After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I am thirsty."
"I Am Thirsty"
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Freud said that there was no such thing as an accident. If we do something, we have a reason for it. If we say something, we probably mean it. We have even coined a phrase, "the Freudian slip," to cover just such occasions where someone says what they really want to, but says it by "accident" - you know, without consciously intending to do so.
Normally, we humans cannot be very detailed or painstaking about life. We can manage a couple of hours of close attention, or we can be very organized and detailed about one thing or another -- such as the budget, our personal attire, or our grocery list. But long term, thorough-going precision is too taxing. People who are long-term, thorough-going-ly precise are viewed with suspicion. There must be something wrong with them. Such precision is a dysfunction. Take for example the fictional character of the detective Monk. He is mentally ill. His illness works as an advantage in his detective work, but he is tremendously dysfunctional. For most of us, there is always a gap between the "want to" and the "can do."
But not with Jesus. He kept the whole Law of God for us throughout His life. His actions, His words, and even His will and thoughts and emotions were always godly. He maintained that attention to the right and the good in the face of the same temptations to sin and weakness that you and I face. He perfectly obeyed the Law so that He could trade with us the eternal life which He had earned for the death and punishment we had earned by our sins.
Of course, He could, because He is also God! That is part of the wonder of the Gospel. God became one of us to save us. He did not leave us dependent upon mere human ability. We failed from the first, from Adam and Eve who were perfect and sinless and capable, at least theoretically, of resisting sin. But human nature proved too weak, and they surrendered to sin. God, in the person of Jesus Christ, had the strength and the wisdom to resist where Adam and Eve did not, and to live in this world, confronting constant temptation, just as you and I do, and never sin!
It was His perfect obedience under the same promise of everlasting life for perfect obedience, and the threat of death and damnation if He should sin, that earned the life we did not earn and could not deserve. It was His death, undeserved, that paid for our sins, and gave Him the right to give us the life which He had earned and deserved. He chose the trade of His death for our life - and because He is God, His death was of cosmic significance and value, far greater value that all of our lives together. His love for us, and His grace -totally undeserved - is why He applied that wonderful value to redeem us poor and much less valuable creatures. But we are here to consider the words of Jesus.
His attention to detail was uncanny! So writes John in his gospel account of the death of our Lord for us, in chapter 19 verse 28: After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I am thirsty."
The moment of death was not far away. We know that is so because He died - He gave up His life deliberately - just few moments following the speaking of these words. I want you to remember that His death was not near because Jesus felt His strength going, it was near because He understood and knew perfectly what He was doing. He knew why He hung on the cross. He understood every moment of the pain, the abandonment by God. He endured it all in love and obedience to His Father. Nothing just "happened." This same thing is true for us as well, but for Jesus it was most especially so. He knew what was happening, and what needed to happen. When the moment of His death arrived, He was going to lay down His life by an act of His will, not simply die because He couldn't live any longer. The words He spoke, which we focus on tonight, were part of what Jesus knew He had to accomplish to fulfill all that was prophesied.
Understand, Jesus endured the reality of the cross. That He remembered to care for His mother, that He cried out His anguish in the words of the crucifixion Psalm so that we would recognize what was happening, that He prayed for those who were killing Him, should not diminish your sense of the reality of the awful torture He endured for us. He didn't hang there waiting to read lines on a script, oblivious to the pain. He hung dying, bleeding, burning in pain and muscles tearing and feeling all of the things we would feel if we were crucified - and more, I suspect.
But His attention to detail for our sakes is staggering! Thirty-three years of life weren't enough. He didn't content Himself with the agony of crucifixion as an innocent substitute for guilty me. He even took care that every single word about Himself which He had spoken through the prophets came true.
It might be helpful to remember that He spoke through the prophets! These were not random bits of suffering, words spoken on the moment with no sense of what was really happening. Jesus is the One who spoke through the prophets. He planned it, He prophesied it, and He was fulfilling every moment of the agonizing plan of redemption and salvation!
The movies always depict a weak and frightened man as Jesus. He always seems confused and carried along by the events of Holy Week as though He didn't quite know what to expect. The opera, Jesus Christ, Superstar, makes this picture of Jesus explicit as He prays "take me now, before I change my mind."
But the reality was that Jesus was not weak, confused and terrified. He was filled with dread and sorrow, knowing what was to come, but not terror. He was anything but weak, as He endured punishment that could well have killed a man before He arrived at Golgotha, and on the way He had the strength and wits to keep His own execution on track by speaking just when it would enrage or embolden those who sought to kill Him, and keep silent when speaking would have rescued Him from this death.
And most clearly, this word from the cross shows us that He was not, most definitely not confused, He knew every prophecy, "and in order that Scripture might be fulfilled," He spoke. Everything was now done, He was prepared to die willingly, and yet He paused to see to it that every Scripture might be fulfilled concerning Him. And so, 'He said, "I am thirsty."'
Psalm 22 had spoken of His thirst by saying that His tongue cleaved to His jaws. But that isn't really a clear prophecy. Psalm 69, verse 3 prophetically says that His throat is parched. That prophecy comes closer. It is set in a Psalm which says: For Thy sake I have borne reproach; Dishonor has covered my face. I have become estranged from my brothers, and an alien to my mothers sons.
Those words certainly sound like they speak of the crucifixion, but not to these words from the cross. But later in this 69th Psalm we hear the words Jesus referred to: Psalm 69:21: And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
Every gospel account reminds us that they gave Jesus vinegar or sour wine to drink. He didn't speak those words about being thirsty as a fulfillment, because there was no specific and clear prophecy that He would say those words, or that He would be thirsty, but in order that the prophecy of Psalm 69 would be fulfilled by the soldiers who would get some sour wine and bring it to Him to drink, and John tells us that after He had received the wine, He died.
For you. Jesus touched all the bases, crossed all the "T's" and dotted all the "I's". He made certain that every prophecy was fulfilled. Nothing was left out. He paid attention to every detail. Even in the pains of death He would not forget or omit a single detail. So that you might live forever with Him, so that your sins might be forgiven, Jesus spoke to cause the Scripture to be fulfilled in the fullest, saying, "I am Thirsty!"
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
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