John 19:28-30 – “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
As a new Christian in college, I had a strong desire to learn the Bible. Out of pure personal enjoyment, I spent far more time diligently reading the Bible than any of the textbooks for my classes. I can still remember reading about the crucifixion of Jesus as a freshman and thinking that the giving of Him a drink on the cross was a kind thing to do. I thought the same thing until one fateful day many years later.
Our family led a tour of the places mentioned throughout the New Testament in modern day Israel, Turkey, and Greece. We hired a professor of history to help us learn and were overwhelmed by the archaeological dig in the ancient city of Ephesus. It is likely the most intact excavation of any ancient city and breathtaking to explore.
In the middle of the ancient city was a large public restroom. The seats were marble and under the seats were open areas that seemed odd. Curious, I asked the professor what the open areas were for. He explained that slaves would use that hole to reach under the person who had gone to the bathroom to scrub them using a long stick with a sponge on the end that had been dipped in sour wine as an antiseptic to kill the bacteria.
In that moment, I remembered the words of John 19:28-30. I asked the professor if that was this what was shoved into Jesus’ mouth to shut Him up and stop talking about forgiveness. He had not seemed to make the connection before but said it was likely. In his studies, the ancient soldiers in that day had as part of their field kit a sponge that they used to scrub with after going to the bathroom and they too would have dipped it in wine vinegar to kill germs. So, it seems when Jesus spoke in Psalm 69:21, “I thirst”, a soldier thought it would be fun to stick his sponge in Jesus’ mouth to add insult to injury. With this taste on His mouth, Jesus then declared “It is finished” as He laid down His life for our sin. Importantly, Jesus died as a victor and not a victim as He’d promised earlier in John 10:18. “No one takes it from me but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.”
If you believe Jesus died for your sin, take a few moments right now and thank Him from the heart.