Consider Christ on the Cross, Not Current Culture; Part 1

Matthew 27:33-49

And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull, they gave Him wine to drink mingled with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink. And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots; and sitting down, they began to keep watch over Him there. And they put up above His head the charge against Him which read, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” At that time two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left. And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him, and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we shall believe in Him. “HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET HIM DELIVER Him now, IF HE TAKES PLEASURE IN HIM; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” And the robbers also who had been crucified with Him were casting the same insult at Him. Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?” And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, began saying, “This man is calling for Elijah.” And immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. But the rest of them said, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him.”

Something of which you probably never noticed before and were probably never taught, is found in today’s text as part of Matthew’s narrative of Jesus on the cross. I want to have the utmost respect for this scenario, Jesus on the cross, because not only is it absolutely foundational, it’s severe and heavy on the heart, the pain, agony and mocking or which Christ received. However we will not dwell on it too long (two missives) because he is risen and we have work to do. And because the gospel writers give quick, concise accounts, each from his own angle. But do take a moment to pause and see the severity. Nevertheless, we have to consider the context and see the things we miss, no matter how unimportant they may seem. Jesus was given wine with gall to drink before his crucifixion of which he refused to drink. But on the cross, Jesus was given sour wine of which he drank. But we’ll come back to this.

We saw some prophecy last time, juxtaposed to our current content. Let’s look a little deeper.

Isaiah 50:6, “I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.”

Matthew 27, “And they kneeled down before Him and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head.”

Isaiah 53:8+12b, “His grave was assigned with wicked men.” “And was numbered with the transgressors”

Matthew 27, “At that time two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left.”

Psalm 22:7a, “All who see me sneer at me; They separate with the lip, they wag the head.”

Matthew 27, “And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads.”

Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”

Matthew 27, “’ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?’ that is, ‘MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?’”

Joel 2:1b-2 “For the day of the LORD is coming; Surely it is near, A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness. As the dawn is spread over the mountains, So there is a great and mighty people; There has never been anything like it, Nor will there be again after it To the years of many generations.”

Joel 1:31, “The sun will be turned into darkness.”

Zephaniah 1:15, ‘A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress, A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness.”

Amos 5:20, “A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress, A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness.”

Isaiah 5:30, “If one looks to the land, behold, there is darkness and distress; Even the light is darkened by its clouds.”

Isaiah 16:3, “Give us advice, make a decision; Cast your shadow like night at high noon; Hide the outcasts, do not betray the fugitive.”

Matthew 27, “Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.”

…And many others…

Now most mega-church pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers believe that this is the way to read the Bible, taking a verse here and part of a verse there and string them together based upon the precepts of man. I do not. Then why did I do this? Because some gospel writers, who had the license and liberty, claim that much of what Jesus did fulfilled prophesies on this day of days. As we saw last time though, Matthew makes no such claims, even though, up until this point, Matthew is the master of quoting the Old Testament and pointing it out. Nevertheless, during the crucifixion of Christ, it is John who reveals the most prophecy, not only from the our Old Testament tutor but from Jesus as well. John 18-20 is probably the most in-depth analysis of the crucifixion, though all are important and show different angles. John has the license and liberty to show where prophecy has been fulfilled, not only as an apostle but as a Holy Spirit inspired, gospel writer. Niether I nor mega-church pastors have that license or liberty. The reason that I put these similar sounding verses (some of which were absolutely fulfilled this day of days because John said so), it is to see, that which they should have saw. Here we consider the context, aspirations, genre, examples and divide, seeing the sublime string and similarities.

“And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull, they gave Him wine to drink mingled with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink.” As they arrived at the place of the crucifixion, after a horrendous beating, Jesus was probably very thirsty. Jesus has been beaten so badly that we read; “And as they were coming out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon, whom they pressed into service to bear His cross.” Jesus has come to the point where he was too weak to carry his own cross any further. Yes, he had been up all night and is under great stress but make no mistake, Jesus was no weakling. The man was a former carpenter, in the prime of life when one is their strongest. Jesus must have walked a million miles, based on the context. I have said it and written it a thousand times, Jesus had to have been physically fit. You try going 40 days and 40 nights without food. We think because of Isaiah 53, “he had no statley form,” that Jesus was a lily-white weakling, but that refers to his attire, more than his physical attributes. Jesus was in good physical condition, great compared to the flabby, average American, until the Jews and the Romans beat him. Notice; “Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, ‘Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?’” And; “And they spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head.”

I don’t know about you, but I get injured, a lot. Right now I am nursing a dislocated shoulder. And when I get injured, I get very, very thirsty. Jesus, who has been up for hours, on trial, marched around Jerusalem, from the chief priests to Pilate to Herod Antipas, back to Pilate and now to Golgotha, beaten along the way so that he could no longer carry his own cross, must have been thirsty. And he is offered a drink, not while on the cross but before and not on a sponge. Jesus was offered a cup of wine, mixed with gall. But when Jesus tasted the mixture, he refused to drink it. The obvious question is, why?

This is a good example of the author’s aspiration to his audience. Matthew wrote to a first-century Jewish audience, not to us. That is not racist that is an author considering the culture of his audience. He didn’t write within the confines of our culture, on Twitter and Instagram but to their’s, on parchment perhaps. They didn’t have the cross-cultural confusion and contamination with which we must reckon. The word “gall” is fairly ambiguous, especially to us, but generally means poison. However, if we take our Vitamin E and read Mark’s account, it begins to clear the context up a bit. Mark says that the wine was mixed with myrrh. And now your mind races back to the birth of Jesus. Unfortunately, that’s how our minds work. Nevertheless notice; Matthew is the author who claims that the “wise men,” well after the birth of Jesus, brought gold, frankincense and myrrh. And it is also this same Matthew that specifically doesn’t use the word “myrrh” in his account of the cup at the crucifixion. Therefore, I personally, don’t look to the gifts of the wise men in this context because Matthew doesn’t point us in that direction. Matthew points us to Jesus unwilling to drink the admixture. Nevertheless, Mark makes the claim that it was myrrh mixed with wine, therefore, in order to clear up cross-cultural confusion we have to research myrrh and how it was used in the first century. Problem; myrrh was the first century equivalent to our nsaids. Used as a pain reliever, fever reducer and anti-inflammatory. Myrrh can even be used to cover up bad breath. Because of it’s powerful oder and bitter taste, it not only helps with bad breath, but is easily identifiable, as we see in the case of Jesus–he refused to drink it. But now that we know what and how, we still don’t know why. I am tempted to go find some myrrh and see how it helps the pain in my shoulder, so that I can better understand it’s effectiveness in fighting pain. But for argument’s sake, let’s say it’s as good as an opioid in fighting pain. Which if it is, it’s the best kept secret in the world, other than the free gift of God.

Many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers claim that Jesus would not take the myrrh mixed with wine because he didn’t want pain relief but accepted the pain fully. But that begs the question, if the pain relief was like that of morphine, why would the Romans allow it? Wasn’t agony and pain the pure purpose of crucifixion? For argument’s sake, say that that myrrh has the pain relief equivalent to two asprin–why bother? Like the pain in my shoulder that asprin cannot touch, how much more excruciating pain was Jesus in, and he has not yet been crucified? The narrative put forth from many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers has me puzzled-the pieces don’t fit in my mind. I also remember Jesus saying to the disciples, “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” Nevertheless, according to the context and common sense, it wasn’t the wine he rejected but the gall. Later on, according to the context, Jesus drank sour wine from a sponge while on the cross.

Notice; “Answer me, O LORD, for Thy lovingkindness is good; According to the greatness of Thy compassion, turn to me, And do not hide Thy face from Thy servant, For I am in distress; answer me quickly. Oh draw near to my soul and redeem it; Ransom me because of my enemies! Thou dost know my reproach and my shame and my dishonor; All my adversaries are before Thee. Reproach has broken my heart, and I am so sick. And I looked for sympathy, but there was none, And for comforters, but I found none. They also gave me gall for my food, And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. May their table before them become a snare; And when they are in peace, may it become a trap. May their eyes grow dim so that they cannot see, And make their loins shake continually. Pour out Thine indignation on them, And may Thy burning anger overtake them. May their camp be desolate; May none dwell in their tents. For they have persecuted him whom Thou Thyself hast smitten, And they tell of the pain of those whom Thou hast wounded.” -David

Most of my research on this subject, which is fairly extensive but certainly not exhaustive (Injury+internet makes me dangerous), finds that most pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers who have even bothered to look into this matter agree; Jesus rejected the pain relief but accepted the prolonging of pain by partaking in the sour wine which would have helped to keep him conscious longer. Many of these commentators I couldn’t care less about their conceptual constructs but others I hold in high regard–I suppose I am simply not satisfied with their answers. I look at the word that Matthew used, rather than”myrrh.” I look at the cup Jesus was to drink. I look at admixture in our Old Testament tutor. I think of “wormwood” and the bitter waters of Marah. I think of the New Covenant in his blood and consider the context of Matthew and his aspirations to his audience. And then I remind myself to keep it simple stupid.

Sublimely simple as it were. Up until the trail, beating, mocking, trial, beating mocking and crucifixion of Christ, in Matthew’s​ account we have seen many times where Matthew points out precisely that those things happened to fulfill prophecy, yet now we don’t. Nevertheless we have read, “How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen this way?” and; “But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” I believe that every single solitary sentence in the rest of Matthew is fulfillment of prophecy. Therefore David’s words ring true to the author’s aspiration to his audience.

What the “gall” was makes little difference; it was mixed in with the wine and therefore Jesus refused it. Jesus drinking sour wine to prolong his agony also makes little sense because Jesus died before they could break his legs. Notice John’s account, “The Jews therefore, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. The soldiers therefore came, and broke the legs of the first man, and of the other man who was crucified with Him; but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs; but one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water. And he who has seen has borne witness, and his witness is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe. For these things came to pass, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, ‘NOT A BONE OF HIM SHALL BE BROKEN.’ And again another Scripture says, ‘THEY SHALL LOOK ON HIM WHOM THEY PIERCED.'” John says fulfilled, that is good enough for me. Nevertheless, we will consult our Old Testament tutor and take our Vitamin E.

David writes: “I am poured out like water, And all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And my tongue cleaves to my jaws; And Thou dost lay me in the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and feet; I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.”

Zechariah​ writes; “And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born.”

More on this next time, the prophesies are all but exhausted on this day of days where the whole world needs to see Jesus on the cross. Speaking of that… It’s coming! As for the admixture of the gall, it appears the “why” less relevant than the “that.” Jesus refused the poison that points back to the words of David that point forward to Christ on the cross. Jesus was rejecting one literal cup to drink his figurative cup. Turns out that most pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers aren’t that far off. Nevertheless, don’t miss Matthew’s aspiration to his audience, one, yet numerous, big, giant, grand fulfillment of prophecy with Christ on the cross.

Christ on the cross is the pivitol moment in all of history–more miraculous than creation and catastrophic than the flood–everything changed at the cross. The Western church has lost sight of this, placing her focus on the rapture and the nation of Israel. Which is the irony of ironies, like the West, the far East, the North, the South, the Caucasian, the Asian, the Eskimo and the African, the Jews need Jesus not Jerusalem. Their is no distinction with God, every human form every tribe tongue and nation, is equally guilty yet equally welcomed, God is not a racist. In an irony of ironies, the dogmatic dispensationalist desires to return the Jewish people to Jerusalem where, they claim, they belong, because it is their inheritance. Yet they also hold to an ironically non-literal interpretation of Matthew 24 where “you” and “this generation,” means, “them” and “that generation alive during the rebirth of Israel,” respectively, some seventy-one, point two, years ago. Time is running out. Yet while they don’t take Matthew 24 literally, they do take the following fulfilled futuraly and literally: “And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; and seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven–” this and several passage like it. Why would we round people up in a city destined for destruction? Racism is racism and there is no such thing as reverse-racism. Treating one differently in an irrational way, based upon ethnicity is racism–good or bad. Yet we can have our differences, so giving a white boy some extra sunscreen at the beach, is not racist. Even in our Old Testament tutor we see God was not racist, those that lived according to his commandments were welcomed into the fold of Israel. God judges nations by their wickedness not their skin color; see Sodom and Gomorrah. 

Rather than look to Israel, shouldn’t we look to Jesus and consider the cross? He gave us communion, but I don’t remember him giving us rapture recitation. Jesus is the temple, Jesus is the red heifer, slaughtered outside the city. Jesus is the rock that Moses struck with his rod. Jesus on the cross is the snake, put on a pole. Jesus on the cross is the tree cast into the bitter water making it pure. We need to stop looking for rescue when we’ve already been ransomed. Why can’t we stop with these prohesies that are on the periphery and simply do what we are called to do? We are almost there, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. But we have more cross context to consider before we see that for which we have been called, which we call, the “great commission.” You know the one; where we are told to make disciples of the pre-tribulational rapture. On second thought, arguing amongst ourselves is much easier. The best part of my argument is that even if I am wrong about the rapture, I am right about the Great Commission! Problem; I am right about the Great Commission, therefore I have to act accordingly.

I believe it is high time that we get back to the bssics. I will give the apostle Paul the last words for today; “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

 

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