Having undertaken to explain contradictions in Scripture, we have in our previous two messages examined both the healings of the blind men of Jericho and the Denials of Peter. Now, we will examine a perhaps less controversial topic, but one that will further serve to illustrate the method I have been using to examine and explain the supposed contradictions in the Bible. This topic is that of the drinks Jesus was offered during his crucifixion. Let us examine them in the order in which they appear in our Bibles.
Matthew 27:34. They gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink.
Matthew 27:48. Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink.
Mark 15:23. Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it.
Mark 15:36. Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink, saying, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down.”
Luke 23:36. The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine,
John 19:29. Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth.
The fact that there are two verses speaking of Him being offered drinks in Matthew and in Mark is enough to show us that He was offered something to drink multiple times. We have all the more reason, then, if we find that the details of one or the other gospel do not match with the others, to assume that a different offer of drink is being recorded. Let us examine these verses in context, therefore, to see if we can work out which offering of drink occurred when, and so what order these events take place. We will also attempt to determine if there were six offers of drink, or if any of these six are actually the same as another one of the offerings in a different gospel.
1.) Matthew 27:34.
32. Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross. 33. And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a Skull, 34. they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink.
35. Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet:
“They divided My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots.”
Here we see that the Lord Jesus and the soldiers have just arrived at Golgotha with Simon the Cyrenian carrying His cross. Christ is offered wine mixed with gall by the soldiers. We do not know whether He was given it in a cup or sponge. He tastes it, then refuses to drink it. Immediately afterwards, He is crucified.
2.) Mark 15:23.
21. Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross. 22. And they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. 23. Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it. 24. And when they crucified Him, they divided His garments, casting lots for them to determine what every man should take.
Here we see that the Lord Jesus and the soldiers have just arrived at Golgotha with Simon the Cyrenian carrying His cross. Christ is offered wine mixed with myrrh by the soldiers. We do not know whether He was given it in a cup or sponge. He refuses to even take it. Immediately afterwards, He is crucified.
These offerings are very similar, and take place at a similar time. However, it would appear that they are different from the fact that something different is mingled with the wine in each case, and in the one case the Lord tastes the drink, and in the other, refuses to touch it. Perhaps they offered Him one drink, and when He refused that, they offered Him another immediately.
3.) Luke 23:36.
33. And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. 34. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
And they divided His garments and cast lots. 35. And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.”
36. The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, 37. and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.”
38. And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew:
THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Here we see that the Lord Jesus has been put on the cross and the soldiers have divided His garments and cast lots for His coat. Christ is offered sour wine by the soldiers, who are mocking Him. We do not know how it was offered to Him. We do not know if He accepted it.
This occurrence is later than the other two, and so clearly is a different event.
4.) Matthew 27:48.
46. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
47. Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, “This Man is calling for Elijah!” 48. Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink.
49. The rest said, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.”
Here we see that the Lord Jesus has just cried out, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” Christ is offered sour wine by one of those who is standing by and has mistakenly supposed that He was calling upon Elijah. This indicates that this person did not know Aramaic and therefore is likely not a Jew. Christ was offered it on a sponge, which was lifted up to Him on a reed. We do not know if He drank it or refused it.
This occurrence is still later than the other three, just before the Lord died, and is clearly a separate occurrence.
5.) Mark 15:36.
34. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
35. Some of those who stood by, when they heard that, said, “Look, He is calling for Elijah!” 36. Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink, saying, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down.”
Here we see that the Lord Jesus has just cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” Christ is offered sour wine by one of those who is standing by and has mistakenly supposed that He was calling upon Elijah. This indicates that this person did not know Aramaic and therefore is likely not a Jew. Christ was offered it on a sponge, which was lifted up to Him on a reed. We do not know if He drank it or refused it.
This event clearly seems to be the same as record #4, since all the details are exactly the same. Therefore, though this is our fifth passage, it is our fourth event of drinks on the cross, and does not count as a separate event.
6.) John 19:29.
28. After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” 29. Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 30. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
Here we see that the Lord Jesus has just realized that all things are accomplished which the Scriptures predicted would happen to Him on the cross. Christ requests drink, and is given sour wine. It was soaked into a sponge, which was lifted up to Him upon hyssop. It is put to His mouth, and He receives it.
This would seem to be a fifth occasion of a drink being offered the Lord, since this is clearly different from all the other occurrences in that the Lord asked for this one, and received it when it was given to Him.
So it will be seen from what is written above that there were five occurrences of drink being offered to Christ. Christ is only specifically said to have accepted the final offering, which was the only one actually requested by Him. Christ is specifically said to have refused two, both of which were offered to Him by the soldiers, and both of which were drugged. Christ would have no drugs to deaden His mind as He was paying for our iniquities! The emphasis of the remaining two passages is on the mocking of the soldiers and on the confusion of the bystanders who did not understand His outcry in Aramaic, and so that is the reason we are not told the details of whether He accepted the drinks or not.
So we see that the different gospels work together to provide for us a composite picture of what happened regarding the Lord and the drinks He had before and while He was on the cross. This gives us a pattern that we can follow in considering other apparent contradictions. Instead of assuming that two similar events must be the same, we should be on the lookout for the Word of God to give complementary accounts that fill in details or events that the other gospels leave out. If we respect the Scriptures and truly consider them as being written by one, Divine Author, then we can start to see the beauty of the interwoven truth contained in the four gospels.
The three occurrences in which we are told whether or not Christ accepted the drink offered Him teach us two lessons. The first is that Christ refused to use mind-altering drugs. Although this perhaps could have made His suffering on the cross much easier, He refused to take them, as He wanted to bear the full brunt of the experience in order to fully pay for our sins. Once His job was done He asked for a drink, so we know that this was His main concern. Those who think that we should take no medicine to help our ills have no basis for their arguments here. It is interesting to note that even in His terrible suffering Christ’s motivation was the working of His Father’s will. We do not have a God Who asks of us something He is not willing to do Himself.
Another lesson we can derive from these events is from the final drink, when Christ asked for it. Notice that He was about to die and finish His work, but He delayed it until He could take this drink in order to fulfill the Scriptures. Notice that on the cross, in agony, having taken the full weight of our sins upon Himself, the Lord still desires to fulfill the Scriptures to the extent that the last thing He does before giving up His spirit is to do something just for the purpose of fulfilling the Word. We can see, then, how truly important His word is to the Lord. May it be important to us as well!
The final lesson we will consider from these occurrences is that, no matter what our intentions, we cannot truly do anything for the Lord until He requests it. We may see a good work that we think would be good and right to do, but if it is not a good work that God has prepared for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), then it cannot be something that we can say we are “doing for Christ.” So many in the churches of today think that any and everything they do which is “religious” must therefore be done for Christ. But the fact of the matter is that God will only accept an offering that He has commanded. And the only offering that we can truly give Him is the living sacrifice of our very lives! (Romans 12:1)