He Would Not Drink
No incident recorded in our Lord’s life is without interest to the believer. No word or action while on the cross is without overwhelming interest. Consider this: “And when he had tasted, he would not drink” (Matt. 27:64). Wine mixed with gall was thought to be a mercy mixture to ease some of the excruciating pain associated with such a death. Our Lord tasted, then refused to drink. He wanted nothing to dull his senses. He was not an unfeeling sacrifice for sinners. All his concentration must be fixed and in sharpest focus for the work before him. All the Scriptures – he must be in tune with them, remember them, obey them. All the judgment – he must bear our death sentence without any lessening of personal pain or sorrow.
As the appointed Lamb of God, no comfort for himself, nothing for himself could he receive. To lessen his pain was to lessen the substitution – sinners deserve no lessening of their pain for their sins, and since he stood in our place, he must feel the full weight to give value and efficacy to his sacrifice. Nothing could be allowed to diminish his sacrifice – its complete self-renunciation and submission to the will of his Father, its uniqueness, and his complete willingness to give himself for sinners. To seek something for himself at that moment, anything for himself, would be to fight against the sword of justice and to turn the cross into a sentimental display or seek pity for himself. He would not drink.
He would not drink from the cup of pain relief because he must drain the cup of wrath to the last drop. There is more in that cup than nails and thorns, spit and shame. “In the hand of the Lord, there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he pours out the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them” (Ps. 75:8). As bad as the crucifixion was, far more horrific and painful for the Holy One to stand condemned in our place before the righteous Judge, to have our sins imputed to him. But could he not drink these dregs of wrath and at the same time have some tinge of relief for himself personally? No. There is no relief in hell. There is not a sliver of hope that relief in some form is coming – not even death. He became sin for us, and therefore he bore our hell. He would not drink. He could not drink.
Perhaps there were other considerations. By not drinking the sense-dulling mixture, the Lord refused to give his enemies any handle to say – “We knew it all along. He is just like any other charlatan or criminal – big words when his following is big, but scared to death when threatened. All that talking about self-denial and cross-bearing – he will beg for mercy just like all the rest. His enemies – the cabal of scribes, elders of the people, Pharisees, and the priestly family – all waiting to normalize him, break him down, destroy any faith in him by turning him into a raving madman or a whimpering child. He would not drink.
If we join all these ideas into one, it is this. He would not drink because there is no relief of any kind to be found for sinners. There is nothing to dull the pain of sin and God’s wrath against sin. “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps. 7:11), and there is no mixture that can remove the pain of being separated from God who is our life and joy. No drink, no pills, no money, no pleasure of any kind – all the cups of pain relief men have brewed have brought only more sorrow – numbing release but deeper sorrow when the cup is empty. He would not drink because sin is misery.
But he also would not drink because he was the appointed one to bear our misery, drain the cup of our misery. The believer in Jesus will never drink one drop from the cup of wrath. Not even in death will we taste its bitterness – the sting has been pulled, for the law has been satisfied. This is the glory of the gospel in one action – he would not drink of relief so that we would have complete relief. He refused the cup of gall and drank the cup of wrath so that we could take the cup of salvation in our hand.
This cup of salvation goes by many names and descriptions – water from the well of salvation, living waters from the throne of God, the cup of the new covenant in my blood. By refusing to drink, our Lord placed in our hand a full pardon, a cup of blessing, peace through his righteous sacrifice, relief by his mediation, forgiveness in his blood. Each time we come to the throne of grace, it is because he would not drink so that we can drink of sweet forgiveness and fellowship with our Father. Every sin forgiven, cry heard, temptation overcome, and sorrow soothed, it is because our Lord Jesus Christ fully drained the cup of judgment. He would seek nothing for himself, no relief of any kind, so that an ocean of relief, help, and hope would be ours.
There is another part of his not drinking that we must learn to believe and to use. Since our Lord would not drink, he has taught us that the disciple’s path is not seeking relief from our pain and sorrows – except in him. We must not seek strength for the battle and strength to overcome temptation except in submitting to the crosses our wise and loving Father places upon us. Instead of focusing upon our pain and frustration, what all these so-called sacrifices mean for us, how inconvenient and distasteful and disruptive they are, instead we must focus upon doing our Father’s will. In the bitterest hour of his trial, our Lord concentrated upon his Father’s love, his love for his Father, his love for his people, the joy set before him, his perfected, beautiful, and holy Bride.
When we are hurting and scared, angry and frustrated, let us not drink of the world’s pain relief measures – all its pleasures, addictions, and mind-numbing brews. Let us instead seeking nothing for ourselves, but stand quietly, prayerfully, without calling any attention to ourselves or trying to escape what the Lord is doing in our lives. Let us drink the cup of affliction, for our Savior has drained all the dregs of bitterness. At the bottom of the cup of affliction for the believer in Jesus, are found patience, experience, and hope; his peace, joy, and love in doing the will of his Father.