Sermon on John 19:28-30 by Jeremy Fuller

“After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” (John 19:28-30)

“I thirst.” Of all the words spoken by Jesus during those six gruesome hours on the cross, these best embody His humanity. The saying reminds us that His sufferings were real. He was not immune to pain because He was virgin-born Deity. His blood ran red. He was wrapped in Adam’s skin. His organs were as dependent on water as yours or mine. His organs and cells were as subject to the laws of life as those that drove the nails. His thirst was as genuine as the thugs who hung on either side. But in His humanity, there was a perfect fulfillment of the prophecies concerning Him and that is the message of His thirst.   

Two simple words, “I thirst,” remind us of His horrific sufferings for the sins of the world; that those sufferings were ordained by God; and that those sufferings were necessary to quench thirsty souls who believe.

The Thirst Theme

None of the other Gospels (Matthew, Mark, or Luke – what Bible scholars call the Synoptic Gospels) mention this “Thirst” facet of the crucifixion narrative. In fact the word “thirst” does not even appear a single time in Mark or Luke.  The word is used once in Matthew’s Gospel in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). On the other hand, there is a “thirst theme” that runs through John’s story.

Recall the Samaritan woman at the well. “Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst againBut whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.” (John 4:13-15).

Jesus was not offering this woman physical water; He was offering her salvation in a way that she could understand. To quench that eternal soul thirst, He Himself would have to “Thirst”!

Recall the miracle of the loaves and fishes. “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

Jesus was the miracle manna come down from Heaven. Just as the Israelites were sustained for forty years in the wilderness, God made a miraculous provision in Christ. Those who will eat the bread of life will never hunger and those that will drink the water of life will never thirst!

To quench eternal soul thirst, He Himself would have to “Thirst”!

Recall the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles. “In the last day, that great [day] of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)” (John 7:37-39)
This thirst narrative in John’s Gospel would have its fulfillment fifty days after Pentecost – ten days after Christ’s ascension. We read about it in Acts chapter two. We could conclude that this water that Christ offered was the indwelling presence and fullness of the Holy Ghost.

And so we rightly insist with Romans 8:9, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”

That The Scripture Might Be Fulfilled

“After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.” That the Scripture might be fulfilled!

Twice in John 19 we find these same words verbatim. The first reference is to the parting of Jesus’ garments and the casting of lots for His vesture. John wanted his readers to know that Christ fit the Messianic thumbprint described by the prophets.

The prophecy at hand comes from Psalm 69, written by King David. In fact, the Psalm is filled with utterances of experiences Messiah would have. Verse nine reads, “For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.” After Jesus cleansed the Temple the disciples remembered that it was written, “the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up,” a well-known prophetic expression that would describe the activity and spirit of the Christ.

God had everything under control – right down to the vinegar!

Verse 21 is where we find the words of David that are fulfilled in John 19:28: “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (Psalm 69:21). And so we conclude that John the Beloved sees the thirst of the Savior as an additional proof that His death is neither a grave error nor a happenstance. It is not a mistake on an indescribable scale. No, in the foreknowledge of an all-wise Heavenly Father, Jesus suffered the predetermined death of the spotless lamb that would take away the sin of the world. He includes this detail, even down to the kind of drink offered – vinegar – to let us know that God has everything under control.  

Twenty-six generations had come and gone. More than a 1,000 years had passed between the prophetic utterance and the divine fulfillment. And the message is – God has everything under control – right down to the vinegar!

The Water and the Blood

A later detail in John’s account gives us another reason why the thirst detail is significant. “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe” (John 19:34-35).

So, why did blood and water come out of Jesus’ side when He was pierced?

​Verse one of this chapter tells us, “Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.” Before Jesus ever reached Golgatha, before the first nail was ever driven, before He ever fell under the weight of the cross, He endured a Roman flogging. This scourging normally consisted of 39 lashes, but may have been more as the Romans were not bound by the Jewish law, which limited the punishment to 40 lashes (Mark 15:15John 19:1).

The whip that was commonly used consisted of braided leather thongs with metal shrapnel and pieces of sharp bone woven into or intertwined with the braids. The balls added weight to the whip, causing deep bruising and contusions as the victim was struck repeatedly. The pieces of bone served to cut into the flesh. As the flogging continued without mercy, the resulting cuts were so severe that literally the skeletal muscles, underlying veins, sinews, and even the bowels of victims were often exposed.

This beating was of such nature that many were the instances in which the victim would not survive to be crucified.  The fact that Jesus did survive bespeaks His inward strength and resolve. Perhaps as Christ was tied at the wrists at the whipping post, the prophetic verse came to mind: “For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed” (Isaiah 50:7). His face was set like flint towards the cross – to the cross He would go to die a cursed death for the sins of mankind!

Those who were flogged would often lose so much blood that they would go into shock. As a result, the heart would race to pump blood that was not there, the victim would collapse or faint due to low blood pressure, and the kidneys would shut down to preserve bodily fluids. In turn, the sufferer would experience extreme thirst as the body desired to replenish lost fluids.

There is Scriptural evidence that Jesus experienced this bodily shock as a result of being flogged. As Jesus carried His own cross to Golgotha (John 19:17), He collapsed, and a man named Simon from Cyrene was forced to either carry the cross or help Jesus carry the cross the rest of the way to the hill (Matthew 27:32–33Mark 15:21–22Luke 23:26). As He hung on the cross (John 19:28), His body screamed to replenish fluids.

Prior to death, the sustained rapid heartbeat caused by low-blood shock also causes fluid to gather in the sack around the heart and lungs. This explains why, after Jesus died and a Roman soldier thrust a spear through Jesus’ side (probably His right side, piercing both the lungs and the heart), blood and water came from His side just as John recorded in his Gospel (John 19:34).

Those two simple words, “I thirst,” remind us of His horrific sufferings for the sins of the world; that those sufferings were ordained by God according to prophecies of Scripture; and that those sufferings were necessary to quench thirsty souls who believe.

About the Author

Jeremy Fuller is Vice President of God’s Missionary Church. He also serves as Director of Home Missions and Senior Pastor of the Duncannon church.  You can connect with him on Twitter @JfullerLee.


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