28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. (John 19:28–29)
At the Cross, there is God’s epitome of humility.
The author of a book I’ve been reading recently posed three pointed questions, which he observed a lot of people wrestle with today: Is God unfair? Is God silent? Is God hidden?
In the light of our present circumstances, perhaps, we may want to murmur with a “yes”, or “hmm…sometimes”, or “maybe”? For those who want to play safe, they might just shrug their shoulders and reply, “I don’t know”.
However, when we see Jesus Christ at the cross, it’s as if we shrink in silence. It’s as if we can’t dare muster a word.
Why? Because Jesus did not commit a crime, yet he was treated like a culprit. He was stripped off his garments; his clothes had to be divided among four soldiers; his fine tunic they cast lots. Jesus was severely mocked and suffered unimaginable pain. Like in Isaiah 53:7,
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
All these, in a humanly perspective, may seem unfair! And what I’m going through is nothing in comparison to what Jesus went through.
Admittedly, at least one person here would probably fight back when opposition comes their way. Is that true? Well, I could be guilty of that. I’ve already punched a guy in the face before, on my defense. (And I sought God’s forgiveness for that!)
For some who are blessed with more patience, they would say something like this: “Okay lang sa’kin na ako ang masaktan, huwag lang ang mga mahal ko sa buhay.” Does that sound familiar?
Either way, it is human instinct that we somehow fight back, we just differ in terms of degree and in the form of how we do it.
Now, what did the Son of God do? Out of humility, he remained silent and he endured instead. When he got flogged, he did not cry: “Ouch, my back!” When he was crowned with thorns, he didn’t shout: “Not my head!” When he carried his cross, he did not complain: “I can’t carry this! It’s just too heavy!”
Yet here in our text in John 19:28, Jesus said, “I thirst”. Among the last few recorded words, I must say that this could be the “most human”, since this appears to be his only complaint about his outward sufferings, as compared to the other six statements in the traditional seven last words of Jesus Christ.
Jesus was very tired, I suppose. With the wounds that he had, he could be losing a lot of blood by then. With the climate and condition of their land, it could have added to his struggle. Now, Jesus thirsted and therefore needed a drink.
There was a jar of sour wine (or wine vinegar, which was used by ordinary people) that stood there. So they got a sponge full of it, placed it on a branch, and held it in Jesus’ mouth.
As I reflect, indeed in this lifetime, I could never fully grasp the humility of Jesus Christ. He, being in the form of God, emptied himself and took the form of a servant.
Everything in creation was like God’s footstool, as Isaiah said. By God’s word, things came into being. He named the stars in the heavens and put them in their appropriate place. But we hear him now say, “I am thirsty”.
Jesus Christ was entitled with all the glory and all the privileges of being God. Yet being human, he was exposed to our physical conditions: to stress, to our need to work for a living, to bodily aging; and even down to the basic needs of clothing, shelter, of food, and… the need for a drink.
But the Son of God, even in his humanity, narrowed His focus to the Father’s plan. He was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
And now we learn that even if things seemed so unfair, when God seemed hidden or silent… through Jesus’ submission to God’s will, we were given the opportunity to come into an intimate relationship (into a restored fellowship) with God. He did it all out of pure love and pure grace… out of utter obedience.
Amazing. Indeed, at the cross, we find Jesus Christ as God’s epitome of humility.
And in His example, may we humble ourselves as well.
May we not assert what we want, but learn to yield. May God give us the grace to say “no” to pride, and to say “yes” to Jesus.
May God move us to die to ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus Christ.