Scripture Lesson: Psalm 22:1-22
Any person having read the New Testament and having read any one of the accounts of the Crucifixion given in the four gospels could not help but identify this portion of the psalm with one of those accounts, or that which all four of them record,—the Crucifixion. This has been truly called the Crucifixion Psalm.
I want to bring to you just one word as the basis of my message. It is one of those words that has a volume in it, and that word is one of the words that fell from the lips of the dying Son of God. We have to translate it into two words. In the original it is just one word. This word is, “I thirst.”
In choosing this message tonight on this one word of the Cross, I have turned aside from several other messages in which I tried to get interested but somehow my mind would not rest on any one of them until this word came to me.
It may be tonight in this audience there are some who have come with a heart that is aching, with a great empty void in the soul that needs filling, and may God use this word to bring you a message that will answer the hungering of your soul, and that you will find in Jesus Christ the fullest answer to every single desire and aspiration and longing of your heart.
There is a more intense form of suffering than hunger. It is said that one may live quite a while without food, but no one can live long without water. That the intensity of the suffering from thirst far exceeds that of hunger. We say we have a parched lip, or that our throat is parched. We locate it there, but when a man is thirsty the tips of his fingers are crying for water just as much as his lips, and every part of his body is crying out for water.
I remember my father telling many of his experiences in the Civil War, but the thing that impressed me most was the fact that many of the wounded soldiers were not able to be carried from the battlefields, and they would cry all night long, and the one cry was for water.
Thirst of the Dying
I heard of Mr. Moody’s experience in the army when he was serving under the Christian Commission, and on one occasion he told how his soul was harrowed listening to the cry of the wounded for water. Some of the most heroic deeds in connection with any war have been the effort on the part of some comrade to carry water to dying men.
This word of our text expresses, as no other word, the torture that Jesus Christ endured on the Cross. Those words of the psalmist, in verses 14 and 15 give you some idea. Every expression seems to have some reference to thirst.
“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
“My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.”
That gives you some idea of thirst and of what thirst means. If you want to get an idea of how the Lord Jesus Christ must have suffered you must know something about what it means to be thirsty.
There were many things that tended to create this thirst. You remember the night before the crucifixion, the Lord Jesus Christ was in the garden of Gethsemane, and the agony of His soul was such that His sweat turned into literal drops of blood. As soon as that was over, the soldiers came and dragged Him to the High Priest, Caiaphas, and then Annas, and all night long He was being taken from one place to the other by these rude soldiers, and early in the morning, He was taken before Pilate, and finally Pilate sent Him to Herod. And they mocked Him and sent Him back again to Pilate. Pilate thinking he could satisfy the Jews with something less than the death of Christ, took Him and had Him publicly scourged, and then He was sent to the cross. Even before He was nailed to that cruel tree, every part of His body was crying out for water.
This thirst was not only expressing the intensity of His physical anguish, but the intensity of His longing for the salvation of men. Every word, every cry has a divine message to our souls.
I just want to be able to point you to the Cross of Christ tonight, that you might see the secret message of God’s love to you.
Thirsting for Others
First, the condescension. Here is the Sovereign of earth and skies and sea. The God that was the eternal source of all things that are. Here was Jesus Christ by whom all things were created and for whom all things were created. Here is the Eternal Creator, crying, “I THIRST.”
He has come from His throne to Earth and He has come from the cradle to the Cross. You can hardly comprehend what that means for the Lord Jesus Christ to come down. He who could create the ocean and hold it in place is now wanting a drop of water and is asking for it only to be insulted by having vinegar offered Him.
When He came, there was no room in the inn. When He died there was no water to give Him. There is condescension that you cannot comprehend, nor I cannot comprehend.
Remember, my dear friends, no matter how low we might descend, we are still on the plane of creation. Here we have the Eternal Creator leaving His throne and coming down to Earth to take the creature’s place and die in the creature’s stead. That is what is involved in that word, “I THIRST.”
Creator of Water Athirst
Note the remarkable paradox involved. Here is the Eternal Source of living water thirsting. When on Earth, He spoke on more than one occasion about giving the Living Water. After asking the woman at the well for a drink, He said to her: If you knew Who it is that asks you for this water, you would become the suppliant and ask of Him, and He would have given you Living Water. And she said: “Where did you get that Living Water?” He answered: “Whosoever shall drink of this water shall thirst again, but whosoever shall drink of the WATER that I shall give him shall NEVER thirst.”
Yes! He had water to give and yet He was thirsty. He had living water to quench the thirst of every perishable soul, and yet He was asking for a drink that was denied Him. The Word of God says, “I will give unto him that is athirst the fountain of the water of life freely.” “If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink.” And as the Scripture says, “Out of him shall flow rivers of living water.” Yet this one who was able to quench the soul thirst of every soul was Himself thirsty.
Note the typical significance implied here. What was He doing on the Cross? He was bearing a world’s sin. “On Him was laid the iniquity of us all.” That sin was nailed to the cross. As soon as this awful thing came upon Him, He gave expression to the cry of His soul, “I THIRST.” That signifies that connected with sin there is a thirst.
Thirst is an unsatisfied craving. It is a desire unsatisfied, and this world offers all kinds of things to satisfy the craving of the human heart. The Lord was made for this body and when you substitute anything else it does not satisfy. This world may offer you something to take the place of Christ, but it cannot satisfy. You may cry for bread and the world will give you a stone. You may cry for fish and the world will give you a serpent. You may cry for an egg and the world will give you a scorpion. Sin makes fair promises but it never cashes those promises. When you get what the world offers, you get a soul that is void and empty, and you get a ruined character that will become eternal if death finds you out of Christ.
Thirsting to Finish Task
Christ was longing on the Cross, not only for water, but He was longing for something else. He had a deep intense longing, my dear friends, to complete the work necessary for the salvation of the world.
There is a mystical meaning in that word, “I thirst.” When He was a boy you remember He said, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” When those Greeks came to consult with Him, the very report of the fact of their coming to Him caused Him to groan within himself. On the Cross of Calvary, His heart was going out for a lost world. How He desired to see them thirsting for God!
He is longing to see man repent. There is nothing in the sight of Heaven that is so precious as repentance. How the angels of God rejoice over one sinner that repents! Yes, more than over the ninety and nine that need no repentance. That is why He went to the Cross. That is why He endured all the cruel shame,—in order that He might see men come to repentance. One tear of repentance in the sight of God is of more value than all the wealth and pleasure of the things of Earth.
Tonight, if you have a hungering in the soul,—if the world’s pleasures do not satisfy that soul thirst, will you come to Jesus and drink of the water He has for you, that was provided for you by His sacrificial death on Calvary? He craves a response to His love, and He is stretching out His hand to you tonight. He craves a response to His love.
Is this dying love of the Son of God to you going to go tonight untested? Are you going to walk out of this church tonight without letting this love of God find a response in your heart? Are you going out to the empty cisterns of the world? If you are, then you are going to eternal disappointment. Are you going to plunge into the making of money, and let all the passion of your soul concentrate upon that thing that will give you pleasure? Many have tried it and they have come to the place where they see they cannot feed the cravings of a soul on money.
Thank God! There is a river of Living Water waiting for you if you believe. “If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink,” and, “he that believeth on Me, out of his inmost being shall flow rivers of living water.” Ah! He is craving a response to His love. Is He going to be denied tonight?
The Cross of Jesus Christ speaks louder than I can speak, and says with language that cannot be gainsaid or denied, “I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore with loving kindness have I drawn you.”