Christ Suffering Reproach Because of Israel’s Trespasses
Vinegar was thin wine that had gone sour. Gall or "bile" is a bitter and poisonous plant, perhaps the Poppy, which grows abundantly in Palestine. It was offered to those who were about to die in mockery, because the poison would stupefy the brain in those moments of agony. The Lord tasted it then refused it. He did not taste it because He didn't know what it was, but to show the people that He knew what it was, and that He would not drink of it (Matt. 27:34). Jesus would accept no alleviation of pain, but He surely felt the bitterness of human ingratitude. The cruel soldiers were not content with merely refusing to give Jesus refreshment; instead they aggravated and embittered His sufferings by offering Him poisonous food and revolting drink. In short, they treated Him worse than an animal. "They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink" (Psa. 69:21). In Luke 23:36, the soldiers mocked the Lord by offering Him a drink (vinegar, not with gall), but their offer was in jest. It is helpful to see that the vinegar brought to Lord at the end, just before His death, is not said to be mingled with gall (Matt. 27:48, Mark 15:36, and John 19:30).1After saying, "I thirst", the Lord did drink what was brought to Him, that the scripture might be fulfilled (John 19:28). But He refused to drink the vinegar mingled with gall because it would have dulled His physical senses.2 In summary, Jesus was presented with some form of vinegar three times: first mixed with gall to dull His senses, which He tasted then refused, second to mock His thirst, and third after He said "I thirst" that scripture might be fulfilled, and also to demonstrate His Divine authority over circumstances. It is important to understand that the numbing poison Jesus refused earlier was different from what He drank afterwards.
- This vinegar was lifted up on a sponge, which some historians believe was a Roman form of toilet paper. Amazing submission!
- We must not confound this circumstance with that mentioned in John where the Lord says, "I thirst." In Matthew's narrative it was the stupefying draft administered to prisoners before they suffered; and this the Lord would not drink. Whereas in John, the Lord, while on the cross, fulfils a scripture. In John He is regarded, not as One who did not suffer, but withal as the absolute Master over all circumstances. Alive therefore to the honour of Scripture, and in fulfilment of a word which had not as yet received its accomplishment, He says, "I thirst." "And they filled a sponge with vinegar. . . . and put it to His mouth." He did drink the vinegar then. But here in Matthew, on the contrary, "when He had tasted thereof, He would not drink" (ver. 34) — He wished for no alleviation from man. - Kelly, William. Lectures on the Gospel of Matthew. Loizeaux Brothers, 1943.