The Fifth Word:
I Am Thirsty

By Mark D. Roberts

April 8, 2020

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.”

John 19:28 (NRSV)


Today’s devotion is the fifth in a Life for Leaders series focusing on the seven last words of Christ from the cross. If you missed the previous entries in this series, you can find them on our Life for Leaders page on our website.

In the account of the crucifixion in the Gospel of John, Jesus said “I am thirsty” (John 19:28). No doubt he experienced extreme thirst while being crucified. He would have lost a substantial quantity of bodily fluid, both blood and sweat, through being crucified and through what he had endured prior to crucifixion. Thus his statement, “I am thirsty” was, on the most obvious level, a report of a physical feeling and a request for something to drink. In response, the soldiers gave Jesus “sour wine” (John 19:29), a cheap beverage common among lower-class people in the first century A.D.

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:

Insults have broken my heart,
+++so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none;
+++and for comforters, but I found none.
They gave me poison for food,
+++and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink (Psalm 69:20-21).

As he suffered, Jesus embodied the pain of the people of Israel, which had been portrayed in the Psalms. Jesus was suffering for the sin of Israel. Of course, he was also acting as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

As I reflect on Jesus’s statement, “I am thirsty,” I keep thinking of my own thirst. On a physical level, I have felt intense thirst that might be a little like what Jesus experienced. But, from another perspective, my thirst is nothing like that of Jesus. You see, I am thirsty for him. My soul yearns for the living water that Jesus supplies (John 4:10; John 7:38-39). I long for a deeper and more intimate relationship with him. I want to be filled with his presence much as I might be filled with water after a long, cool drink. I rejoice in the fact that Jesus suffered physical thirst on the cross—and so much more—so that my thirst for him might be satisfied.

Behind the simple statement “I am thirsty” there is much good news. There’s the good news that Jesus, the divine Son of God, was also fully human. He knows what ordinary human experiences, like thirst, feel like. The thirst of Jesus also points to the good news that he endured the thirst of the cross so that he might make his living water available to us. Because Jesus was thirsty, you can drink the living water he offers, the water of life, the water that uniquely satisfies.

Something to Think About:

How do you respond to Jesus’s statement “I am thirsty”? How do you feel when you read this? What do you think?

What does this statement suggest to you about Jesus?

What does it suggest to you about yourself?

Something to Do:

In some moments of reflection, see if you can remember a time when you were very thirsty. How did it feel? What were you thinking at the time about your thirst? Can you relate this feeling of physical thirst to your thirst for Jesus? What might God be saying to you as you reflect on your thirst for God?


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.


You can access all of our Life for Leaders devotions HERE. You can also learn more about the De Pree Center and its resources HERE.

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project:
The Claimant’s Psalm (based on Psalm 69)


Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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