Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | July 19, 2009

Sermon on John 19:28

He Spoke a Word of Need

In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”

Dear Friends in Christ:

Why does God need a drink?  Wrap your minds around that thought – GOD needed a drink.  That’s who hung on the cross.  Peter said it, when he told a gathered crowd, You killed the author of life. We sing it in our hymns, Alas!  And did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die? In another stanza we sing, When God, the mighty Maker, died. On the cross of Calvary was the Creator-God, Jesus Christ, paying the price for our sins.  And as He did that, HE SPOKE A WORD OF NEED. Our Savior needed that drink.

But why did He need the drink?  Did He need it because He couldn’t handle it anymore, the suffering was just too great?  Was He tapping out, calling “mercy,” and throwing in the towel?  The answer to those questions is an emphatic, “NO!”

Jesus needed this drink because He had been drinking the cup of God’s judgment.  That’s how our Lord referred to everything He was undergoing in our place.  Think back to the question He asked of His apostles, Can you drink the cup I am going to drink? Recall His words in the Garden, My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. And now Jesus was drinking that cup, that cup of God’s wrath, to the dregs, to the very bottom.

And the cup?  The judgment of God for our sins, His wrath and anger over what we’ve done.  Jesus bore their weight.  He drank them down, as God demands: the wages of sin is death.  That’s what is owed us for our sins, death, in hell, being forsaken by God.  That’s what Jesus was drinking.  Think of the Rich Man Jesus taught about in Luke 16.  He was suffering in hell and begged for Abraham to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool his tongue.  That’s what Jesus was drinking.  That’s why He cried out, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

And that cup of God’s wrath and judgment was filled by us – in a variety of ways.  Perhaps it was filled when we did more drinking from the “bottomless cups” of New Year’s Eve, the Super Bowl, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, St. Patrick’s Season, and the Fourth of July then from the cup of the Holy Spirit in the means of grace.

Perhaps we filled that cup with other refreshing liquids – like greed for the money we make during the double shifts that keep us from being in the Word and joining with fellow Christians in worship time and time again.  Or we fill that cup with the constant flow of the putrid sexual filth we can so quickly find on TV, the Internet, and at Blockbuster.  Or we hold that cup underneath the faucet of laziness or gluttony.  Maybe we fill that cup with anger as we lash out at friends and neighbors, or with our greed as we buy lottery ticket after lottery ticket hoping to win the big one again and again.

There’s the cup that was presented to Christ.  And He drained it.  He drained it after He lived perfectly in our place, resisting the temptations of the devil.  He drained it after perfectly carrying out all the commands and decrees of His Father in heaven, living under the law.  He drained it, though nothing He did earned Him any such punishment.  He drained it as He bore the beatings of Jewish and Roman soldiers, the mockeries of the Sanhedrin and the crowds.  He drained it as He carried His cross to Golgotha.  He drained it as He took upon Himself the burden of our sins, as He became sin for us, as the LORD laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He drained it as He suffered the very real torments of hell.  When the skies darkened that day for those hours, when the earth shook, there was our Savior carrying out His work.  There was our Savior taking upon Himself what we so richly deserved.  There He drained the cup of God’s wrath.  Christ saved us from the curse of the law by becoming that very curse.  And He never had to leave the cross to do it.

That’s what Jesus bore for those hours on the cross.  And now we come to His moment of thirst, and we don’t hear, “Being ready to give up, Jesus howled in thirst.”  Yes, as David wrote in the psalms, it is likely that His tongue was sticking to the roof of His mouth.  It was sticking from dehydration, from suffocation, from the beatings, and from hanging on a cross.  After all that what man wouldn’t be thirsty?  For He is the Word made flesh.  He is true man.  But there’s more to His words.  He is also true God, the fullness of the Deity.  And as God, He knew that all was now completed. It was already over.  Jesus knew it.  He had paid the price.  He drank the cup of God’s wrath that was set before us.  Rather than trying to take a break from His suffering, to earn the pity of the crowds, Jesus drinks to fulfill the prophets and to prepare His voice to cry out, It is finished!

I would hope that I would be braver than the disciples.  That I would stand boldly at the foot of the cross, that I would offer Christ the drink for which He asked, so that He could shout, “Victory!”  That I would be saying, Oh, dearest Jesus, what law hast thou broken? But, the truth is, I’m not much better than the disciples.  I’ve run from far less than a crowd of soldiers with swords and torches, from a hill on which criminals were being executed.  The truth of the matter is, you and I needed that drink even more than Jesus did.

Why did we need it?  So that the Scriptures could be fulfilled.  That’s not my deduction, that’s the word of the Apostle John himself, an eyewitness to these events.  He tells us that Jesus spoke these words in order to complete the Scriptures.  Paul confirms this when he proclaims, When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.  And this drink was part of all that was written about him. The Messiah, in Psalm 22, says My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.  In Psalm 69, the Messiah reports that They gave me vinegar for my thirst.

These two seemingly unimportant prophecies go along with the other three hundred or more Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfilled.  This includes the first promise of the Savior made by the LORD as He spoke to the serpent in the Garden of Eden, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers, He will crush your head…the great Christmas prophecies, the virgin will be with child and give birth to a son…But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah…For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and He will be called…the prophecies that He would perform miracles, I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness…to open eyes that are blind…and the prophecies of His final week on earth, See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey…He was pierced for our transgressions.

Among all these great and familiar words, who would have noticed if Jesus had not asked for a drink?  The Father in heaven, who demands complete and total perfection, that’s who.  Whoever keeps the law and yet stumbles at just one point, James writes, is guilty of breaking all of it. Jesus asked for a drink in order to complete His saving work.  Fulfilling the prophecies made about Him was part of His actively obeying God’s demands.  And asking for a drink, revealing His human thirst, was Jesus dotting the “i” and crossing the “t.”  The Lord God had contracted very specific work from His Son – He was to be the perfect sacrifice of atonement that no amount of sheep, goats, oxen, bulls, doves, grain, or good works could ever be.  Jesus read the fine print of this contract and carried it out to the letter.  For us. Because Jesus said, I am thirsty, you and I will never know the excruciating agony that accompanies the never-ending thirst of hell that drove the Rich Man to despair and torments the devil and all those who have rejected Jesus Christ.

We will never have to endure that awful thirst.  Instead, we will sit at the wedding banquet of the LORD.  We will feast on blessings beyond compare. As the LORD promised through the prophet Isaiah, The LORD will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines…he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. Christ assures us of our bodily resurrection from the dead.  Christ brings us to the feast of heaven, where He has prepared a place for us, next to Him!  Praise God that we have a Savior who spoke this word of need.  Amen.

The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life!


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