Jesus was thirsty – on the cross, when he hung condemned for our sins, he was thirsty. John’s gospel says he cried out. Only John’s gospel records these words. Luke’s gospel only speaks about forgiveness – both for his executioners and for the criminal dying beside him. Matthew and Mark share heart wrenching despair when Jesus cries, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But only John mentioned Jesus was thirsty.
It’s a random statement, don’t you think? Why would Jesus mention anything about his physical discomfort at all? And if he did, don’t you think it would make more sense to say something about the irritation the nails were causing? Or he couldn’t breathe? Or perhaps his head was throbbing? But John deems it relevant to record Jesus’ cry because he was thirsty.
In parallel passages from Mark 15:34-36 and Matthew 27:46-48, those writers record the despair Jesus feels. We know the writers were writing about the same moment based on the action of the people around the cross (to fetch a vinegar-soaked sponge) but John takes a different approach.
Have you ever considered the irony before? In John, chapter 4, Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman. She is drawing water from the well and Jesus offers her water – special, living water – so she’ll never thirst again. Now, this same Jesus who offered the Samaritan woman living water, is thirsty.
Is the parallel connecting now? Jesus wasn’t talking about physical discomfort. He was thirsty for the Father, for the presence of God. For his entire life, he walked as a man totally satiated in the Father but when he hung on the cross, he experienced true thirst for the first time. And he didn’t like it.
The need Jesus has for the Father is so great, and it goes unsatisfied. Think about your worst day, when you felt completely alone, forsaken. Nothing, nothing can compare to the despair Jesus experienced. The beautiful truth is we will never know that kind of despair, not even if you never acknowledge God or believe he exists. Jesus died so we never, never experience separation from God. Did I say never? We never will experience the same degree. Psalm 139 tells us we can never go anywhere outside of his presence – whether we go to the heights or to the depths, even there God will find us.
It’s amazing grace. Jesus was thirsty so our thirst could be satisfied.
Be blessed today because it is Good Friday.