“After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst!’ ” (John 19:28)
With COVID-19 dragging on, finding positive things in our daily lives is becoming more and more difficult. What a gift for us in the Lewis-Clark Valley to look up every evening to the lighted cross as a reminder of what Jesus, the savior of the world, did for us so many years ago.
With his own precious blood, he made the payment that satisfied God for your sins and mine. Because of that satisfactory payment, God declares us not guilty and grants us the status of his own dear children by faith. Jesus was forsaken that we might never be forsaken; he was tormented beyond all measure that we might have peace with God and enjoy it all our days and for eternal life.
But this peace with God does not come to us out of the blue. God lets it flow from a certain source, a wonderful fountain, his word. When Jesus cried “I thirst,” he had already won the battle over sin; that was finished. Yet there remained a word of Old Testament prophecy which had not yet found its fulfillment, and Jesus tells us in Luke 24:44, “all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” Therefore Jesus, whose thirst had been intensified by the agony of soul which he had just endured, cried out. That word of prophecy comes from Psalm 69:21, “They also gave me gall for my food, And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”
So Jesus from the wooden cross quotes Scripture. In so doing, he is pointing me and you to the only source of that living water which alone can satisfy our thirst: God’s word. The Bible truly is the fountain of God’s love.
These words of our Lord were a cry rising out of his deepest suffering. At this moment, the excruciating pains caused by hanging on the cross for three hours were enough to bring on the tormenting thirst and make him call out, “I thirst!” Jesus was determined to undergo all that had been written about the Messiah. He wanted to drain the bitter cup of suffering to the very dregs. He wanted to be spared none of it, just as none of it dared be left out.
Peter wanted to leave some of Christ’s suffering out when he tried to defend his Lord with a sword in the garden of Gethsemane, we read in Matthew 26:52-54: “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?’”
But in the hour of his deepest suffering, Jesus was denied access to the one source of true refreshment — the fountain of God’s love. Now that he was forsaken by God, the fountain of the Father’s love was shut off. There was a blackout of the Father’s grace. Therefore, he could not go to the fountain of God’s love to be refreshed. He had to endure the agonies of body and soul without God’s mercy.
The one who knows nothing of the Gospel might say, “Why did he go through all that, when he didn’t have to?” Your faith knows the answer to that. He went thirsty so that you wouldn’t have to. He drank vinegar, or sour wine, along with enduring all the mockery and torture. Worst of all, he drank God’s wrath in your place because he wanted you to drink deeply of the fountain of God’s love — the Father’s grace and steadfast love.
Through the word, God’s love is flowing. It is “a river the streams whereof make glad the city of God.” (Psalm 46:4) The Holy Spirit causes the water of this fountain to flow into your heart right now through the Gospel in the word. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
So from Jesus’ grief, we inherit as a free gift true joy. Joyful, happy things are in short supply these days. Here, the words of Psalm 23 come true, “He leads me beside the still waters; He restores my soul.” Also Revelations 21:6, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.”
The love of God is poured into our hearts. What a precious inheritance the thirsting Lord has left to thirsting people, even as he told a Samaritan woman who had come to draw water from a well: “Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.’ ” (John 4:13-14)
Friends, let us continue to go to this fountain and drink deep. We need it, because the world is like a lifeless desert; it is our enemy. As we walk through it, it tries to drain us of our precious faith. It wants nothing to do with God. It laughs at our faith, it gives us so-called “friends” who try to convince our hearts of worldly sins. At such times, the saving faith which God gives us is at risk of being dried up. Because of sin, the rivers of God’s love may become nothing but bone-dry riverbeds. But we have a source of refreshment of which the world knows nothing. This source is the word which tells of Jesus, his cross and his free gift to you and me of the complete forgiveness of sins.
We’ve been hearing a great deal lately from health advocates in the medical world. One thing they’ve always told us is that most of us walk around dehydrated. They claim that we should drink at least seven or eight tall glasses of water a day.
Shouldn’t we also hydrate our faith with God’s word? This evening, why not raise a glass of water as you look up to the cross and are reminded that your faith is hydrated with the powerful word of God. Because Jesus thirsted, you will never be lacking for the spiritual fountain of God’s love that refreshes your soul. Be filled every day with his word so that the Holy Spirit may work through it and pour the love of Jesus into your heart, strengthening your faith, guarding and keeping your soul, even to eternal life.
Naumann serves St. John’s Lutheran Church in Clarkston and Peace Lutheran Church in Orofino.