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In John 19:28-29, Jesus would say that he thirsts, and they end up giving him some type of wine on a sponge:

After this Jesus, realizing that by this time everything was completed, said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty!” A jar full of sour wine was there, so they put a sponge soaked in sour wine on a branch of hyssop and lifted it to his mouth.

Based on how He was treated in the events prior, how could He trust them to give him anything "nice" like a drink of water or wine in the first place? Furthermore, what would be the point since He would give up his spirit soon after?

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The existing answers make some good points, particularly: (1) the physical/biological demands of crucifixion; and (2) that Jesus announces his thirst. He does not, in fact, "ask for a drink" (OP's original concern), and this is vital for understanding the gospel at this point.

Because there is also a textual response. In manner distinct from the synoptic gospels, John portrays Jesus as very much in control throughout his crucifixion, despite appearances. The principle is spelled out in John 10:17-18:

17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.

Then at three points during the crucifixion scene, the "fulfillment of "scripture" is invoked, underscoring this notion:

  • v. 24, casting lots for the "robe" (cf. Ps 22:18);
  • v. 28, Jesus' drawing on Ps 69:21 in announcing his thirst; and
  • v. 36-37, the spear-thrust in preference to leg-breaking (cf. Ps 34:20; Zech 12:10).

Five times in John's gospel a formula of scripture fulfillment is used. Four of those use plēroō = "fulfill". Only in 19:28 -- the "I thirst" verse -- does it use teleioō = "complete", no doubt to reinforce Jesus' final word from the cross (v. 30, "It is finished" = tetelestai). (In fact, of the 11 occurrences in the NT, this is the only one that doesn't use plēroō.)

Quite simply, Jesus announces his thirst in order to fulfill scripture (ἵνα τελειωθῇ ἡ γραφὴ).

While there were good "physical" reasons why Jesus would be thirsty, John reports Jesus as announcing his thirst for clear and overt theological reasons. John's Jesus is fulfilling his mission, and the moment of "thirst" in v. 28 is a deliberate act to that end.

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  • Actually, Ps.69:21 is fulfilled in the soldiers’ action, NOT Jesus’ words. It is their action – giving him vinegar to drink – that ‘fulfills scripture’, just as it was their action that fulfilled scripture in v.24 and v.33. It would have been more ‘miraculous’ (and consistent) if Jesus had said nothing and the soldiers fulfilled the scripture unbidden. Your suggestion that his statement was calculating -- saying something to get them to do a specific something to satisfy his theological purpose -- sounds too cunning. – Schuh May 9 '16 at 3:20
  • Does the LXX reflect my "thirst" with the same word used in John? – Revelation Lad Apr 13 '17 at 15:48
  • @RevelationLad Almost! But Jesus' words in John don't quote Ps 69:21 (different, then, from Ps 22:1). Greek Ps 69:21 (= LXX-Ps 68) uses the noun dipsa, while John 19:28 uses the verb dipsaō. – Dɑvïd Apr 13 '17 at 17:47
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Jesus is fulfilling Psalm 69.

They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink. - Psalm 69:21

The evangelists often tell their story in a way that causes literal fulfillment of Old Testament passages. In this case "I thirst" was a mechanism to a) trigger the bringing of the sour wine and b) signal to the reader that this is a reference to Psalm 69. You would not know that Jesus was thirsty if he had not said so, and without knowing you wouldn't be sure if it was an intentional reference to Psalm 69 or not.

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His thirst was a similar to his hunger in Jn 4:32&34. He was thirsty for the wells of salvation mentioned in Isaiah 12:3(wells are deep beneath the earth to show that man could only receive life through his death in Christ). He died in thirst but awoke without it (fulfilling 53:11) . It was our salvation that he thirsted for. If it was physical thirst alone, then the blood and water gushing out of his 5th rib shouldn't have happened.

Men eat and drink. For Jesus, his food was to DO the WILL of the one who sent him and to FINISH his work. So he had eaten up to that point. But to finish the father's will he would have to drink. He was eager to get it over with so he cried out in thirst. It was after this cry of thirst that he declared it finished!!!

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In "The Science of Crucifixion", Dr Cathleen Shrier, professor of Biology at Azusa Pacific University explains the biological mechanism driving Jesus thirst, stating:

"...flogging leaves the skin on Jesus’ back in long ribbons. By this point, He has lost a great volume of blood which causes His blood pressure to fall and puts Him into shock. The human body attempts to remedy imbalances such as decreased blood volume, so Jesus’ thirst is His body’s natural response to His suffering (John 19:28). If He would have drank water, His blood volume would have increased."

So in answer to your question, the reason he cries out that he is thirsty is due to the physical and biological demands of crucifixion - it makes him unquenchably and excruciatingly thirsty. This does not appear to be as much a request for a drink as it is a lamentation of his pain. Inclusion of this note highlights both Jesus humanity and the extreme nature of his torture and crucifixion.

He probably couldn't trust that there would be anything nice to drink and in fact, they give him soured wine (vinegar) instead of something nice like water. In a way, this is Jesus crying out in pain from his torture and asking for some relief and mercy from his captors.

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  • James, please state where you think the text shows Jesus asking for a drink. Thank you – Daisy Apr 19 '16 at 19:51
  • @Daisy - As I said - "This does not appear to be as much a request for a drink as it is a lamentation of his pain." but this is bolded in the included passage above. – James Shewey Apr 19 '16 at 19:53
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    This is a great discussion. Thank you for all your thoughts, especially your answer James, it seems to make sense. Another thank you for quoting your source! Very informative. – misosouper Apr 19 '16 at 21:50
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I answered this on a similar question here. My answer asserts that it is an allusion to Obadiah and Deuteronomy 32. Edom's cruelty to Israel when they were in dire straights is compared Jerusalem's cruelty to the messiah in his death.

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The text of John 19:28-29 does not state that Christ asked for a drink. It says: "I thirst."

Because there is no record of Christ asking for help or complaining of pain while scourged and crucified, and because his other statements on the cross are about his purpose/a future time/prophecy, I don't think it's accurate to assume that he said "I thirst" because he was thirsty for a drink. I appreciate James Shewey's response about the biologist's comments and his answer is well-written and compassionate. But I disagree that, at any time, Christ asked for any type of relief from his captors. I think your last paragraph is correct.

The Greek word for "thirst" is "dispao" (G1372), διψάω

From Thayer's Lexicon:

"absolutely to suffer thirst; suffer from thirst... figuratively, those are said to thirst who painfully feel their want of, and eagerly long for, those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, strengthened."


Christ's use of "thirst" or "thirsty" to describe "living water" (NIV):

"Whoever drinks of the water I give them will never thirst” (John 4:14)

“Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

"Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.” (John 7:37)

“Never again will they thirst.” (Revelation 7:16)

“Let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.” (Revelation 22:17)

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