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What Jesus was really saying when He said, 'I thirst'

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Jesus made seven statements when He was hanging on the cross. According to the fifth statement as recorded in John 19:28, Jesus made a statement consisting of just two words, “I thirst.” This expression from the cross is different from the other six expressions. It is a short expression where Jesus uses the pronoun “I” to call attention to Himself and to His physical need. This was the only expression referring to His human condition. Even then, He did not request anything. He simply made a statement after other things had been taken care of.

Notice that the text says, “After this, knowing that all things were now accomplished.”
This statement was made after Jesus had asked His Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him. This statement was made after Jesus had told the thief today he would be with Jesus in Paradise. This statement was made after Jesus had make arrangements for His mother and John, His beloved disciple. It was only then, that Jesus said, “I thirst.” It was only at this point that He turned to His own human needs, pain, agony, torture, suffering. That was His nature...always thinking of others first.

Jesus said, “I thirst” so the scriptures could be fulfilled. Psalm 22:15 lets us know it had been prophesied centuries earlier that Jesus’ strength would dry up, and His tongue would cleave to the roof of His mouth. And now because this prophecy was being fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst” when His tongue and lips were parched. The pain was terrible and Jesus experienced thirst as He hung on Golgotha’s hill exposed to that blazing Eastern sun between heaven and earth; between life and death.

Being thirsty was one of the most agonizing moment of His torture. Of all the needs of the human body, thirst is the worst. We have been told people can go days and days without eating, but it is dangerous to a person's health to go without drinking. Because Jesus had been depleted of all liquids, He said through cracked and burning lips, “I thirst.”

It was a moving cry coming from one who had said earlier: “He who believes in me shall never thirst.” It was a moving cry coming from one who had said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." It was a moving coming from one whose first miracle was changing water to wine.

It was a moving cry coming from one who had given the Samaritan woman living water. It was a moving cry coming from one who was the Creator of all ponds, all streams, all lakes, all oceans, all springs, all rivers, and all fountains of refreshing water. It was a moving cry coming from the one who had walked on water.

This expression, “I thirst” is the only expression of pain that passed from His hoarse mouth as Jesus confessed His real humanity. He had proven He was God by healing the sick, raising the dead, and feeding the 5,000. Now as he encountered thirst on the cross, we are more convinced that Jesus was both God and man.