A Word of Need (John 19:28)

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Service Notes

  • Order of Service: Evening Prayer
  • Hymns: LSB #447 (13-15), 437

Theme Verse

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.”

Sermon Text

We Americans rarely experience physical thirst. It's hard to grasp how blessed we are to be able to get water simply by turning on a faucet. How often we take the most basic need for water for granted. We complain about Slayton city water, including not using it for our Sunday morning coffee. That preference is nothing in comparison to our brothers and sisters in Flint, MI. One simple, money-saving decision caused a great crisis that lasted for years, but the personal effects will last even longer. Toxic levels of lead in the undertreated water may continue to effect the nearly one hundred thousand residents who were forced to find other sources for drinking water. They were in need for water. Water we often take for granted. We don't realize our need until we're not able to get it any more. When Jesus Spoke a Word of Need, “I thirst,” more than we can realize…

Our Savior needed that drink.

Jesus is certainly not preaching sermons from the cross. His Seven Words so far have gasped from parched lips that refused a drink of wine vinegar when they first reached Golgotha. We’ve heard Him gasp: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” “I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise.” “Woman, behold your son.” “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”…“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

But now Jesus knows He’s nearing the goal. For this reason He was born of the virgin Mary. For this reason He had lived. For this reason He would die. He would not be like a bar tender watering down the whiskey or like a restaurant serving very expensive wine barely filling the bottom of your glass. For the hundreds of prophecies the Holy Spirit had made about Him, Jesus was determined to fill all of them past the brim.

“Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scirpture), 'I thirst.'” What Scripture? There are a couple from the Psalms, as many of the Words from the Cross have come from the Psalms. The sons of Korah wrote in this evening's Psalm: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants My soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? … I say to God, My Rock: 'Why have You forgotten Me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?' As with a deadly wound in My bones, My adversaries taunt Me, while they say to Me all the day long, 'Where is Your God?'”

For God and for us Jesus endured shame all His life until this most shameful death of all on the cross. Agonizing in His heart to His heavenly Father, Jesus prayed, “You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed; all My enemies are before You. Scorn has broken My heart and has left Me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none. They put gall in My food and gave Me vinegar for My thirst.” Our Savior needed that drink, but …

We needed that drink even more.

Several college students went to the Boundary Waters years ago for vacation. At first it was a big joke that no one thought to bring water, only beer. But one of the survivors recalled years later that he could still remember how bad the beer tasted on the third and fourth day with nothing else to drink. We make our big plans and rush to get wherever, but fail again and again to take care of our most important problem that reaches way deeper than the cells of our bodies into the depths of our souls. We get depressed and lonely, overworked and under loved, and yet we’re like babies crying – they don’t know why. And it takes a wise parent to realize a little water may be all this little one needs.

Could Jesus in His raging thirst remember another time when water was so vital? Did He think back to that time at Jacob’s well when He asked a Samaritan woman to get Him a drink? John also recorded this back in chapter 4 of his Gospel. The woman was amazed that a Jewish man would even talk to her. But when He mentioned something about being able to give her “living water,” she thought never getting thirsty again sounded good. As they discussed things of Heaven and earth, the “living water” went deep into her soul. Despite her immoral reputation, she suddenly had Gospel feet that ran back to get the townspeople to come and meet Jesus. How many times have we failed to go the extra mile to encourage someone who needs to hear the Gospel of our Lord’s forgiveness? How often have we turned away when someone tried to admonish us about our sins, especially the sins of the heart? How deeply have we drunk of this “living water” only to take its thirst quenching power for granted?

Jesus always knew: We needed that drink even more. It’s not like we’re in a desert, but more like sinking into the depths of the salt water sea where we can be surrounded like Captain Ahab with “water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.” The Holy Spirit foretold this through David too in Jesus’ words: “But I pray to you, O LORD, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation. Rescue me from the mire, do not let me sink; deliver me from those who hate me, from the deep waters. Do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me up or the pit close its mouth over me. Answer me, O LORD, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me. Do not hide your face from your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in trouble. Come near and rescue me; redeem me because of my foes.”

When life gets overwhelming and the loneliness unbearable, when your sadness gets heavier than ever because of guilt and sin, remember Jesus: He Spoke a Word of Need. Every tear you shed has already streamed down His cheeks. Every wound of body and soul that has pained your heart and mind, He has suffered willingly. Among the griefs and sorrows that He carried for us to the cross, surely our thirsty need for forgiveness and grace was the heaviest. By Word and sacrament He will pour the “water of life” into you. But He will not stop at full. In Psalm 23, King David wrote, “My cup runneth over.” The overflow of God’s love for you is meant for everyone you know. Let them drink of Jesus’ loving kindness and tender mercy as have we. No better way to thank the Lord than this. Amen.