These two little words carry a lot of meaning! I’ve been thinking about this sentence for well over two weeks. I just didn’t realize the impact they would play in my life after the Restore retreat the weekend of March 10.
It was exactly 7 days almost down to the hour when it hit me. A throbbing headache and aching body began to take me down. That night I slept under 4 blankets, shaking with all muscles tensed, and wondering what was going on with my body. I contributed the headache and tense muscles to exhaustion, as I had been going nonstop for quite some time with job demands and responsibilities. I’m notorious for pushing my limits. I thought I just needed rest. The next morning I awakened with a high fever of 102. There was no way I could go to work and teach my kindergarteners music. I couldn’t lift my head so I made the call that I wasn’t going to school. I know the importance of keeping hydrated, so I drank. It seemed like I was sipping every 10 minutes! I was so thirsty. I remember thinking of the two words that Jesus spoke while on the cross. I thirst. Then I recalled how it intrigued me to think about it after the retreat and that I wanted to write a blog about it. I was beginning to experience thirst in a way that meant more to me than just being physically thirsty. God began to get my attention.
As I lie there on the sofa, trying hard to rest, I began to think about the things that extract all the juice or energy from me. What is it that drains me and causes me to thirst? I began to make a mental list of the ways I felt thirsty.
I thirst for peace in my job.
I thirst for direction in my life.
I thirst for living life abundantly.
I thirst for rest and energy.
I thirst for impacting the world for the cause of Christ.
I thirst for fulfillment.
I thirst for laughter and fun.
I thirst for being the person I used to be, full of life, healthy, strong, and tenderhearted.
I thirst for a passionate heart…spiritual passion. I just spoke about this on the retreat. Now is seems my soul is weary and drained and a passion for my first love has moved down the list.
I thirst for wisdom.
I thirst for creativity.
I thirst for heaven.
As I look over my list, I am shocked at what has been revealed. How can it be that I am a follower of Christ, drank of the living water, and still have such thirst?
The high fever absorbed my capacity to think clearly. My sleep was often interrupted with dreams of the words “I THIRST” floating around in my brain as a caption or the title of a movie on a marquee. I thirsted for a break from my over imaginative mind. My body needed hydration. I thirsted for drink to sustain me. The illness had me isolated. I thirsted for fellowship. I was limp and didn’t want to do or think anything. Yet I craved contact with others.
My very high fever broke on day 6. I had been to the doctor and had lab work and a chest X-ray mid week. I thirsted for wellness! I thirsted for normality. I thirsted for a breath without coughing! I thirsted for control over my body. I thirsted for relief. The infection was strong. In my weakened state, my soul cried out, “Oh God, why must I thirst?”
The battle between knowing my weaknesses, limits, and failures fought strong against my heart that truly knows God’s love, concern, and affections for me.
“I am teaching you,” He seemed to speak.
Quite honestly, I’m never too happy when He chooses to teach me in such a way that breaks my strong will or doesn’t fit into my schedule. But I am once again reminded of His words in John, “Apart from me you can do nothing!
I just read a letter from Anne Graham Lotz (March 12, 2018) online. After the death of her father, Billy Graham, she spent the next two weeks in a whirlwind surrounding his funeral and the events in the White House Rotunda as his body was laid in honor. She spent countless hours standing and pouring out of herself into the lives of others.
“To say I was beyond exhaustion physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, would not come close to describing my state of being. But the Lord knew I was poised to plunge into frantic activity in order to catch up on two weeks of work that had been paused. He knew that while I needed rest…quiet…isolation…I wouldn’t take it unless I was forced to take it. So Sunday afternoon I became ill. I assumed it was just total exhaustion, or the effects of the icy wind under the funeral tent, but later in the week I was diagnosed with the worst strain of the flu. For the past eight days I have been forced to lie down. To do nothing but rest. By myself. I know the Lord who is my Shepherd is the One who has made me lie down.”
“I also know, after I have rested a while and recuperated from this illness, that there is one thing I will do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:14)” ~Anne Graham Lotz
I found her words comforting, for I too am poised to plunge into frantic activity to catch up on what has been lost. What was it that was so important for me to learn that God had to put me down? What did He want to teach me? And why now?
“And being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly:
and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground.”
Then came the confrontation with the soldiers. The betrayal of a friend. A weary body now being tossed, pushed, and pulled as they traveled back to town. There was long periods of standing… then came the scourging, mockery, trial, betrayal of the crowd, the nakedness, the walk with the heavy cross, the nails…the gaze into the eyes of a hating crowd, soldiers, and heartbroken mother and brother. And if that wasn’t enough, He was placed between two thieves…misjudged by all, and He still gave of Himself when He spoke the words of comfort to the one thief.
As Jesus hung there and cried out because of thirst, He was fulfilling scripture. The weight of sin was placed upon Him and the Father turned His face away. Jesus thirsted! Fellowship was broken. All that Jesus had known was now changed forever. His love for all of humanity flowed deep. The thirst that He experienced was two fold, physical and spiritual. He cried aloud, I thirst! Letting us know what was taking place. Then He cried, It is finished.
I love this teaching from John Piper on the fifth saying of Jesus on the cross and had to share!
But in spite of the reality and intensity and significance of Jesus' physical thirst, I am convinced that something deeper is being expressed by this fifth word. Underlying his physical thirst is another kind of thirst that Jesus experienced in a deeper, more profound way on the cross—spiritual thirst. The evidence that leads me to this conviction comes from the use of the verb "thirst." The verb "thirst" or "be thirsty" is found five times in the gospel of John in addition to our text here in John 19. All five are in contexts referring to spiritual thirst.
Three of these usages occur in John 4:13–15 in the course of Jesus' discussion with the woman at the well. Jesus offers himself to her as the one who can give her living water to drink. And he says that "who ever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (v. 14). In John 6:35 Jesus says, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." And in John 7:37–38 Jesus declared, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from him." And John helps us understand what Jesus meant by adding in the next verse, "By this he (Jesus) meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive."
Putting all this evidence together, we can see that this thirst that Jesus was speaking about is a spiritual craving for God, a longing that operates deep within the heart of every human being created in the image of God, a thirst that Jesus and Jesus alone can satisfy for all eternity. According to John's gospel this universal spiritual thirst can be quenched and satisfied only by the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised to give to all who will believe in him, and who will give to the believer eternal life. And it is this kind of thirst, this spiritual thirst, that Jesus experienced on the cross.
There, as he took upon himself the sins of all his people, Jesus Christ experienced, for the first time in all eternity, the horror of separation from God. The Father turned his back on the Son while he hung there on the cross, in our place, inflicting upon him the full fury of his wrath for our sins. We hear of the horrifying reality of this separation from Jesus' own lips, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34). Jesus had known the joy of intimate fellowship with his Father, and now during this time of separation, Jesus wanted it back; he longed for it; he thirsted after God. On the cross Jesus was the supreme fulfillment of Psalm 63:1, "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water."
This, then, at the deepest level, is the thirst Jesus experienced on the cross. He was physically thirsty to be sure. His physical thirst consummated his physical suffering. But his physical thirst was only the tip of the iceberg. Jesus' deepest, most profound thirst was spiritual, thirsting after his Father, from who he was separated as he hung on the cross paying the penalty for our sins.
I have heard it said that Jesus experienced everything we go through in life. As I have pondered these two words the last couple of weeks, I am once againin awestruck wonder of His love for me. HE thirsted for ME.
I look back over my list of ways that I have thirsted and I’m still astonished that I would have such thoughts! But don’t we all? Can we honestly say that we don’t thirst or long for more of Jesus? Jesus gave His all! It is more of US that He desires. We have been given all we need when we trusted Christ as Savior. Maybe we haven’t tapped into the spring that flows. I love what John Piper says about thirst as He also found himself in a place thirsty for God. He and I shared the same question. How is it that we drink of living water and still thirst? These are the words that God revealed to him during his cry for a quenching of spiritual thirst. I found it quite helpful as I sought answers to my own questions on the matter.
“When you drink my water it doesn’t destroy thirst. For then what need would you have of my water after that? When you drink my water it makes a spring in you. A spring satisfies thirst not by removing the need you have for water, but by being there to drink from when you get thirsty. Again and again and again. Like this morning. Drink, John. Drink.”
Now as I sit here writing, I see this precious truth in Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” But we cry out, “O Lord, today I have wants! I know a hundred people who count you their shepherd who have wants. What do you mean? We shall not want.
But now I have learned a lesson. Cry out and read on. “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the still waters, he restores my soul.” Re-stores. That means the wants rise, and then Jesus satisfies. They rise again and he re-satisfies. Life is a rhythm of need and nourishment. Even a rhythm of danger and deliverance. “Though I go through the valley of the shadow of death …” It will (again) break forth onto green pastures. And the still waters will flow (again). The spring is even now welling up within. And will for ever.”
“This water becomes a spring — a well of water (verse 14: “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water”). That’s why you never get thirsty again — not because one drink is enough, but because one true drink produces a well for an eternity of drinks.” ~John Piper
This morning I am finding my thirst quenched for I have tapped into the well. The thirst I experience is only temporal and a part of the rhythm of life. Long ago my soul thirsted for eternal water. I drank of that living water and now have an eternal spring from which to be refreshed and restored. It is my belief that God chose to put me down to fully understand and experience His words on the cross and that Re-storing comes from a period of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion.
"He restores my soul!" Ps. 23:2
Restored by Jesus' Thirst,
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