I Wonder: Jesus’ Refusal of the Wine

Because of the success of the Wednesday Lenten series, I’ve decided to dedicate Wednesdays to reflection and discussion of Biblical stories and Christian themes.

Forgive me for a moment, in this celebration after the Resurrection of Christ, as I go back to the Passion, and this passage from Matthew:

They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it.
— Matthew 27:33-34

It’s the passage that is read every year around Maunday Thursday/Good Friday. It is the moment after Jesus is nailed to the cross, when one of the soldiers offers wine to him to drink. But Jesus refuses.

In his book He Chose the Nails, Max Lucado explains that “gall” (or as described in Mark, “myrrh”) mixed in with wine gave certain sedative properties. It numbed the senses and messed with the mind. If Jesus had drank that wine, he would have been pretty loopy and numb all over, allowing the pain to be a little more manageable.

But Jesus refused the wine, choosing to endure the full brunt of the pain of nails in his hands and feet.

Lucado posits that Jesus did this to endure all of the feelings that we as humans endure, which would allow us to relate with him, and trust him, and be better able to follow him and his teachings. It makes sense, in a way. In the book, Lucado says, “Doesn’t the lack of understanding keep us from others? Suppose you were discouraged at your financial state. You need some guidance from a sympathetic friend…. Would you approach someone who had inherited a fortune? Probably not. Why? He wouldn’t understand.” (pg. 93).

But this post isn’t about why Jesus refused the wine. Rather, I wonder: did Jesus regret not drinking that wine?

Jesus was a smart man. He was a rabbi, so he was learned in not only theology, but also history and science, among other things. He was a philosopher, able to read and decipher Hebrew scriptures and relate them to the present day. Jesus wasn’t an idiot. So of course Jesus would know if there was something mixed in with the wine, and of course he would know what would happen depending on what was mixed in. Jesus would know that myrrh or gall in the wine would numb him and increase his pain threshold.

But he refused it.

I wonder if he had thought about it, and decided not to. It isn’t really in any of the prophecies* for Jesus to reject wine, so why did he do it? Maybe it was because he wanted to be “fully mortal, fully God,” and endure an intense pain for the world to know about. I wonder if, after the first nail pierced Jesus’ skin and the blood spurted out and ran down his hands, if he immediately regretted not taking that wine.

The most intense pain I’ve known was when I went skydiving this summer. Long story short, I misheard a command, and prepared the canopy for landing 25-30 feet above the ground. I hit the ground in a free-fall, feet-first, and the enormity of the pain made me curse and nearly cry. Nothing was broken, but everything was in pain.

This is a completely different pain, though. This is something foreign entering the skin by extreme force. I wonder if Jesus cried out in pain, and thought, “Is it too late to have some of that wine?”

*Next week’s article will be on the many prophecies throughout the Bible that Jesus fulfilled. Stay tuned.

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