Every animal needs water to survive, but we are the only creature constantly creating new beverages to try to quench every imaginable thirst (and thirsts we haven’t even imagined yet). With the plethora of drink choices for every taste, the enormous variation of a kinds and sizes, it’s easy to see we are a thirsty species. With that in mind, I find it interesting that in the gospel of John, Jesus repeatedly talks of his work as thirst quenching and hunger busting.
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
“…Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
With these statements ringing in my ears, something catches in my mind when I hear Jesus on the cross say, “I am thirsty” (John 19:28).
Is that just an odd coincidence? Possibly. But I can’t help but think they are connected. Before this statement, John tells us that Jesus is making sure scripture is fulfilled. This seems to be an allusion to Psalm 69:21. It’s one more way John reminds us that even in this place in which Jesus appears powerless, his is really power under control.
But this passage is not just a reassurance of power. It’s also reminder of personhood. Jesus is the “Word made flesh.” He’s the God who chose to become human, to know weariness and pain, hunger and thirst. Compassion and empathy are also found at the cross. He understands our hardest, most painful moments. The one who suffers for us also suffers with us.