After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished,
said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.”
— John 19:28 —
Nothing was done by Christ which was not foretold;
nothing was ever foretold by the Prophets concerning Christ, which was not done.
— Alexander Watson —
Tomorrow I will preach a Good Friday message focusing on the single word: dipsō (“I thirst”). For the last four years, our church has considered on Good Friday one of the seven words spoken on the cross. This year, we come to the fifth word, “I thirst,” a word that highlights the humanity of Jesus and the hostility of his enemies (see the context of Psalm 69). But it also shows how meticulous our Lord was in fulfilling Scripture.
In John 19:28, the Apostle notes the sharpness of Jesus’s mind, even as he bears the pain of crucifixion. And what is on Jesus’s mind as hangs on the cross? The Word of God that he must fulfill. To that point, he says, “I thirst,” a statement that may refer to Psalm 22:15, but more probably cites Psalm 69:21, which speaks of drinking sour wine, which Jesus does in John 19:29.
Tomorrow, I will consider the meaning of this fifth word, but today, I want to focus on the way Jesus perfectly fulfilled all the Old Testament, including this final statement of thirst. To help with this, I turn to Alexander Watson, a nineteenth century Anglican curate, who in 1847 preached a series of sermons called “The Seven Saying on the Cross; Or, The Dying Christ Our Prophet, Priest, and King.” For the last few years, I have read these sermons—one per year—and have profited greatly. (For those in the know, I have not preached Watson’s sermons).
Fifteen Fulfillments in Christ’s Passion
In his exposition of “I thirst,” Watson highlights the way Jesus fulfilled all the Old Testament. And his words are worth citing. He begins by observing “a sure and convertible rule” that “nothing was done by Christ which was not foretold,” and “nothing was ever foretold by the Prophets concerning Christ, which was not done “(81). As Jesus says in John 5:39, all Scripture is about him. And in the Gospels, we see repeated citations and allusions to the Old Testament, as the four Evangelists identify Jesus by the Hebrew Scriptures.
Drawing out this point, Alexander helpfully lists those associated with Christ’s “last bitter Passion” (81). He writes of Christ, outlining the fulfillment of the Old Testament in a series of questions. (N.B. I’ve changed the format and modernized the punctation and capitalization).
It was prophesied, “The Anointed of the LORD was taken in their pits,” saith Jeremiah [Lam. 4:20].
But how? He must be sold: for what? for thirty pieces of silver: and what must these do? buy a field:—all which had been foretold. ” And they took thirty pieces of silver, the price of Him that was valued, and gave them for the Potter’s field,” saith Zechariah [9:12–13].
By whom? “The son of perdition, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.” [John 17:12]
Who was he? It was foretold, ” He that eateth bread with me,” saith the Psalmist [Ps. 41:9].
And what shall His disciples do? Flee away,—so saith the prophecy, ” I will smite the Shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered,” saith Zechariah [13:7].
What shall be done to Him? He must be scourged and spit upon: even this disgrace was the subject of prophecy, “I gave My back to the smiters I hid not My face from shame and spitting,” saith Isaiah [50:6].
What shall be the issue? In short, He shall be led to death: it is the prophecy. “The Messiah shall be cut off,” saith Daniel [9:26]
What death? He must be lift up: “Like as Moses lift up the serpent in the wilderness, so shall the Son of Man be lifted up” [John 3:14, citing Numbers 21] (82)
To these questions, Alexander cites John Chrysostom, saying, “that some [Old Testament] actions are parables; and some actions are prophecies such are all types of CHRIST.” Then he picks up his questions again,
Lift up: whither? To the Cross: it is the prophecy, “Hanging upon a tree,” saith Moses [Deut. 21:23].
How lift up? Nailed to it: so is the prophecy, “They have pierced my hands and my feet, ” saith the Psalmist [22:16].
With what company? Two thieves. “He was numbered wit the transgressors,” saith Isaiah. [Isa. 53:12]
Where? “Without the gates,” saith the prophecy. [Deut. 22:24]
What became of his garments? They cannot so much as cast lots for His coat but it is foretold: “They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture,” saith the Psalmist. [Ps. 22:18]
He must die on the Cross. How? Praying for his murderers. “He made intercession for the transgressors,” saith Isaiah [53:12]. (83)
To this list of questions, Alexander adds one more, the one designated in John 19:28 as necessary to complete Scripture: “I thirst,” which fulfills the words of Psalm 69:21, “When I was thirsty they gave me vinegar to drink.”
In all, Alexander gathers fifteen different prophecies fulfilled by Christ and his cross. And remarkably, this list but scratches the surface in showing the attention to detail which our wise God and Father put in place when he inspired the Hebrews Scriptures. Moreover, it shows the perfection of Christ in going to the cross to accomplish our salvation. He did not simply finish the work in general, but he finished it to the most exact degree. That might even say something about the intentions and extent of the atonement, but I’ll leave that for another time.
The Good News of Thirst—Jesus’s and Yours
This week, as we ponder the good news of Good Friday, we should marvel at how Christ did everything necessary to fulfill his Father’s will on the cross. Indeed, standing in contrast to a world filled with failed projects and men who leave jobs undone, Jesus fulfilled his mission, going so far as to cry out in agony, “I thirst.”
Incredibly, this little detail could have gone unnoticed to everyone else. That Jesus included this statement and the Spirit led John to capture in his Gospel tells us how meticulous God’s plan was, and is, and will forever will be. Ordained in eternity, every step of Christ’s journey to the cross had to be completed. And, in this statement (I thirst), we have every reason to believe that everything we need for salvation has been accomplished.
God does not skip one detail in his work of redemption, and as we approach Good Friday, we can confess his goodness in knowing that the thirst of the Son was planned too. And more, every thirst that we have is also planned by God, so that Christ can satisfy us and give us living water. To that end, may we come to the cross of Christ and drink of his grace, his life, and his love. All of these things were planned by God, outlined in Scripture, and fulfilled in Christ. Therefore, let us bring out thirsts to him to his life-giving water.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds