Why did they give wine vinegar/sour wine to Christ while He hung on the cross?
Wine was offered to Jesus on three separate occasions. The gospels indicate the first time He was offered wine it was mixed with gall. The second time Christ was mocked as a king, and the third time wine was offered to Him, it was sour wine.
Before The Cross – Wine Mixed With Gall
Matthew 27:34 and Mark 15:23 record the first time that Jesus was offered wine while He was hanging on the cross.
And when they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull, they gave Him wine to drink mixed with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink. Matthew 27:33-34 (NASB)
Mark 15:23 says the wine was mixed with myrrh. The gall or myrrh, which was used in perfume and for embalming, was probably a narcotic. It would either help to numb the pain or it “is an invitation to commit suicide.” This wine was offered to Jesus before He was crucified (Matthew 27:34-35; Mark 15:23-24). This wine could have been given to Christ in a cup.
On The Cross – Wine Offered In Mockery
The second time Jesus was offered wine is reported only in Luke 23:36.
The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Luke 23:36-38 (NASB)
The soldiers mockingly offered the wine to Christ as if He was their king (Luke 23:35-38). They mocked Him. Most likely they offered the wine in jest to Christ.
On The Cross – Wine That Was Sour
Matthew 27:48; Mark 15:36 and John 19:29-30 record the third time wine is mentioned in the gospel accounts of Christ’s crucifixion. This time Jesus asked for something to drink. It is after 3:00 pm in the afternoon. After Jesus drank the wine, He bowed His head, gave up His spirit and died. (Mark 15:36-37; John 19:29-30). Matthew 27:48 tells us that the wine was given to Christ from a sponge attached to a reed.
Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. Matthew 27:48 (NASB)
The Greek word that is translated as “sour wine” is oxos. This Greek word refers to cheap, sour wine that was apparently not purchased by the wealthy. It was a “sharp vinegary wine.” It was a common wine used simply to quench one’s thirst. John 19:29 adds that there was a jar of the wine nearby.
A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. John 19:29 (NASB)
The jar of wine was most likely there to satisfy the thirst of the soldiers. Therefore, the sour wine would not have been laced with a sedative or a pain killer such as gall. Most likely the sour wine was not mixed with anything. Yet, some have suggested that the sour wine was mixed with gall and was given in fulfillment of Psalm 69:21. But a close examination of that Psalm’s passage reveals that it does not say that the wine contained gall. The reference to gall is in the food. None of the gospel texts indicate anything differently. Therefore, Psalm 69:21 is not a prophecy of this event.
Since Jesus was thirsty, He took a brief sip.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” John 19:28 (NASB)
The sour wine was provided on a long pole with a hyssop sponge on the end (John 19:29). John Nolland comments,
The third-century B.C. Antigonus Carystus reports the use of sponges tied to poles as a means of bringing up water. So the one who gives the drink to Jesus is not being entirely innovative.
Most likely the sour wine was given as a simple drink for a thirsty, dying, suffering man.
1.Davies and Allison. Matthew. The International Critical Commentary. T&T Clark. 1991. vol. 1., pp. 613.
2. John Nolland. The Gospel of Matthew. The New International Greek Testament Commentary. Eerdmans Publishing. 2005. p. 1209.
3. Grant R. Osborne. Matthew. Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Zondervan. 2010. p. 1038.
4. Nolland. Ibid.
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