- The Seven Words From the Cross -
THE WORD OF FULFILLMENT
Grace and Lenten peace be multiplied unto you in the knowledge of our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for this fifth of our midweek Lenten meditations comes from the Gospel of John, chapter 19, verses 28 and 29, as follows:
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst!" 29 Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So far our text.
In the Name of Jesus Christ, Who perfectly fulfilled all that the prophets spoke concerning our salvation, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
One of the marvels of modern medicine is the ability to quickly re-hydrate the human body. When you come to the hospital with the flu or pneumonia, or with an injury, one of the first things they do is hook you up to an IV. Since our bodies are 2/3 liquid, having proper hydration is directly related to how we feel and how well we heal. Physiologists say that when you lose 2% of your body's water supply, your energy will decrease by 20%. Lose 10% of your body's water and you will be too weak to walk. I can't say how accurate those numbers are. I can say that, from visiting people in the hospital, the visible results of re-hydration are incredible, almost miraculous.
Tonight we consider the fifth word of Jesus from the cross. It's only one word in the Greek. You get the impression that it was audible only to those who were standing close-by. Of all the incredible physical pain that Jesus had endured, this word points us to what was perhaps the most agonizing of all. Yet even in this brief word, there is hope and comfort as well for us Christians. Tonight we listen to another of our Savior's Words from the Cross - this one the very significant
Word of Fulfillment:
There's something unique and unexpected about this fifth word from the cross - I wonder if you noticed. This is the first time in the whole grinding ordeal that Jesus mentions anything about physical discomfort. That, in itself, is amazing. The last liquid that crossed His lips was almost 18 hours earlier in the Upper Room. Then came the Garden of Gethsemane, where He lost precious liquid while engaged in prayer - you remember that His sweat was described as being "…as it were, great drops of blood." For hours, from the time of His arrest on Maundy Thursday evening until Pilate sentenced Him on Friday morning, Jesus has been on His feet. He had been beaten. A crown of thorns had been pressed into His scalp. With blood running down His face and streaming from His lacerated back, Jesus struggled beneath His cross along the road to Calvary and finally collapsed in exhaustion. For six agonizing hours, He hung on the cross, with wounds in hands and feet. With every drop of blood that fell, He became more and more dehydrated., and terrible thirst added to His torments It would seem to us only natural that Jesus would utter the plaintive statement, "I thirst."
Was Christ was finally thinking of His own needs on the cross? After praying, "Father forgive them," after saying, "Woman behold your son," after assuring the thief, "Today you shall be with me in Paradise," is Jesus finally thinking of Himself. It would certainly be understandable if He were. But there is much more to this statement than meets the eye.
The apostle John is the only evangelist to record this fifth word. He may have been the only one close enough to hear it. But notice the connection John makes: After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst!" So in the first place, this passage tells us something about Who Jesus is. By the way, the word "knowing" here is interesting. It's not the word that means to know by experience or to come to know something by research and study. This is the word that means to know intuitively or innately -- to have the facts already logged within one's memory, and then be able to call them instantly to mind. What Jesus knew instinctively was that every Old Testament prophecy up to this point had been fulfilled. Everything that was supposed to happen had happened. There was only one Scripture left to be fulfilled before He shouted, It is finished -- his expression of thirst.
By fulfilling every Scriptural prophesy of the coming Christ, Jesus proved beyond any doubt that He was the Christ. The fulfillment of prophesy proved that He was the promised Messiah, true God and the Savior of the world. Consider: there are 332 specific prophesies about the Messiah in the Old Testament. What do you think the chances are of the events of Jesus' life coinciding with all of them, just by accident? Well, if you like statistics, one writer calculated that the odds of a random human being fulfilling even eight of those prophecies would be about 1 in 10 to the 17th power (that's a 1 with 17 zeros after it). If 48 of those prophecies were true of one man, then the odds increase to 1 in 10 to the 157th power. Coincidence? Clearly not.
As Jesus hung there, He knew that before He died, there was one thing left to do. In spite of all that He had been through, His omniscience as true God enabled Him to know that all those hundreds of prophecies had been fulfilled but this one. Anyone other man might have been delirious by this time, if not frankly driven mad by the tortures of the cross. But Jesus wasn't just another man. He was the almighty, all-knowing God come in the flesh. Dying, and soon to be dead, was the very Creator of heaven and earth!
But there's something else this short word teaches us. Jesus was also true man.
In October of the year 451, an important church council was held in the city of Chalcedon, near Constantinople. False teachers had been distorting the truths of Scripture, saying that Jesus could not have been true God and true manta the same time. This council produced a historic document refuting their heresies. The opening lines of that statement read: "We...all with one consent, confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, that He is perfect in Godhood and perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man." Jesus, they said, was not a deified man or a humanized God. He was and is true God and true man at the same time.
Throughout His life, you could see that Jesus was both God and Man. As a human being, He was tired and fell asleep in the boat on the Sea of Galilee. As true God, He spoke the word and the storm abated. At Lazarus' tomb, Jesus wept when He saw the pain that death brought to Mary and Martha; then He spoke and Lazarus walked out of the grave alive. And here on the cross, too: as God, Jesus knew and fulfilled His Father's will perfectly -- but as a man He also suffered the full agony of crucifixion.
So what does that mean for you? The fact that Jesus was truly human, as we are, is a very comforting truth. For the Bible says that we have a High Priest who was tempted in all points like as we are and yet is without sin. That means we have a Savior who understands and sympathizes with our weaknesses. That means that when no one else seems to know how you feel, Jesus always does. Look at your Savior on the cross -- He is forever God from eternity, so His sacrifice is sufficient to cover all your sins. He purchased you, not with gold or silver, and not with blood of bulls and goats, not even with human blood - for that would not have paid the price. For the ransom of their souls is precious, Scripture says. No, Jesus spent the only currency sufficient to atone for all your sins, His own holy precious blood, and His innocent suffering and death. That's why Jesus deity is important. But His humanity is equally important, for as a human being He could serve as your substitute, keeping God's commandments for you in a life of perfect obedience. Since His incarnation, Jesus is now forever Man - who understands the sorrows and pains of life in this sinful world - who understands your sorrows - and has the power to answer your greatest needs.
Finally, the words, "I thirst" teach us that Jesus is concerned about the integrity of His Word.
How did the soldiers respond to Jesus' request? By filling a sponge with vinegar and reaching it to His lips with on a hyssop reed. This was not like the narcotic mixture of myrrh offered Him hours earlier. It was simply vinegar. It would not re-hydrate Jesus, but simply allow Him to shout His next words for all to hear.
What prophesy was being fulfilled by the words "I thirst"? The 22nd Psalm comes to mind. It opens with, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" It goes on to say, "My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws." In Psalm 69 David writes, "They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink." And there's another Old Testament scene that finds distant echoes here. Do you recall where else the hyssop plant is mentioned Scripture? It was at the first Passover. Hyssop was the "paintbrush" used by the Israelites to paint their doorposts with the blood of the lamb. And now the hyssop plant appears again, just as the Lamb of God is shedding His blood for the sins of the world.
Even at the point of death, Jesus shows a deep concern about the integrity of God's Word. That should mean a lot to you. Because Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures, you can rest assured that God keep every one of the promises He makes to you in His Word. Because Jesus said, "I thirst" you can be certain that not even the smallest detail of what God promised you will fail to come true. Aren't you glad that John heard those words? Aren't you glad that the Holy Spirit inspired him to write them down? For Jesus wanted us to hear them as well. Jesus wanted you and me to know that all His promises to us are "yea" and "amen," including the promise of everlasting life through His blood!
Has this sermon made you thirsty? It wouldn't surprise me. We've all been thirsty. Perhaps it called to mind some incident in your life when you were extremely thirsty. But I'm sure none of us has ever endured the kind of thirst our Savior knew on the cross. And that's an important point, for while we can't understand his suffering and sorrow, the Bible assures us that He can and does understand all of our suffering and sorrow. Why not try this: the next time you're thirsty, let it be a reminder to you of your Savior. Truly God, and also truly man. The one who fulfilled every prophesy, for you. The one who suffered to save your life. The one who makes this promise, "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." --Jn 4:14. Amen.
-Pastor Paul Naumann