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The first offer is recorded in Mark 15:23

23 Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it.

The second offer is in verse 36:

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.”

If Jesus refused it the first time, why did he receive a second offer of wine just before his death?

I'm looking to see if this was a common practice or if we know the significance behind being offered a second time.


Related Question: Does Jesus's change in attitude about drinking wine on the cross relate to his statement ‘It is finished’?

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  • The first was the offer of a drug to reduce alertness and alleviate suffering. The second was to revive, hoping that something supernatural would occur.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 26 at 20:00
  • According to John 21:25 not everything Jesus did was written down so it is possible that he also was given water to drink, because wine is a poor thirst quencher, and God most likely did answer his prayer about getting his thirst quenched, just before he died. Remember Jesus’ statement in Gethsemane about him having a multitude of angels to serve him at his call. Commented Mar 26 at 23:18
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    It is noteworthy that Jesus called out: "I am thirsty!". Not: "I feel such pain!" Commented Mar 27 at 3:24

3 Answers 3

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Both Matthew 27:34 and Mark 15:23 record a drugged drink offered to Jesus that He refused:

  • Matt 27:34 - wine to drink, mingled with gall (χολή = gall or bitter herbs)
  • Mark 15:23 - wine, having been mixed with myrrh (σμυρνίζω)

Note that the "gall" was possibly wormwood or absinth which would make the drink highly intoxicating to the point of stupefying. Note the comments of Ellicott:

(34) Vinegar to drink mingled with gall.—In Mark 15:23, “wine mingled with myrrh.” The animal secretion known as “gall” is clearly out of the question, and the meaning of the word is determined by its use in the Greek version of the Old Testament, where it stands for the “wormwood” of Proverbs 5:4, for the poisonous herb joined with “wormwood” in Deuteronomy 29:18. It was clearly something at once nauseous and narcotic, given by the merciful to dull the pain of execution, and mixed with the sour wine of the country and with myrrh to make it drinkable.

So, why did Jesus refuse it? He apparently wanted to suffer with a clear mind, lest He be tempted to do or say something that would make His sacrifice of no value. The Cambridge commentary says this:

The potion was a stupefying draught given to criminals to deaden the sense of pain. “Some of the wealthy ladies of Jerusalem charged themselves with this office of mercy.” (Lightfoot, ad loc.) Jesus refuses this alleviation of His sufferings.

In any case, such a drink was prophesied in Ps 69:21 -

They poisoned my food with gall and gave me vinegar to quench my thirst.

Both prophesies were fulfilled at the crucifixion, as documented by the OP; later, Jesus accepted some wine-vinegar to quench His thirst.

Recall that the crowd had tempted Jesus to come down from the cross - an act He had the power to achieve; Jesus had already prayed that this "cup" pass from Him (Luke 22:42) but was determined to do the Father's will. Having a clouded and stupefied mind might have derailed that objective.

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  • +1. Great points! I like that you brought in the prophecy. Though, now I'm curious about the sour wine versus vinegar...
    – Jason_
    Commented Mar 27 at 1:39
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    Roman soldiers often drank a drink called posca that was essentially watered vinegar with herbs. This may have been the first drink, offered by the soldiers. So another aspect of this is that Jesus found the posca distasteful but the wine offered by Jewish onlookers was more palatable to him. Commented Mar 27 at 4:40
  • Dan Fefferman, Jn 19:29 refers to the drink as vinegar, not fresh wine. Please have a look at my inputs below. Thanks. Commented Mar 27 at 13:18
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The answer is found in the source of the wine. If it was produced by non-Jews it was not kosher.

If wine is not produced under special care by people who are shomer Shabbos (observant Jews), it will be forbidden as stam yayin (possibly offered to idols). Therefore, wine vinegar requires hashgachah (proper supervision) to ensure that the wine it was made from was kosher.

Looking at the context, when Mark first says "they gave him wine..." the subject of the sentence refers to those who brought him to Golgotha: Roman soldiers. In the second instance, one of the bystanders runs and retrieves the wine. These onlookers were clearly Jewish because they understood him to be calling for Elijah, and the one who runs to get the wine even wonders if Elijah might actually appear. Thus, being brought from another location by Jews, rather than given to him on the scene by Roman soldiers, this wine was probably kosher.

Also, if the "wine" offered by the Roman soldiers was their normal beverage, namely posca, this was mostly vinegar and water, and thus less palatable that actual wine - especially to Jews.

Conclusion: In first case the wine was offered by Roman soldiers and was not likely to be kosher. In the second case it was different wine, offered by a fellow Jew, and Jesus was will to accept it.


ADDENDUM: If it is objected that this interpretation contradicts Jesus' statement that a man is not defiled by what goes into his mouth (Matthew 15:11), this saying refers to the issue of hand-washing before meals. There is no evidence that Jesus ever consumed foods or drink forbidden by Jewish tradition.

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  • +1. Interesting point! Would Jesus have been thinking about kosher versus non-kosher while suffering on the cross?
    – Jason_
    Commented Mar 27 at 1:42
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    I don't know. But for those who see him as the "undefiled high priest" (Hebrews 7:26), offering himself as the sacrificial lamb without blemish, the issue of ritual purity is worth considering. And for those who see him more in human terms, he might well have rejected wine from those the soldiers who were torturing him to death and accept it from a fellow Jew. Commented Mar 27 at 4:33
  • Dan Fefferman, John 19:29 mentions vinegar and not fresh wine. Vinegar is made of old wine and is too sour to drink. But it does quench extreme thirst especially when the weather is extremely humid leaving one unable to drink water beyond a limit. Commented Mar 27 at 13:58
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See Jn 19:29:

Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.

< Wine, once it has turned into vinegar, has longer shelf life.Calvary having been a place of regular occurrence of execution by crucifixion, it is highly possible that there was standing arrangement for the supply of vinegar in the form of a pain killer for the convicts. ( Even today convicts going to the gallows are offered the last meal of their choice. So, it was only humane to offer the painkiller to the convict ) . The first time of offering of the gall was just before the crucifixion(Mk 15:24) when Jesus was standing on the ground. So, the gall was probably offered in a cup, which Jesus declined for the reason that he wanted to ' drink the cup of suffering to the dregs ' (Psalm 75:8) . When he had been on the cross for sometime, he felt thirsty and expressed it. See that this time, gall is administered on hyssop, a twig of two to three feet length.(The spunge John mentions, may have been made by crushing of the plant itself.) Most probably, it was also a part of the Standard Operation Procedure of crucifixion. Jesus, on realising that he had undergone the physical suffering to the maximum, accepted the gall to fulfil the physical aspect of his promise to the Father that he in deed would drink the cup.

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