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The Fifth Word: “I am thirsty.” (John 19:2)

By Mark D. Roberts | Thursday, March 20, 2008

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Painting from a church in Taormina, Sicily


No doubt Jesus experienced extreme thirst while being crucified. He would have lost a substantial quantity of bodily fluid, both blood and sweat, through what he had endured even prior to crucifixion. Thus his statement, “I am thirsty” was, on the most obvious level, a request for something to drink. In response the soldiers gave Jesus “sour wine” (v. 29), a cheap beverage common among lower class people in the time of Jesus.

John notes that Jesus said “I am thirsty,” not only as a statement of physical reality, but also in order to fulfill the Scripture. Though there is no specific reference in the text of the Gospel, it’s likely that John was thinking of Psalm 69, which includes this passage:

Their insults have broken my heart,
and I am in despair.
If only one person would show some pity;
if only one would turn and comfort me.
But instead, they give me poison for food;
they offer me sour wine for my thirst.
(vv. 20-21)

As he suffered, Jesus embodied the pain of the people of Israel, that which had been captured in the Psalms. Jesus was suffering for the sin of Israel, even as he was taking upon himself the sin of the world.

As I reflect on Jesus’ statement, “I am thirsty,” I keep thinking of my own thirst. It’s nothing like that of Jesus. Rather, I am thirsty for him. My soul yearns for the living water that Jesus supplies (John 4:10; 7:38-39). I rejoice in the fact that he suffered physical thirst on the cross – and so much more – so that my thirst for the water of life might be quenched.

Questions for Reflection

How do you respond to Jesus’ statement “I am thirsty”? What does this statement suggest to you about Jesus? About yourself?


O Lord, once again I thank you for what you suffered on the cross. Besides extraordinary pain, you also experienced extreme thirst. All of this was part and parcel of your taking on our humanity so that you might take away our sin.

Dear Lord, in your words “I am thirsty” I hear the cry of my own heart. I too am thirsty, Lord, not for physical drink. I don’t need sour wine. Rather, I need the new wine of your kingdom to flood my soul. I need to be refreshed by your living water. I yearn for your Spirit to fill me once again.

I am thirsty, Lord, for you. Amen.

Topics: Holy Week & Easter |

4 Responses to “The Fifth Word: “I am thirsty.” (John 19:2)”

  1. Holy Week Thoughts Around the Network : Says:
    July 20th, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    […] Mark Roberts offers a reflection on the words of Jesus from the cross. “My God, why have you forsaken me?” and “I am thirsty.” […]

  2. Kevin Murphy Says:
    April 6th, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Yes, perhaps John is referring to Psalm 69. Yet, I find it more gratifying — both from an emotional and literary point of view — in believing that when Christ speaks, “I am thirsty,” he is thinking back to his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7). His words represent a “tip of the hat” of sorts to the woman who had been so kind.

  3. Mark D. Roberts Says:
    April 6th, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Kevin: Interesting insight. Thanks.

  4. Alice Says:
    April 20th, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    i would like to know when Jesus says I am thirsty what he mean


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