Suffering, Yet not Ascetic
John 19:28
After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst.…

Each of the seven words from the cross, if they are to be appreciated at their full value, must be looked at in the light of the other six. Especially is this the case here. This word comes the fifth in order. The first three words show Jesus thinking of the needs and sufferings of others rather than of his own. The fourth word shows him feeling mental suffering far more than bodily. While Jesus felt forsaken of the Father, the needs of the body would almost lie dormant. But when the gladdening sense of the Father's presence returned, then for the first time would Jesus feel fully conscious of physical pain. Pain of body is forgotten in pain of mind. But, after all, bodily thirst is a reality, rising to one of the intensest, most intolerable pains that the physical frame can suffer; and thus, when Jesus became fully free to feel that he had a body, he naturally gave expression to the keen want. What a curious correspondence there is with the experience of Jesus in the wilderness at the beginning! Then he hungered; now he thirsts. There he was in solitude, and needed to say nothing; now there ere people round him, able to allay his thirst, if they are so disposed.

I. THE FEELING ITSELF. To know that Jesus thirsted in this way is to know that he must have suffered a great deal of physical pain. The pain is suggested rather than described, which is a great deal better; for who wants minute descriptions of physical pain? And yet there must be some particular hint to produce on our minds a most distinct impression as to the reality and intensity of the suffering through which Jesus passed. Jesus, while a calm Sufferer, must be also a great Sufferer, otherwise it cannot be fully true that "he tasted death for every man." Painless death - euthanasia, an easy exit from the world - such is the portion of some; they seem to dissolve out of natural existence with hardly an ache. But what a scene of suffering other deaths present! what groanings! what clenched hands! what unendurable misery revealed in the face! And because of this, Jesus also had to know the greatest intensity of physical pain. His comforts in pain are the comforts of one who has been through pain. The very fact that he suffered so much physically shows that physical suffering is far from the worst of evils. It is a thing to be escaped, if possible, and relieved as much as possible; but there are things far worse. A suffering Jesus with no feeling of forgiveness for those who had so treated him, with no sympathy for his fellow-sufferer, with no solicitude for his mother about to be bereft, absorbed in his own suffering, - a Jesus such as that would have suggested experiences more deplorable than any physical pain.

II. THE UTTERANCE OF THE FEELING. The thirst might have been felt, yet the feeling not expressed. Why, then, was it expressed? The mere fulfillment of a prophecy does not explain, for then the prophecy itself has to be explained. Surely the great lesson of the utterance is that, when suffering has done its work, it may cease. In suffering merely as suffering there is no merit. The merit of suffering is measured by the remedial and purifying agencies it brings into play. Jesus was no ascetic, even on the cross. He never went an inch out of his way to seek privation and pain. What came in the way of duty he faced and accepted; but to the notion that God can be pleased with suffering as suffering, with austerity as austerity, he never lent the slightest sanction. And so, when the mental pain was over, he took the first opportunity to relieve the physical pain. But we must not stop with the mere literal interpretation of the cry. It was not enough for Jesus to escape from suffering. Bodily thirst was soon allayed, but there remained a thirst of the heart to be satisfied. We have to think of the aims, desires, and achievements that lay beyond all this suffering. There is the intense desire in the heart of Jesus to win the world to himself. The longings of prophets and apostles for a better world are but faint types of the longing that abides in the heart of the Savior. He knew from experience the delight of a draught of cold spring water in a dry and thirsty land. Pleasant to him such a draught must often have been. But pleasanter far is it, because refreshment to his loving heart, when each latest one among the children of men comes to him in fullness of trust and obedience. - Y.

Parallel Verses
KJV: After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.

WEB: After this, Jesus, seeing that all things were now finished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I am thirsty."

Fifth Word
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