred beyond human likeness.”
He’d hung there since 9:00 that morning. He’d already asked His Father to forgive us wicked people for our sin. He’d comforted the criminal hanging beside Him with the promise they’d be in Paradise together that very day. He’d asked His friend John to take care of His mother. Then for three horrifying hours, the sun was blotted out. Now it was toward evening, and His thirst gnawed at Him, consumed Him. So He cried out, “I thirst!”
Jesus? God Himself thirsty? Jesus, the Creator of the universe, begging for water? The One who had Himself created water? Yes, Jesus, the Son of God who, the Scriptures tell us, gave up His rights as God and became a human being, a slave, a slave doomed to death, so He could pay for our wicked sinfulness (Philippians 2:4-8). Now Jesus, the human being, was dying of thirst.
Why, oh why? So that He could offer to you and me the precious water of eternal life. Remember what He’d said to the Samaritan woman at the well, after He’d asked her for a drink of water? “Everyone who drinks this water [from this well] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13,14).
Our redemption cost Jesus everything. It costs us nothing except our pride. Almost the very last words in the Bible repeat the wonderful invitation, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17)
In this Easter season, because Jesus thirsted as He hung on the cross, may we thank God we need never thirst again.