Jesus Knows Our Needs

The following message is based on John 19:28-30 and was delievered at the Lower Providence Presbyterian Church in Eagleville, PA on April 6, 2012

On Good Friday this year, I was invited to participate in a service that presented Jesus’ seven sayings from the cross.  The tradition from which I come did not hold such a service.  It is a favorite to many.  Not many churches still conduct one.  It is an old tradition; a solemn occasion, remembering all that Jesus endured for us.

You will notice that there was emotional and spiritual as well as physical pain endured by Jesus.  Emotional in that he was abandoned by His closest friends; Spiritual in that His fellowship with His Father was broken due to our sin; and physical through the pain of the nails, the inability to breathe, and His need for water.  In reflection of Jesus suffering, let us look at Jesus’ final words from the cross, found in John 19:28: “Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”

These words come at the end of Jesus’ life.  He has little time left on this side of death.  Throughout John’s gospel, there are intentional references and allusion to Jesus being the Passover lamb, which is certainly a New Testament concept.  According to John 19:14, the precise time that Jews were preparing for the Passover, Jesus is being presented before Pilate.  In an eerie sort of way, Pilate states: “Behold your King!”  It was as if He is saying what John the Baptist said: “Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).”

There were many times in Jesus’ life that He avoided death.  At each time, the gospel writers would record something to the effect: “His time had not yet come….”  For instance, in John 7:1, we are told that the Jews were seeking to kill him.  He said to them: “My time is not yet here…Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.”  Looking back on His life, He saw His suffering, His death and His resurrection as a glorious fulfillment of God’s plan.  In contrast, we don’t look at suffering as God ordained.  We think that life should be free of pain and adversity.  But that just is not realistic, is it?

The fact that Jesus was thirsty from the cross tells us that He identified with humanity.  His statement proves that Jesus was a real human being.  He experienced betrayal, discouragement, and now his body is racked with pain; at the very end, He expresses thirst.  Psalm 22:15 describes the level of thirst: My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth….  A potsherd is a broken piece of pottery, dried hard and good for nothing.  The way that they treated his thirst was cruel, sour, wine-vinegar would hardly quench a thirst; would make most of us sick.

Jesus was dehydrated.  He probably had not had anything to drink in at least 24 hours.  Because of the physical stress He was under, it most likely He was reaching a state of extreme lack of fluids.  Water is needed for circulation and other bodily processes including respiration and converting food to energy. If you are losing more water than you are taking in, dehydration will occur.  It has been shown that if you lose just 2.5% of your body weight from water loss, you will lose 25% of your efficiency. For a 175 pound man that is only about two quarts of water. As the survivor dehydrates, his blood becomes thicker and loses volume. This causes the heart to work harder and circulation of blood to be less efficient.[1]  All of this reminds us of His extreme suffering on our behalf.

A mockery of satisfying His thirst, John 19: 29 tells us that they filled a sponge with sour wine, and put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth.  Hyssop was a plant used for sprinkling blood or water in Jewish religious ceremonies.  Exodus 12:22, they used hyssop to apply the blood of the lamb to the doorposts of the homes in Egypt.  The blood placed on the hyssop was the only thing that would protect the Israelites from the destroying angel, going through the area.

In the words: “I thirst,” God shows empathy for the human condition.  The book of Hebrews takes it further by saying: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:15ff).”  Some reject help for their condition, by sometimes saying: “No one knows what I’ve been through.”  “You do not know how a person feels until you walk a mile in their shoes,” we’ve heard it said.  But Jesus’ words: “I thirst,” reminds us that God knows what it is like to be on this earth and to suffer.  Experience is a qualifier for the role of helper.  God identifies with the human experience.

We call it “Good Friday,” because of our perspective, our involvement.  It was to our blessing that Jesus went to the cross.  As we sang earlier: “Was it for sins that I have done He suffered on the tree?  Amazing pity!  Grace unknown! And love beyond degree!  Or as Donald played just a moment ago: “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

This is why Christians for centuries have believed what the Nicene Creed has said: “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried, and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures… .”

The Gnostics denied that God could dwell in human form.  Islam teaches that it is disgraceful to think that the Son of God could die on a cross.  But to Christians, the cross is a reminder of God’s supreme love.  The apostle John would write: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).”  Someone said that all of the world’s religions are marked by human efforts trying to reach out and apprehend God, trying to please Him through aesthetics.  It is only Christianity that teaches that God reached out to man by Jesus coming to this earth and going to the cross on our behalf.  2 Corinthians 5:21: He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  Have acknowledged your need for Him?  Have you taken your place in that equation?  Have you placed your trust in Christ, asked for His forgiveness and turned from your sin?  He invites you today to receive His forgiveness and be reconciled to His father because of His great sacrifice.

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