He Wouldn't Drink It

Matthew 27:32–34 (NKJV) — 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.

While we still had NFL games being played, for what seems like an eternity, whenever the media felt it was time to bash Aaron Rodgers’ ability, they would turn to one person - former Packer Wide-Receiver, Greg Jennings. You would have thought that Jennings wrote a biography on Rodgers given the number of times he would be front and center for any negative commentary on the star quarterback. And it didn’t seem to matter that Jennings had no problem saying in public what he had never said in private to his quarterback at the time. As long as his narrative matched the media’s thesis - that though a gifted thrower of the football, Rodgers’ unlimited ability was limited by his lack of leadership acumen -, Jennings would always have a job as a commentator with the inside scoop. The whole thing leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

I might have lost the one Minnesota Vikings fan watching (Sam Steffen) but now that I have your attention, Packer nation, do you have your own personal Greg Jennings? Is there that one person in your life who can’t let go of that one thing that you did? Even when people don’t ask, that’s the only thing that they say about you. You are seeing that one person that if they had the chance, they would want to edit your obituary - “I mean, to the whole world, she may be a hero, but do you know what she did to me? What’s especially hurtful about their targeted barbs is that they always seem to catch you at your most vulnerable, at your lowest moment. Greg after all, gets no airtime when Aaron is making impossible plays to lift up an entire fan base - no, but when there is a rift or coaching change, out slithers the sage of the salaciously negative. The whole thing leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

Our Scripture reading for today is a lesson in pain management. Here we see characters built to minimize and to maximize the Savior’s pain during his lowest moments in life. Jesus is too weak to carry His own cross. But Simon was conscripted to get Jesus’ cross to the executioner’s arena. At His lowest moment, someone helped Jesus. Then the weeping widows offered Jesus a little wine to dull the pain. Leon Morris is his contribution to the Pillar New Testament Commentary, writes about the custom for Godly women in Jerusalem to donate and bring wine to the condemned as a final act of mercy based on the Jewish interpretation of Proverbs 31:6 (The Gospel according to Matthew, pg 715). In his footnotes, he adds an interesting reference. He writes,

“If those who gave Jesus the wine were soldiers, then the myrrhed wine (supplied by the women?) was made bitter (another cruel joke?) by the ‘gall’ … added by the executioners.”

He was going to die; he might as well die with a little less pain. That was their mission of mercy. But the soldiers were so intent on insulting Jesus that they would make a mockery of the women’s last act of mercy. At his most vulnerable, these brutish torturers tainted the weeping widows’ expression of mercy, debasing their offering into another jest to add insult to injury. The whole thing leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

I have to admit that of all the beautiful details of this passage, it’s odd that this is what I would notice. Well, notice it I did. Probably because it speaks of our longing for what numbs us through the pains we experience in life. And what private pains we suffer that push us to drown away our sorrow. Yes, the passage is about pain management at our lowest. The women sought to reduce Jesus’ pain. The soldiers sought to maximize Jesus’ pain. But Jesus knew how to redeem His own pain. And the beauty of this painful passage takes on such dimensions when we see the redemptive way Jesus dealt with pain in contrast to our heroes and sheroes.

For more than doctrinal reasons, I believe Jesus wouldn’t taste that wine because though Jesus is a man of sorrows who inhabits and identifies with our pains, Jesus deals with pain differently. Jesus lived the pain of rejection. He feels the cuts of betrayal. He blushes at being stripped naked before the woman who first saw his nakedness, stripped of any dignity. And though it seems slight, Jesus feels the string of that hatred that would commandeer the last act of mercy as a vehicle to mock him. He couldn’t drink it all in because some things you drink, you risk drowning your soul in them. Jesus didn’t drink because it’s impossible to swallow the bitters in life without poisoning our prayers. The whole thing leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

Jesus didn’t drink in the bitters; but David swallowed his slights whole and it poisoned his prayers. The more we worship David’s heroism the less we are likely to notice his deep hurt. The more we fall in love with David the symbol, the less we even acknowledge the deep scars on his soul. David went through a lot in life. How would you feel to know that at the biggest moment in your life, your father never counted you among his children? Have you ever been there before to work so hard reducing your shine so as not to offend an insecure superior? Have you ever felt the hurt from being constantly undermined by close friends and family or even to have to sleep with your eyes open because a child you gave birth to is intent on sending you to an early grave? For the most part, David was able to keep these hurts under wraps - I believe the phrase is “to behave wisely” (1 Samuel 18:5, 14, 15, 30) but every now and then, David the tug came out when he felt slighted and rejected. The whole thing leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

You might miss it at first, but when you contrast Matthew 27 with Psalm 69, it becomes obvious. To fulfill Scripture doesn't mean that Jesus followed the OT Messianic scripts uncritically - what makes Jesus unique is his ability to flip the scripts just at the right time to fulfill the ultimate message within the Scripture. So Jesus inhabits David's excruciating pain expressed in Psalm 69:1-21, but he doesn't imbibe of David's volcanic passions in vs 21 -28. Listen to verses 21-28 of Psalm 69,

Psalm 69:21–28 (NKJV) — 21 They also gave me gall for my food, And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. 22 Let their table become a snare before them, And their well-being a trap. 23 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see; And make their loins shake continually. 24 Pour out Your indignation upon them, And let Your wrathful anger take hold of them. 25 Let their dwelling place be desolate; Let no one live in their tents. 26 For they persecute the ones You have struck, And talk of the grief of those You have wounded. 27 Add iniquity to their iniquity, And let them not come into Your righteousness. 28 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, And not be written with the righteous.

Up to this point, Christ and his passion have been so evidently foreshadowed (see on verses 4, 9, 21) that we are almost prepared now for a plea approximating to ‘Father, forgive them’. The curse which comes instead is a powerful reminder of the new thing which our Lord did at Calvary. It is not simply an emotional difference. David’s anger was fanned by his zeal for justice, which the Old Testament largely exists to keep before us; but Christ came to crown justice with atonement. Zeal for this, now it is accomplished, will stir us differently: cooling anger instead of kindling it; fostering rather than stifling compassion. See also Introduction, 5, pp. 45ff.; also comments on 35:7, 8; 109:6ff. - Derek Kidner, Psalms 1–72: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 15, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 266–267.

Scholars say it’s about justice, but, oh how quickly justice ferments into bitter retribution. The whole thing leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

While David plots for his enemy’s demise, in the heat of His pain, Jesus prayers remain passionately redemptive. How many times do we pray that folks would be lost rather than plead that they would be saved? The practical answer is, not many. The truth is that type of retribution we normally reserve for one person. And who was that person for David? Who’s that person for me? Who’s that person for you? We have to be so careful that our pain doesn’t end up poisoning our prayers. The whole thing leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

We find in Psalm 69 what breaks the magnanimous spirt of our heroes and sheroes. David slays giants; but he swats at gnats and the whole thing leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

Look at verse 26 - For they persecute the ones You have struck, and talk of the grief of those You have wounded.

What David cannot abide are those who would deepen God’s punishment by insulting him at his lowest moment. And he prays that God would never forgive them. The whole thing leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

Now, to be fair, you never see David acting out these prayers. But just because David didn’t do anything doesn’t mean that he forgot. In dying, David never forgot his mighty men. That’s commendable. But never did he forget the man who mocked him. Not until the point of his death do you understand that David never let go of what Shimei the son of Gera did… (2 Samuel 16:5-14; 2 Samuel 19:18-23). When David is dying, what is central in his mind isn’t the high points and his triumph over Goliath; his mind is focused on the low points and the taunts of Shimei. David cannot forgive Shimei for cursing David when God seemed to have been punishing David’s folly. And now, he wants Solomon to be swift in judgment (1 Kings 2:8, 9). Publicly, David praises God (2 Samuel 23:1-7); but privately he plots for Shimei to receive his just retributions. Oh how quickly justice ferments into bitter retribution. At our most heroic, we slay giants; at our most human, we swat at gnats and the whole thing leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers used the flamethrower to fire back at Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley, two former teammates who have consistently provided content for negative articles referencing Rodgers’ leadership ability. The long-overdue rebuttal was produced by Rodgers in an interview at ESPN Milwaukee that first aired Monday.

“It bothers me that every time there’s an article, it’s the same two people,” Rodgers said. And if it’s not an article about me, do you ever hear their names anywhere else? At what point do you move on? You talk about me being sensitive and petty? At what point do you move on or stop telling the same stories?” -

THAT WAS PUBLISHED ON April 9, 2019… On April 8, 2020, Jennings publishes the closest thing to an apology -

That said, Jennings blames himself for the antagonistic way he reacted to the Packers choosing not to offer him the type of contract that Minnesota did in 2013, and for how a sour taste came into Packers fans’ mouths for years in the process.

“I wasn’t strong enough to just let it go. I wish I had let it go,” he admits.

“It got me nowhere. I didn’t feel any better because of it. Sometimes when you have an argument, you want to get the last word. You might say something that goes just over the line, and in that moment, you think you’ve said something like, ‘Yeah, I got the last word, now what?’ But momentarily after that came out of your mouth…you immediately wish you could retract that statement and repair what you just destroyed…or kind of torn. That was me. I felt like I was kind of just thrown away and just disregarded, and because of that, ‘No, I’m going to show them. I’m going to tell them.’ I wish I hadn’t done that.” -

2000 years ago, Jesus was led up Calvary’s hill and at his lowest point, He felt for the first time that seclusion and isolation and agony that comes from being forsaken by God who had always been closer than a brother. At his lowest, Jesus was betrayed by a close friend, badgered by corrupt politicians and priests, beaten and bloodied by heartless soldiers, and booed by the fickle crowds who just days ago hailed his popularity. While He hung there, the temper saw another opportunity to repeat His threefold temptation - passerby, priests, and prisoners all mockingly Shimeied and Jenningsed him, questioning His relationship with the God who was obviously condemning Him (Matthew 27:39-44). He was so physically weak, that even the Roman tyrants made an exception and compelled help to carry Christ’s cross. But even at his weakest, Jesus didn’t drink of that sour wine mingled with gall. He wouldn’t let the bitterness in because he couldn’t afford to have his prayers poisoned by his pain. David, while heroic was only human; Jesus in his response was truly Divine (Matthew 27:54). I could give you a whole bunch of lessons from this minor observation but instead, I give you Jesus…

The Saviour made no murmur of complaint. His face remained calm and serene, but great drops of sweat stood upon His brow. There was no pitying hand to wipe the death dew from His face, nor words of sympathy and unchanging fidelity to stay His human heart. While the soldiers were doing their fearful work, Jesus prayed for His enemies, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” His mind passed from His own suffering to the sin of His persecutors, and the terrible retribution that would be theirs. No curses were called down upon the soldiers who were handling Him so roughly. No vengeance was invoked upon the priests and rulers, who were gloating over the accomplishment of their purpose. Christ pitied them in their ignorance and guilt. He breathed only a plea for their forgiveness,—“for they know not what they do.” - The Desire of Ages, pg 744.

If you are looking for a hero to teach you it’s time to let it go and forgive your Shimei or Jennings, look at how radically redemptive Jesus was in His prayers - it was bitter for Jesus, but it sure tastes like sweet Salvation to me.

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