‘Later knowing that all was now completed and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28)
Just as people long to quench their thirst after a physically exhausting activity, Jesus too asked for a drink and he was offered wine vinegar. He permitted his physical thirst to be quenched before his death because he was being human. To interpret that it was a spiritual thirst for souls, is to ignore his human dimension and portray him as super human. The gospel writers took note of his hunger, thirst and tiredness. Had it been a spiritual thirst, he should have declined to drink but Scripture says he received the drink. ( Vs 30) He would not have asked for a drink, if he intended to purposely decline to create an aura of his super human strength for everyone to see. But he showed himself to be human by just asking for a drink and it reminds us not to be super spiritual. Yet when he was offered wine to drink the first time, as he was about to be crucified, he refused to drink because after tasting it, he knew it was mixed with gall, a pain reliever of sorts. ( Matthew 27:34) It was the usual practice to give stupefying potions to those who were being crucified, to numb their senses so that they will not be able to sense the excruciating pain. Offering him gall and vinegar was in fulfillment of prophecy. ‘They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.’ (Psalm 69:21) He refused to drink because he was willing to face the full extent of the pain. He wanted to be alert and not sedated. He stayed sober and in his right mind throughout his ordeal. There are those who drink to alleviate their sufferings or indulge in food and entertainment or social media to forget their woes. But the Spirit gives a believer soundness of mind, just as he gave Jesus, so that we will have the presence of mind to endure our cross.
Before he let his physical thirst be quenched, he satisfied his spiritual thirst and hunger, of which he spoke many times. Once when his disciples had gone to buy food because Jesus was tired ( John 4:6), a Samaritan woman came to draw water from the well and Jesus asked her for a drink. In the midst of the talk, Jesus forgot all about his thirst and she forgot to offer him a drink! Instead, he offers her ‘living waters’. Later on, when his disciples arrived with food, they urged him to eat (vs 31) but Jesus seemed to have had his fill! He said, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about … “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (Vs 32-34) So now having finished his work, he permitted his physical thirst, that he felt before his death, to be quenched. He was not overcome by the physical but was overcome by his zeal for God. He exhibited an order of priority – spiritual over the physical. He didn’t deny the physical but placed the spiritual over and above the physical. Jesus has given us a model to live by. How many times we have been overcome by the flesh! Our hunger doesn’t permit us to fast. Our sleepiness or tiredness wouldn’t permit us to pray at night. Those who cannot control their appetites are termed as ‘carnal’ or ‘worldly’ ( 1 Corinthians 3:1). Paul did not call them ‘unbelievers’ but ‘mere infants in Christ’, because though they believe, yet they are controlled by their appetites, just as infants are! Those overcome by their physical appetites are still controlled by the sinful nature and not by the Spirit. Esau, who could not control his hunger, was later called ‘godless’, though being a good man. ‘See to it that no one is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterwards, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind though he sought the blessings with tears’ (Hebrews 12:16-17) because ‘the one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction. The one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.’ (Galatians 6:8) Do not indulge in the physical at the cost of the spiritual! Amen.