James Merritt - Suffer Well
I want you to turn to John 19. John 19. Let me kind of tell you what's going on. Jesus is nearly dead. And that much was clear to everybody. It might be minutes. It might be an hour but even a Roman soldier, much less a doctor could easily see that the end is now near and just as He's getting to the point where He knows He's not going to be here very much longer, almost like a gasp, or a last gasp, this sound comes out and it's more like a moan that you could barely hear and it's the shortest of all the statements that Jesus ever made on the cross but it is one of the absolute most revealing statements that He made. We're in John 19. "Later, knowing that everything had now been finished and so that scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, 'I am thirsty.'"
Three words in English. One word in Greek and it only has four letters and it's very interesting. It's the only statement Jesus ever makes in six hours that refers to His suffering, that refers to his physical pain, that refers to how much He's actually hurting. Because up to this point, Jesus had been focusing on the need of others. You remember. His foes needed forgiveness. "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they're doing". There was a felon that needed forgiveness. He needed eternal life. Jesus said, "Today, you'll be with Me in paradise". His family had to be taken care of, His mother. He said to John, "John, from now on, she's your mom. Mom from now, he's your son". But now he deals with His own personal physical suffering. He says, "I am thirsty".
And in those three words, He tells us, listen that one of the things you better make sure is on your bucket list before you die, is to suffer well. I'm talking to people right now and you're suffering. Some of you are suffering physically. Some of you are suffering emotionally. Some of you are suffering financially. But you know what it is to suffer. As a matter of fact, many people suffer while they're living, and many people suffer while they're dying and what Jesus does in these three little words, He tells us how to suffer and how to suffer well. How do you handle suffering and how do you handle it well? Three things we're going to learn today. The same thing Jesus did. Number one, admit your pain. That's the first thing you need to do. If you're suffering in any way whatsoever, admit your pain.
Now, notice the first word in this verse. You see this word, later. Why did John put that in there? Later? What's he talking about? Well, it's not really appreciated or understood just how much pain and suffering Jesus experienced on the cross. You know, we see these movies on TV or even almost when we read about it in the Bible, it's kind of cleaned up. It's kind of chloroformed. It's not really as real as it would have been there. But let me just let you understand. For six hours, He had been undergoing the absolutely most torturous death that human beings have ever invented. Because prior to being nailed on the cross, He had been through 12 hours of pure torture. He had been beaten. He had been slapped. I've told you He'd been scourged with cat of nine tails. They took a whip that had nine different ends and it had different metals and metal balls on it and they ripped into His back until His back was just ribbons of flesh hanging off.
You could see right through into His ribcage. They had crowned Him with thorns that burrowed into His scalp. His beard had been ripped out. They then pounded nails into His hand and nails into His feet. Hey, no wonder He's thirsty. We're kind of told some time, be stoic, be tough, don't ever complain, never let 'em see you sweat. Jesus did. So, I want to tell you, it's okay when you're hurting to admit you're hurting. It's okay when you're in pain of any kind, physical, mental, spiritual, emotional to let God know and to tell God that you're hurting because by the way, He knows it anyway. So, if you're suffering, number one, admit your pain. Number two, accept God's plan. Accept God's plan.
Now, there's still a great puzzle to this statement. I mean, if you understand who Jesus was and what Jesus did, you can't help but think, you know, there's something wrong with this picture. I mean, the One that scooped out the oceans and carved out the lakes and lined out the rivers and traced out the streams, the One who did all that said, "I am thirsty". The one who said, "I am the water of life," has no water for Himself and you have to ask again, why did Jesus go through what He did not have to go through? Why is Jesus saying something right now He never should have had to say? Well, now watch this. John does us a big favor. He not only tells us what Jesus said, but why Jesus said it and it's not totally what you think. Oh, He said He was thirsty because He was thirsty. But there was a bigger reason than that. Listen to what John said. "Later, knowing that everything had now been finished," now watch this, "and so that scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, 'I am thirsty.'"
Whoa. John said, oh He didn't just say He was thirsty because He was thirsty. Now, when you say you're thirsty or I say I'm thirsty, there's only one reason we say that because we're thirsty. But Jesus didn't just say He was thirsty because He was thirsty. There's something more that drove His thirst and something more that drove that statement. Somehow, right in the middle of the worst suffering you can imagine He was going through. Jesus realized, He says, wait a minute. All of this is happening according to the plan of God. It's happening because God predicted it would happen. It's happening according to the fulfillment of scripture.
See, other gospel writers for example, they talk about the dividing of the garments and the casting of lots. But John goes to the trouble to talk about how the word of God is being fulfilled at this very moment. By the way, you know why John said that? He's reminding all of us just to remember the cross and the crucifixion was not an accident. It wasn't a mess up. It wasn't a mistake. It was not a slip up. Neither is Jesus being thirsty and letting us know He was thirsty. Listen, even at this moment, even at this moment right now, everything is going according to God's plan.
Hundreds of years before this, hundreds of years before Jesus was ever born, there was a prophesy that was given by David and I guarantee you when David wrote it, he didn't have a clue what he was writing. There was a prophesy by David that this very thing was going to happen. I mean, even though he did not know who he was talking about, even though he did not know that down the road, one of his very descendants would be the Messiah and the Son of God, at this very moment, in Psalms 69:21, he wrote these words, "They put gal in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst". Well now, wait a minute. Jesus had not yet been given vinegar to drink and yet knowing God's word and knowing God's plan, He let it be known that He was thirsty so that God's plan would be fulfilled because what we read now in John 19. A jar of wine vinegar was there. So, they soaked a sponge in it and put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant and lifted it to Jesus' lips.
Now, wait a minute, think about that. When you're thirsty, have you ever gone into a restaurant and sat down, and somebody says, "What would you like to drink"? Have you ever said, "I'd like some vinegar"? No? When you're thirsty, what do you want to drink? Right. You want water. When you're thirsty, what do you expect to drink? Water. What would you want to be offered to drink? Water. Yet, Jesus is offered bitter vinegar. Now, you want to say, what idiot would give a man vinegar who's thirsty? It was all according to the plan of God. It was all in fulfillment of the word of God. Now, listen, don't miss what I'm about to tell you because this is going to be a real encouragement to some of you right now that are so discouraged, you can't remember the last time were encouraged. You ready?
Now, listen to this. God has a plan for you both in how you live and how you die. God has a plan for you both in how you live and how you die. God leaves nothing to chance. There's no such things as accidents. There are only appointments. Now, here's the big question, okay? This is where it's going to get a little bit uncomfortable for many of us. It's uncomfortable for me. Here's the big question. Jesus suffered all that he suffered physically, spiritually, emotionally, because He was completely surrendered to and totally accepting of the plan of God for His life. Did you hear me? The reason why Jesus is doing what He's doing right now is because He was completely surrendered to and totally accepting of the plan of God for His life.
Now, here's the question. Am I willing to suffer whatever I need to suffer whether it be physical hurt, emotional heartache or spiritual helplessness if that is God's plan for my life? That's the question and you've got to be honest enough to ask it and you've got to honest enough to answer it. Am I willing, if it's God's will for my life and God's plan for my life to accept the suffering that I know sometimes comes with life? Or let me put it to you another way. What's more important to you right now? Just tell the truth. What's more important to you right now? Your personal comfort or God's plan for your life? Because you're going to live well and you're going to die well.
You can't just admit your pain when you're hurting. You've got to accept God's plan when you're hurting and that's why so many times when believers who live for Jesus all their life, sometimes, and I've seen them, we've all seen people who love the Lord, the love God, they walk with God, they suffered horrifically before they died. Sometimes we get angry with God and we get bitter with God and we get mad at God. Well, why did you let my mother suffer that way? Why did you let my grandmother suffer that way? Why did you let that Godly man suffer that way? Listen, if you're going to walk with God and be with God, what you need to with God, for God, to God, and by God, you are going to have to accept God's plan. There are no accidents, and this is why this is so important. If you're going to accept God's plans, and you're going to admit your pain, then these words teach us in our suffering to do one last thing, acknowledge God's purpose.
Now, let me show you how this works out. It's really a tremendous irony to me that Jesus waits until the last few moments of His life to call attention to His suffering. No, you think about this. Look at all He'd gone through. When they shoved that crown of thorns down on His head, He didn't scream out, "My head hurts". When they ripped the beard out of His face, He didn't say, "My face hurts". When they scourged Him, and beat Him almost senseless and almost to the point of death, He didn't say, "My back hurts". But when every cell in His body was crying out for a drop of water, He said, "I am thirsty". Now, here's my question. Why did He wait until then? Why did You wait until almost all the physical suffering is over to call attention to His physical suffering?
Here's why. He knew that was God's purpose for His life. He wanted people to know just before He checked out, He died accomplishing God's purpose for His life. In fact, let me explain something that happened to you that I'll be you hadn't thought about when He said He was thirsty. Because remember this, okay? God never wastes anything. Did you hear that? God never wastes anything. He never wastes triumphs and he never wastes tragedy. He never wastes success. He never wastes suffering. God never wastes anything and neither should we. We should never waste our pain and our suffering and our hurt and our heartache that we experience in life because God can redeem that suffering.
Listen, God can take your physical hurt, God can take your emotional heartache, God can take your spiritual helplessness and God can use if for His glory. God can use if for His honor and God can even use it even to draw people to Himself that might not otherwise even think about coming to Him because recall what happened. There was at least somebody in that hardened crowd, they'd been mocking Jesus, making fun of Jesus, jeering Jesus and all of a sudden, they hear this one last moan, this one last groan, "I am thirsty," and a heart that was as hard as granite God touched and turned it as soft as mush. And they couldn't help themselves. And they went and found the only thing they could find to drink, which was some bitter vinegar.
Now, you may not know this, and you probably wouldn't, but that was so unusual because there was a law against helping crucified criminals. It was as much against the law to help a crucified criminal be more comfortable when he was dying as it would have been if you were trying to break somebody out of jail and yet, nobody lifted a hand to stop this one act of kindness to Jesus. And here's the point. If you will take your pain and you'll take your suffering and you'll take your heartache and you'll take your hurt and you'll turn it over to God and you'll ask God to strengthen you in the middle of that suffering and you'll ask God to glorify Himself through that suffering, He will use it to do both. Because see, there's far more to this little four-letter word in Greek than you realize because everybody on this planet is thirsty.
As a matter of fact, you probably know this, I'm sure, I mean, we're all babies at one time. We were all born thirsty. Every baby that comes out of their mother's womb is born thirsty and we live thirsty. People all over the planet say every day, "I'm thirsty". You know how we know that's what they're saying? Because they try to assuage their thirst with money, with drugs, with alcohol, with sex, with success, with pleasure, with power, with cars and houses and stocks and bonds and stuff. Do you know what Jesus said about this water that the world has to offer? He said in John 4:13, "Everyone who drinks this water," talking about the world's water, everyone who does the drugs, drinks the alcohol, hops from one bed to another and one marriage to another, everyone who climbs the corporate ladder, everyone who tries to buy more stuff and live in a bigger house and drive a nicer car and wear better clothes will be thirsty again.
You see, Jesus died thirsty, so we would never have to die thirsty. Jesus died thirsty, so we'd never have to live thirsty. I mean, think about this. I thought about this when I was working on this message. I really never thought about this before. We know from what we can study in the Bible and pretty much what we learn that Jesus lived about 33 years on planet earth, okay? He lived about 30 years and then before He had His ministry and then He spent 3 years ministering. Now, here's my question. Why did Jesus live on earth even 33 years? I mean, why didn't Jesus just come to earth and live just long enough to die for our sins and then leave? I mean He lived a sinless 33 years.
Why didn't He just live a sinless three years or a sinless one year? Or a sinless one month? Why go through the sunburns and the sore throats and the hunger and the ridicule and the rejection and the temptation and the exhaustion and the hatred? Why go through all of that? Because He wanted us to understand whatever bad happens to us has already happened to Him. You don't go through anything, anything He has not already gone through. Listen, He not only suffered for us, He suffered before us. And you can always know that your suffering has a purpose and your pain has a plan and yet, because Jesus came back from the dead, listen now, because Jesus got through His pain, through His suffering, He did die, but He came back from the grave. He did that, so you could know whatever you're going through right now, listen. Whatever you're going through right now, some day you will get through it. Someday, you will get beyond it. And someday, you will get over it. But you've got to acknowledge and know God's got a plan in all of it.
I read something the other day that fascinated me. I didn't know this, and I always love to learn new things, and this is a new thing. I bet you didn't know it. Mexico City, one of the largest cities in the world, 20 million people, is sinking. I mean, literally sinking. Every year building and streets are sinking deeper into the earth. Now, some neighborhoods are sinking about a foot a year. As a matter of fact, this sinking has averaged 22 feet in 60 years. You got that? The city as a whole, if you took it all in total has sunk about 22 feet in 60 years. You know why? You ready for this? Do you know why the city is sinking, you'd never guess this if I gave you a million guesses, you'd never guess it. It's sinking because the people in Mexico City are thirsty.
You say, "Wait, I don't get it". Seventy percent of the water that people rely on in Mexico City to live has to be extracted from the aquifers, which are actually below the city. So, to quench their thirst, billions of gallons of water have to be pumped from underground every year and as they drain the water from the aquifers under the city, guess what happens? The city sinks. But it's even worse. Much of the water has organic and chemical contamination, which can give death-giving disease. That's why when you're in Mexico City, don't drink the water.
Well, I got news for you. This whole world is one gigantic Mexico City. Atlanta is Mexico City. Chicago, New York, LA, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Moscow, London, Paris. They're all Mexico Cities because the more of the world's water you drink, the deeper you sink into despair and discouragement and disillusionment. And the deeper you sink into despair and discouragement and disillusionment, the thirstier you get and the thirstier you get, the more that you drink and the more that you drink, the more that you sink. And yet, Jesus said in John 4:14, "Whoever drinks the water I give them, will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life".
So, now we come full circle. He's not going to live very much longer. He's got a couple of other things He's going to say before He draws His last breath and He waits almost until the last minute and says these strange three words. "I am thirsty". And the reason why Jesus said that was to let us know that anybody can come and drink of the life-giving water He gives, and they'll never have to say those words again. Listen, we're all going to suffer some way, somehow. Nobody gets through life without suffering something. We're all going to suffer and we're all going to die. And I hate to tell you, but many of us, maybe me included, we're going to die suffering. But because of Jesus, we can know that the One who suffered for us, suffers with us. And if we'll allow Him, by admitting our pain, acknowledging His purpose and accepting His plan, He will use that pain and that suffering for His glory.