Journey Toward Easter: I Thirst
So far we have examined the implications and significance of four of Christ’s sayings from the cross: 1) The Word of Forgiveness, 2) The Word of Salvation, 3) The Word of Affection, and 4) The Word of Anguish. The fifth statement that Jesus uttered from the cross—and the focus of our attention this morning— is referred to as The Word of Suffering. Two simple words: I thirst, paint a graphic picture of our Lord's physical agonies on the cross. Believers must never forget the awful affliction and anguish and travail He experienced in His death on the cross. ILLUS. Some of you are familiar with the Christian allegory called Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. The main character is named Christian. He goes through a series of adventure with a heavy knapsack full of rocks on his back. It represents the burden of sin all sinners carry. Finally, Christian comes to a place called Calvary, were, when he looks up at a cross, the burden falls off his back and rolls into an open sepulcher. Christian is now really a Christian.
But Christian also has a wife and some children, and in time they come to the place of the cross as well where they begin their spiritual journey of living the Christian life. In one scene the character Mr. Great-heart is leading Samuel—one of Christian’s sons—through the Valley of Humiliation and they have the following conversation:
Samuel. Now, as they went on, Samuel said to Mr. Great-heart, “Sir, I perceive that in this valley my father and Apollyon had their battle; but whereabout was the fight? for I perceive this valley is large.”
Great-heart. “Your father had that battle with Apollyon at a place yonder before us, in a narrow passage, just beyond Forgetful Green. And indeed, that Green is the most dangerous place in all these parts. For if at any time the pilgrims meet with any burden, it is when they forget what favours they have received, and how unworthy they are of them.”
We need to repeatedly tell and retell the story of the cross, lest we find ourselves crossing Forgetful Green and forget what favours we have received through the cross!
So let’s take some time this morning to remember why our Lord’s suffering is important to us.
I. WHEN JESUS SAID “I THIRST” HE REVEALED THE BARBARITY OF THE CROSS
- for many in our society the cross is little more than a symbol of adornment or ornamentation
- the 21st century Christian has forgotten how cruel and hideous crucifixion really was
- we have perhaps unwisely and sometimes unconsciously glamorized the cross
- we’ve turned into jewelry of every description
- we wear crucifixes around our necks, and in our ears, and eyebrows and bellybuttons
- we place the cross on our steeples and in our baptistries
- they are the focus of stained glass scenes and the cross adorns the Christian flag
- what we’ve forgotten is that it was the most hideous and painful method of public execution known to mankind in the first century
- historians tell us that even battle-hardened Roman soldiers who made up the execution squads could not get used to the horrible sight, and often took strong drink to numb their senses
- because the cross has become such an accepted symbol of adornment many are tempted to forget what the cross was all about
- so ... what is it all about?
- Jesus endured 6 hours of such anguish, just for us so that we might be forgiven of all our sin!\
- “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,” (1 Peter 3:18, NIV84)
A. THE CROSS WAS AN UNSPEAKABLY BRUTAL INSTRUMENT OF DEATH
- “When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, ... ” (Luke 23:33, NIV84)
- it’s such a simple, unassuming statement—and there they crucified him
- the first recorded use of the procedure comes from 519 B.C. when Darius I, king of Persia, crucified 3,000 political opponents
- the Romans adopted it as a means of executing slaves and non-citizens about 200 years before Christ
- the Christian Emperor Constantine forbade it in A.D. 337 when Christianity became a legal religion
- it was not, however, a simple or unassuming way to die
- in our enlightened day we continually seek ways to humanly execute criminals condemned to death
- ILLUS. Over the centuries, western culture has repeatedly sought out ways to make execution as humane event as possible. It was twenty-five years ago that while on a trip to Europe, Linda and I stood in the square where the revolutionary government of France set up the guillotine during that country's Reign of Terror during the late 18th century. Thousands of aristocratic heads were lopped off in that square. What I did not know at the time, was that the guillotine was invented by a French doctor trying to devise a more humane way of executing prisoners! Considering that the alternatives of that day was slow strangulation, being beaten to death with a club or burned at the stake, I suppose the guillotine was considered more humane. So it has been with every modern instrument of death. The hangman's noose, the gas chamber, the electric chair, and now lethal injection. All of these have been attempts to more humanely execute criminals.
- crucifixion was the epitome of man's barbaric imagination
- no other means of death equal the hideousness of the cross
- Jesus would have fully aware of savagery
- ILLUS. About the time when Jesus was a teenager, there was a small Jewish revolt against the Romans in Galilee. The Roman Legion stationed in Israel crushed the rebellion and took just over 1,700 Jewish prisoners. They crucified every one of them. Along Galilee’s main highway, they spaced a crucified victim every 30 feet for over ten miles.
- it was Rome’s way of saying, “Behave yourself, or this could be you!”
- when the case had been heard and the criminal condemned, the judge uttered the fateful sentence: "ibis ad crucem" which is Latin for “You must go to the cross”
- the condemned person was whipped to within an inch of his life and then placed in the center of four Roman soldiers who often lashed and goaded the victim along the road as he carried the very cross upon which he was to be suspended
- before the victim walked an officer with a placard on which was written the crime for which the condemned was to die
- on the way to execution the victim was led through as many streets as possible to increase his shame and increase his suffering
- victims were usually stripped naked, their arms were tied to the cross piece and they were then lifted up into place to die a slow death
- some victims took three or four days to die
- if the Roman soldiers wanted to be especially brutal they drove spikes through the victims wrists instead of tying them
- once the victim had been lifted into place his feet were crossed and a 12 inch spike was driven through their heels to help hold them in place
- ILLUS. Frederick Farrar, in his book The Life of Christ, writes this about crucifixion: "... death by crucifixion seems to include all that pain and death have to offer ... the unnatural position [of the body] made every movement painful; the lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with incessant anquish; the wounds, inflamed by exposure, gradually gangrened; the arteries—especially at the head and stomach—became swollen and oppressed with surcharged blood; and while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, ... all were intensified just up to the point at which they can all be endured at all, but all stopping just short of the point which would give ... the relief of unconsciousness ...there was added to [all these] the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst.”
- “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.” (Psalm 22:14–16, NIV84)
- ILLUS. The Church, I think, owes a dept of gratitude to director/actor Mel Gibson for his production of The Passion of the Christ released in 2004. It largely covers the final twelve hours of Jesus' life beginning with the Agony in the Garden and ending with a brief depiction of his Resurrection. The scenes of his scourging and crucifixion depict, with gruesome reality, what the event might have been like. I cannot read 1 Peter 2:24 that tells us by his wounds you were healed without seeing in my minds eye, Jim Caviezel’s portrayal of Jesus.
- the amazing aspect of this is that our Lord willingly surrendered his life to this death
- “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” ” (John 10:17–18, NIV84)
II. WHEN JESUS SAID "I THIRST" HE REVEALED AN UNDERSTANDING OF HIS OWN SUFFERING
- the great miracle of the cross is that God took the most dastardly act ever committed by man and used it as the very means to reconcile men unto Himself
- Jesus knew exactly why He was dying and what He was dying for
- ILLUS. In the Gospel of John, the apostle records an incident a week before our Lord's death. It is just after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The crowds are cheering and Messianic expectations are running high. Later that same day, our Lord told a short parable which predicted his death. He used a kernel of wheat as an illustration. Unless the wheat falls into the soil and dies it remains a single kernel. But if it dies, it produces an abundance of fruit. Then in front of his disciples, he prays a simple prayer with startling results:
- “Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.” (John 12:28–33, NIV84)
A. IN OUR LORD'S DEATH PROPHECY WAS FULFILLED
- “Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.” (John 19:28–29, NIV84)
- Jesus knew that his work of redemption was now completely accomplished
- now, in spite of his intense anguish, he is still conscious of making sure every single Messianic prophecy—no matter how small—is completely fulfilled
- when Jesus said I thirst and then was given soured wine to drink two Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled
- “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.” (Psalm 22:15, NIV84)
- “They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.” (Psalm 69:21, NIV84)
- ILLUS. A number of years ago, Peter W. Stoner and Robert C. Newman wrote a book entitled Science Speaks. The book was based on the science of probability and vouched for by the American Scientific Affiliation. It set out the odds of any one man in all of history fulfilling just eight of the 60 major prophecies fulfilled by the life of Christ. The probability that Jesus of Nazareth could have fulfilled eight such prophecies would be 1x1017. That's “1" follow by seventeen “0"s. That’s One hundred thousand billion, or One hundred quadrillion! How big is that number? If you could begin at “0" and count one number per second, day and night until you were finished, you would be counting for 32 billion years. Those are the odds of a man named Jesus of Nazareth fulfilling just eight of the 60 major Messianic prophecies. If you figure the odds of Jesus fulfilling 48 of the 60 major Messianic prophecies, that’s 1x10127 or “1" with 127 “0"s behind it. That more than all the atoms in the Universe!
B. IN OUR LORD'S DEATH HE BECAME OUR PASSOVER LAMB
- we are told in verse 28 that they (probably the soldiers) dipped a sponge in some vinegar, stuck it on a hyssop stick and put it up to his lips
- Hyssop is a blue, aromatic flower of the mint family that grows on reed-like stalk about two feet long
- so what? I'm sure you really wanted to know this, right?
- but Jewish readers of John's gospel would have read that verse and gone "Ah ha!"
- in this seemingly insignificant reference to a plant John ties our Lord's suffering and death to the most influential event in Jewish history—the Passover in the exodus from Egypt
- according to Exodus 12, the people were instructed to apply the blood of the slain lamb to the doorpost of their home with a certain plant
- what was that plant?
- you guessed it—Hyssop
- just as the blood of the Passover Lamb saved the firstborn sons of Jewish families, so the blood of Heaven’s Lamb saves the sinner who’s life is redeemed by Christ
- three years before, as he began his ministry, John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and proclaimed, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29, NIV)
- When Jesus Said I Thirst He Knew He Was Fulfilling Prophecy and Dying as the Lamb of God for Your Sins
III. WHEN JESUS SAID "I THIRST" HE REVEALED LOST MAN'S GREATEST NEED
- “The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.” (Isaiah 41:17–18, NIV84)
A. THIRSTY PEOPLE NEED THEIR THIRST QUENCHED WITH LIVING WATER
- God has always cared about thirsty people
- if it had not been for God, the Hebrews would have died of starvation and thirst in the desert
- most of you know the story of how Moses brought water from a rock when the people were wandering through the desert
- throughout the Scriptures, God often uses the specter of physical thirst as a symbol of man's most important need--satisfaction of spiritual thirst
- just as a person cannot live physically without water . . .
- so too, we cannot live spiritually without Jesus who is the Water of Life sent to slacken our spiritual thirst
- ILLUS. The earthquake that struck Japan just two weeks ago is a commentary on the spiritual condition of the lost people in our community, and in our world. Every day that went by, was one more day rescuers were less likely to find survivors. The crucial issue was fresh water. Three days are serious, four days are critical and virtually no one was expected to survive to the end of the fifth day. Water is that crucial. These people lived life unaware of the doom of approaching destruction. Suddenly, unexpectedly, their existence is shaken by catastrophe. Their world seems to cave in around them and they discover they are trapped by their circumstances. Caught unprepared they are unable to extract themselves from their situation. They face the peril of living life trapped with no hope of ever seeing their life change.
- the Son of God, in his suffering, from his cross, utters the words I thirst and in his agony became the well of salvation from which you and I can draw living water
The spiritual thirst from which all individuals suffer is caused by sin. They need the righteousness that comes through life in Christ. The living water which will quench that thirst is God's forgiveness, his justification and his personal presence in your life. Jesus is the spring of living water you must drink from. If you are hear this morning and Jesus is not a part of your life, will you pray this prayer with me?
"Dear Lord, I know I have sinned grievously against God the Father, and need forgiveness. Thank you for dying for sinners like me, and for holding out to me eternal life. I repent of my sins and by your grace help me to turn from them. I now confess you as my Lord and receive you as my Savior. Take control of my life and make it full and meaningful. In Jesus name I pray."
/"O God, I have tasted thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want thee: I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me thy glory, I pray thee, that so I may know thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, "Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away." Then give me grace to rise and follow thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus' name, Amen.?