I Thirst

The Theologian Fred Sanders explains in his book, How the Trinity Changes everything, this important aspect of Biblical interpretation;

“One of the most powerful features of the Trinitarianism of the New Testament is that it is revealed to us largely in the conversation between the Father and the Son.…Even in the darkness of the cross itself, the Son keeps up an intimate running dialogue with his Father. Jesus is confident that his prayers are heard and that the Father is with him, and in a few spectacular instances of a voice speaking from heaven we get to hear the Father declaring his attitude toward his beloved Son. All this inner-Trinitarian conversation is intentionally held in public, for our instruction….what they said to and about one another for us to overhear is not only a solid foundation for the doctrine of the Trinity, but it is also a marvelous invitation to us to be included in that conversation.

We see this dialogue at Christ’s baptism and at the transfiguration. We hear it in the prayer of Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb:

John 11:41–42, So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”

Jesus is talking to the Father, out loud, so that others may hear and join in the knowledge of the Father and the Son.

This is why the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray in Luke 11:1. The dialogue between Jesus and His Father is public and meant to draw us in.

So we turn to John 19:28–29 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth.

What we think is happening here is strictly an exchange between Jesus and His murderers.

Indeed, Jesus is fulfilling the scriptures, like Psalm 22:15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws.

But in this moment when Jesus speaks of thirst, as in His whole earthly ministry, He is misunderstood by His immediate audience.

Understanding what is being said, to whom and its meaning – is an invitation for us to join the inner life of the trinity.

Physically, at this point, salving Jesus’ thirst prolongs His life which prolongs His agony and the roman soldiers were all too ready to oblige Him.

Jesus doesn’t mean that He thirsts for the cheap swill the soldiers kept there to stave off dehydration; something like an alcoholic Gatorade.

He had already refused wine and gall, that mixture meant to dull his suffering. And though it is certainly understandable that Jesus’ flesh yearned for a cool drink of refreshment and reprieve, He isn’t merely stating that He is physically thirsty.

There is more going on. And it reveals the inner life of the Trinity. A life you are invited, by hearing the exchange, to join.

At the height of His agony, Jesus is resolved and prepared for that cup, which just a few hours before, He Had asked His father to remove from his lips.

Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

Jesus, in the garden of gethsemane, said, “no father I am not thirsty, but I will drink if you give it to me. If you give me no other choice, I will obey.”

Now, Jesus is talking poetically about thirst. Thirst is referring to will. The cup, at the very least, is the cup of wrath. The father is going to pour out all wrath and condemnation for the sin of the whole world. Jesus, in Gethsemane, wanted to know if there was some other way to accomplish His mission then enduring that providence, drinking that cup.

The cup of wrath and judgment we read of in Psalm 75:8 For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.

We see in Gethsemane mere compliance. Jesus will be obedient but for once, the unity of the Father and Son’s will wavers.

The separation is beginning to show. Jesus isn’t disobedient, He isn’t defiant, but he said previously, that doing the fathers will is his food.

The suffering of the Trinity has begun. The full cost of our sin is presented, not in metaphor, but in the stark fact of Christ’s agony and bloody sweat.

This dialogue between Father and Son is not ultimately about cups. It’s about their unified will.

He had never experienced the sensation of not hungering for that nourishment. Eating for its own sake is foreign to him. So too, is obeying for its own sake. Like Job, Jesus devoured every providence and circumstance His father served up for Him with joy. But, when the Father serves up anguish, degradation, suffering and death, does Jesus still hunger for it?

For a moment in the Garden it appeared he didn’t.

So, it is already established that thirst and cups are poetic descriptions of will and mission. Jesus goes on to suffer and suffer, and it isn’t until He asks for the cup of wrath that His father gives it to Him.

And we see that Jesus is still thinking about it in John 18:11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

There will be blood. In order to avoid this cup what will it cost. In Peter’s actions, Jesus sees what it will cost to not drink the cup.

The Father withholds it. Jesus endures the wrath and condemnation of men and through suffering He is perfected.

Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.

Jesus, after everything He had endured ; arrest, trial and the cross, comes to see that this is the only way. To save us he has to die. To obey He has to die. Does he love Himself more than God and His neighbor when His life is on the line?

In the garden He agonized over it. But witnessing the state of Israel, the disregard for the law, the lack of compassion, the state of the temple leadership, the oppression of roman soldiers.

Jesus no longer agonizes over what to do, even though what must be done is more agonizing than anyone can imagine.

The agony of the cross is far worse than any agony in the garden.

Jesus is perfected through suffering. The will of son and father are again in perfect harmony at exactly the most excruciating and difficult moment of obedience.

Jesus is the perfect unblemished lamb of God. It is finished. There is nothing else. There is no other hope for mankind. There is no other path but the path of the cross.

John 19:28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.”

And here He is talking to the soldiers, He isn’t talking about the cup of wrath. There is a deeper thirst that Jesus longed to satiate and now seeks to do so with His uttermost. He thirsts for His Father.

The psalms are the Prayers of the Messiah and in them we read about the thirst of our Messiah for His God, The son for His father.

Psalm 42:2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

Psalm 63:10 God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Jesus wavered before the cup offered Him but there is something deeper that He thirsts for and that is obedience to the Father.

There is only one way to get back to the Father and that is through the Cross. And that thirst for his Father supersedes all.

He knows its’ finished – the total and complete death of self – Christ’s selflessness comes into full bloom.

Jesus no longer desires anything other than what His father has given Him. And so, Jesus thirsts. For the Father, for obedience and faithfulness and therefore, for the cup His father offers.

Jesus thirsts for the end of His earthly ministry which would be the death stroke of death, the destruction of Satan and the obliteration of sin.

He knows what is required and so He looks to the heavens and says, “I thirst.”

Jesus was not forced to drink. His will was not violated. His will, which wavered under a load of dread and misery, came into full strength and utter submission to His Father’s will.

Christ’s faith at this moment, asking for that which was His father’s desire but was contrary to every fleshly desire and comfort he knew – to this Jesus submitted willingly.

He thirsted for it. He desired to be satiated, not with the wrath and condemnation of His father, He endured that cup because what He ultimately thirsted for was greater – obedience to His father’s will because His fathers will, is His sustenance.

Even on the cross. Even when that will is to drink condemnation and wrath. This is obedience. This is love. This is our savior.

Jesus asks for that cup and after everything He had endured, His obedience and love for the Father overrules everything else and the cup He feared, that He dreaded, that He wanted to avoid, is lifted to his lips and He drank it off.

There on Calvary, especially there, He submits, and it is a long obedience in the same direction that prepared Him for this moment. Habit over momentary distress. Faithfulness over easy-safe-selfishness. Future joy over present pain.

Though He stumbled, He did not fall as Adam did.

Christ thirsted for the cup of His calling as the suffering servant– His shame and terror and dread –and He drank it to the dregs because He needed an empty cup.

He needed a cup with which to offer blessing to His bride. He needed a cup to fill with blessing, cleansing, and salvation.

Paul delighted to call the communion cup “the cup of blessing which we bless” (1 Cor. 10:16).

The cup of Good Friday becomes the cup of Easter morning. And every Easter morning forever.

Psalm 116:13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.

Jesus offers this cup every Sunday when He says in Matthew 26:27–28 “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

There was a cup of wrath and judgment that was emptied by the thirsty Christ at Calvary.

By the time that cup is passed to us – all the terror and condemnation is gone. The cup of wrath becomes, through Christ, the cup of life and blessing.

But we aren’t as thirsty for the cup of blessing as Christ was for the cup of woe.

We agonize over it the way Christ did in the Garden because our wills are not aligned with the Father’s will, we are not yet perfected, and so we stagger.

Obedience is difficult for us even when it is all for our good. The cross stands before us and upon it is not loss, but gain. Not a cup of wrath, but of blessing. Not death, but life.

Oh, that we would know it. That it would mature our palettes. Oh, that we would not turn away, seeking satisfaction, salvation, joy, life and blessing in any other cup.

We harden our palettes to the savor of Christ’s wine. The Lord stands ready. Easter is upon us. The cup is full. Don’t hang back. Don’t turn or look aside.

May the Father Give us a holy and happy thirst. And as we drink from the Easter cup of glorious life and renewal may it train our tongues for Christ’s wine. May the satiating of our thirst, teach us to thirst for the true and good wine of the Lord Jesus.

And may all others become swill.


Author: Michael Kloss

There is a Sunday conscience, as well as a Sunday coat; and those who make religion a secondary concern put the coat and conscience carefully by to put on only once a week. - Charles Dickens

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