Wine or Sour Wine, Gall or Myrrh: What Was Offered to Jesus? Part 2
Matthew’s Gospel is known for its “fulfillment” formula, such as, “This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet…” For example, after Judas returned the betrayal money, the chief priests decided to buy a potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. “Then,” Matthew writes, “was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set … and they gave them for the potter’s field’” (Matt 27:9-10, cf Zech 11:13).
Though he doesn’t use this fulfillment formula, in using the word cholē for gall in 27:34 and oxos for sour wine in 27:48, Matthew obviously alludes back to Psalm 69:21, where the same words are used in the LXX (Septuagint) translation:
“They gave me poison (cholē) for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine (oxos) to drink.”
Next to Psalm 22, Psalm 69 is the most quoted psalm in the New Testament. It is a lament attributed to King David when he was suffering, both for wrongs he has done (verse 5), and for his faithfulness to God (verses 7, 9). The New Testament writers apply several texts from this psalm to the life of Christ. As Christ represented the people of God, his sufferings and persecutions in life and in death are also often the experience of believers (Matt 5:11).
It is in this context that Matthew connects Psalm 69:21 to the offering of wine mixed with gall and sour wine before and after Christ was crucified.
But here are two major differences between David (and us) and Christ. First, while Christ is perfectly holy, David admits his “folly” and “the wrongs I have done” (Psa 69:5). Second, David’s response to his enemies is a prayer of imprecation in Psalm 69:22-28, where he pleads to God, “Pour out your indignation upon them, and let your burning anger overtake them… Let them be blotted out of the book of the living” (Psa 69:24, 28).
Christ’s response to his enemies, on the other hand, was twofold. As he looked at Jerusalem and its chief priests and rulers, he pronounced seven woes on them, concluding with a prophecy of destruction, “See, your house is left to you desolate” (Matt 23:38). And as he carried his cross on the way to Calvary, he had an ominous warning for Israel, “weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming…” (Luke 23:28-29), that is, great days of tribulation when the Roman legions will destroy Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
But what was Christ’s response to his enemies while he was dying on the cross? Did he pray for their destruction, like David prayed? No, he prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Who offered these drinks to Jesus in these two instances? Why did Jesus have different reactions in the two instances? And why does the Gospel of John say that Jesus said, “I thirst” to fulfill the Scripture? Read the continuation in tomorrow’s devotional.
Invitation: If you live in or near Pasig-Cainta or Imus, Cavite areas, you’re invited to join our worship services: 9:30 a.m. in Imus and 2:30 p.m. in Pasig. Our Seven Last Words sermon series will be preached till Good Friday, April 6, and Resurrection Sunday, April 8.