Unquenchable Thirst

Thirst | Devotion #2: Unquenchable Thirst
Roger Allen | Recovery Director

I have been part of the Passion Play at The River Church for the last thirteen years. 

As a disciple, I am present at the scene depicting the crucifixion. I am one of the disciples who removes Jesus from the cross. With blood covering my hands and clothes, it is a stark and vivid portrayal of what happened to our Lord that day. From the flogging to the judgment of Pilate and the Sanhedrin, and finally at the cross, we see the broken body of our Savior. It is the purview of what He has done for you and me. His body was broken, and His blood was poured out for all. In the abuse He received, we see His sacrifice as the atonement for our sins. His humanity is on display for all to see. He was the perfect sacrifice. 

In John 19:28, we read His fifth and shortest statement from the cross, Jesus states “I Thirst.” He was showing that He was fully human. He was capable of feeling the pains of torture, death, sorrow, and sadness. This is one of the places where our Savior fulfills Scripture. Psalm 69:21 says, “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.”

On the surface, we see the crucifixion as a physical substitutionary atonement for our sins. Yet, in the fury of God’s wrath poured out over His son, we will find the full reason behind His thirst. It was an unquenchable thirst. It was one in which a mere drink would not suffice, no matter what the liquid was. His throat would remain parched and unsatisfied. Prior to taking on the sins of humanity, He had the perfect relationship with the Father, but because of that sin, His Father could no longer look on Him. Now abandoned and all alone, He thirsted to commune with God the Father. We need only to look at the previous statement on the cross to see His true suffering. Matthew 27:46 says, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”

Now, try and imagine the true depth of what Jesus did that day. He took our sins and cast them as far as the East is from the West. It is where our dry bones are brought to life because of His atonement. He died so we could have everlasting life. He did it so that we may not have to experience the thirst that the rich man did in Luke 16:19-31. It is where he asked in verse 24, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.” The weight of what Jesus did that day finds no true understanding in our finite minds. We are incapable of the magnitude of thought or depth that is required to understand. Yet, Jesus tells us in John 4:14, “But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

He has offered Himself as a drink offering to satisfy our thirst for a relationship with God. Knowing we could not manage the breach which was brought on by the fall, He took the penalty for our sin unto death.

His sympathetic thirst for humanity is beyond our understanding. The love He has for us shows through all He did on the cross. Whatever trials we may endure, we can be assured that He is with us until the end. As long as there is suffering in this world, our Lord will thirst. He thirsts for the lost, who suffer the pain of separation from the Father, and for those who suffer from emotional and physical pain. Others, through their own folly, who have brought pain to themselves and others, He brings forgiveness. We know from Scripture that Jesus will thirst. He came here in order to fulfill the will of the Father and in doing so, brought us mercy. 

Hebrews 2:17 adds, “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

Preconceived Notions

Thirst | Devotion #1: Preconceived Notions
Dr. Randy T. Johnson | Growth Pastor

Fox Broadcasting Company showcased a new show in 2019, “The Masked Singer.” On the show, celebrities competed against one another by singing while wearing an elaborate costume. They were fully covered, and their voice was altered to hide their identity. At every performance, they revealed a secret about their identity. Four celebrity judges tried to guess the performer’s identity. 

A man dressed as a peacock was one of the performers. He was wearing a cape and waved it across his body. It appeared to be solid black, but the underside was full of color. All four judges immediately focused on the rainbow and assumed the performer was part of the GLBTQ community. Their preconceived notions could only let them consider this option. I immediately said to my wife, “It is the coat of many colors. It is Donny Osmond.” About ten years ago, I took my wife to see Donny Osmond perform “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in Detroit. They gave another clue about a wig he wore while in prison. Donny may not have been in an actual prison, but Joseph was. One judge was thinking it was Donny Osmond but dismissed her guess as he was not part of that community and not believed to have been in prison.

Sometimes we get so locked into our natural thinking that we miss the obvious. John 19:28 says, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’” There are two valuable points to gather from the phrase, “I thirst.”

The first one is prophecy. Psalm 69:21 informs, “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” One thousand years before Jesus, this moment on the cross was proclaimed. Jesus fulfilled the prophecy.

The second point is very basic. We can become so focused on Jesus’ loving sacrifice for us that we forget He was human. Jesus was 100% God, and He was 100% man. He could forgive sin and still be thirsty. Right when we are so focused that Jesus is God, we are reminded that He was also a man. 

This month as we visualize Jesus as God on the cross, we also need to remember Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  

My God

Forsaken | Devotion #6: My God
Michael Fox | Creative Director

I do not know about you, but I often need to be reminded of what God has done for me. I lose sight sometimes; I need perspective. The best way to gain that perspective back is to read God’s Word – and remember how great He is!

Sin separated me from God. I needed a savior. He loves me. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” These simple promises are a great reminder. Remember what Jesus did for us at the cross: He took our sins, died for us, and then conquered the grave!

I like studying things that I have heard many times and learning something new. It continually shows me how real God is. Looking at the cross, I learned something new this week. John Gill, in his Exposition of the Bible, talks about a point that I have never thought about before. Matthew 27:46 says, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”

Jesus cries out “My God, my God.” We know that Jesus was both God and man, which is something that is very tough to wrap our minds around. Here though, John Gill is suggesting that Jesus is showing His “human side,” calling to “His God.” 

He also cries out, “Why have you forsaken me?” I looked up the word forsaken, and it means to “leave behind” or “abandon.” All sin was put on Jesus at that time. I believe this phrase helps show us the realness of what was happening at that moment. He felt abandoned by His Father and God because of what He was going through. However, that is not the end. Jesus conquered the grave and fulfilled what God said He would do, and now provides us eternal life. That reminder is what I needed today!

Silence not Absence

Forsaken | Devotion #5: Silence not Absence
Debbie Kerr | Office Administrator

Have you ever felt like God was distant or even silent? If you answered yes, you are not alone. There are certain seasons when I feel God is so near in my spirit and also in tangible ways through His children. There have also been times when I have felt forsaken or alone, but God seemed far away. My faith has been tested at those times, but I rely 100% on the promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

The word forsaken means to renounce, entirely turn away, deserted, or abandoned.  Some of the last words Jesus spoke while hanging on the cross for our sins are included in Matthew 27:46, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” So we ask the question, did God forsake Jesus on the cross?

The Bible teaches that Jesus was 100% God and 100% man, while He was on the Earth. His cry to God was a human response to this kind of torture. He was not asking the question to know the answer or because He did not understand. He willingly went to the cross. John 10:17-18 says, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” 

Did God answer Jesus’ question? It was rhetorical; He knew the answer! Through the account in Scripture, He appeared to be silent. God is always near and always listening even when we do not seem to get an answer. In those difficult times, it is important to rely on His Word, believing He will provide everything we need. Silence does not mean absence! 

Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

We need to trust God’s plan whether we understand it or not. Everything we go through has a purpose, for our good and His glory. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  

Paul adds in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Jesus can relate to our pain and sufferings. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” 

Hebrews 12:2 adds, “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” 

You have a God who understands and is concerned about you. You are not going through this life alone. Trust His plan and know His heart. 

Pay it Forward

Forsaken | Devotion #4: Pay it Forward
Pat Bedell

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Matthew 27:46

We have all been there. Some more than others, but we have all felt the excruciating pain. I am not talking about physical pain, but emotional and spiritual pain. It could be losing a loved one by death or abandonment, or just spiraling into a state of constant, unrelenting temptation and sin. We have all been brought to our rock bottom and fallen before God screaming, “Why?” We have felt ashamed, guilty, scared, and all alone with no one or where to turn. Jesus had a plan in place long before we ever felt this way, and in the end, it works out in our favor.   

When I was a young boy, I remember exploring in the woods behind my house. I thought I knew our property well enough to navigate myself through all of the trails. Somehow or another, I found myself lost. I did not have a cell phone or a clue which way was home or which way to the closest trail. All I had was my voice when I could find a deep breath in between crying. I prayed to God quickly, and I asked if He was so powerful, why would He not let my parents find me? Why would He let me get lost? 

I now know that God puts us in these situations and lets us experience raw emotions. It helps us learn lessons to become better Christians. 

Obviously, Jesus had a little bit of a different situation. Jesus came to this Earth as part of the flesh and experienced first hand the struggles of our life. The temptations, ill thoughts, anger, and frustration were among some of the provoking events. When Jesus was rebuked and beaten, He knew what He was doing. He was about to give the ultimate sacrifice for humankind and save our souls for eternity. He took all of our sins. It covered the past, present, and future for all mankind to secure their place in Heaven if they would believe He did so. At that very moment, when He took on the sin of the world, Jesus was forsaken by God, and Jesus gave us a gift we never deserved. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV), “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus became sin for us. He became sin. He took on our sin. He was cursed, abandoned, and forsaken, all to save us from our sin. 

As much as this story warms my heart, I know that Jesus did something that was unimaginably awful. To think of the sheer mass of the amount of sin that He had to bear. He did it for us and our salvation. However, with that sacrifice, He also made the commitment never to leave us in our struggles. Hebrews 13:5 (NIV) reminds us, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  

This is our victory in and through Christ. Jesus took our place. He was forsaken, so we do not have to be. He was separated from God, so we do not have to be. He took our sins away so we could have eternal life with Him. It is so important that you recognize that you are never alone in the battle. People take on their battles every day.  Everyone has their vice and if we could all just rely on God to help us with these daily battles, I believe that the forsakenness we feel would fade and we would learn to know that God is in control and that when we recognize our inequities, we would learn that He taught us something in His name. Then we can turn around and help someone with the same struggles and tell them they are not alone. God is in control, and He will never forsake you in your desperate time of need.

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