Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it. (Mark 15:23)
When asked to explain who Jesus was – and is – most of us will correctly include the truth that He is the Son of God. This is absolutely and completely true, and is one of incredible manifestations of the grace, love and mercy of God, that He should send His Son to be our salvation. Yet we often overlook the other great, eternal truth that Jesus is also the Son of Man – a title He Himself used of Himself numerous times throughout the Gospels.
Today’s verse reveals very clearly the extent to which Jesus identified Himself with man, not to diminish His glory and divinity but in order to completely fulfill the requirements of the law. We should never lose sight of the fact that only a perfect man could be a perfect sacrifice. Just as the Old Testament sacrifices required the perfect, unblemished ‘first fruits,’ so the eternal forgiveness and justification that is the foundation of eternal salvation required the first perfect man – the first fruit of a people made holy by the resurrection power of God.
I don’t believe any of us will fully comprehend the anguish He endured in the Garden of Gethsemane as He wrestled with the knowledge of the agony that was to come. This can be described as the struggle between the Son of God and the Son of Man. In His divine identity, Jesus had the power to avoid the cross altogether. He could have returned to Heaven unscathed, unscarred, untouched. He could have summonded legions of angels to His aid. This was His power and right as Son of God. Yet He chose to become, utterly and completely, the Son of Man as He went to the cross. There was no other way to bring perfect eternal salvation.
In making this choice – and it was a choice, of that we should never entertain the slightest doubt – He closed the door to the intimate relationship He had with His Father, to any divine aid He might have enjoyed, and even to any hope of comfort in hours of suffering on the cross. From the moment that He rose from His knees in obedience to ‘Thy will be done,’ there was no turning back. Each step in His walk from Gethsemane to the cross was one step away from God and one step closer to the full weight of the iniquity of man.
It’s important to understand that the word ‘iniquity’ includes not only the sin of man and the accompanying guilt, but also the full weight of judgement and punishment resulting from it – the consequences and the result. It also included the iniquity of every member of mankind, from the beginning to the end of time. The spiritual burden He carried to the cross included every single conceivable sin, guilt, punishment and consequence. His walk to the cross was indeed one from the light of God into the utter darkness of man. When Christ walked to the cross, He did so utterly and completely alone – abandoned and betrayed by those He had come to save, and totally rejected by His Father to fulfill the requirements of holy law.
With this in mind, we could easily understand if He had taken anything offered to dull the physical pain. Already carrying the emotional and spiritual agony, the slightest relief would have been welcome. Yet He refused the myrrh – of gall as it is sometimes called – and denied Himself even this small comfort, a dulling of the pain through a poison that could conceivably cut short His suffering.
I have heard some say that this is contradicted by Matthew 27:48, which tells us that He did take some wine mixed with vinegar. This is not the case at all. The offering of myrrh occurred as He arrived at Golgotha. The second occurred when He hung on the cross. The difference lies in their ingredients. I have heard an ex-chemistry lecturer explain that poisons are bitter and acids are sour.
The first offering contained gall or myrrh, a poison, and Jesus refused it because He knew He needed to experience the full, unadulterated agony in order to fulfill His calling as the perfect sacrifice. The offering of this concoction by the Romans, however, was a fulfillment of a prophecy given by King David, who cried that his enemies gave him only something bitter to quench his thirst (Psalm 69:16 – 21). The second, the sour wine, contained acid, not poison or anything to dull the senses. It did nothing to diminish the total assumption of the full nature of sinful man.
We should also keep in mind that His coming as the Son of Man cements His right to return as the Son of Man. When Christ returns, it will be as our King – a divine king, the Son of God Himself, who comes to take His rightful throne. In going to the cross as the Son of Man, Jesus was in fact reminding us of His right to reign as the eternal King of mankind, one who came as prophesied from the kingly line of David – established by God Himself as the line to birth the Messiah and the King. Only the Son of Man could assume that right.
His purpose on the cross fulfilled both a divine and a human purpose. It is the complete answer to both the spiritual and the temporal needs of mankind. To exlude the Son of Man from the identity of Christ is to deny the totality of who He is. We cannot separate one from the other. In Jesus, the full manifestation of the grace and all-encompassing righteousness of God is revealed. He meets the requirements of both Heaven and earth, God and man.
Jesus, we honour Your obedience and selfless sacrifice. Help us always to see the cross as it really is – the place where the needs of both heaven and earth meet. Help us to see You and to reveal You to the world just as You revealed Yourself to us.