October 26 – Not A Kindness

John 19:28-30

A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. (John 19:29 ESV)

I remember reading the crucifixion story early in my teens and thinking that the executioners had decided to show a measure of mercy to Jesus by offering him wine. Later in life I learned better. That action was not one borne out of kindness, compassion, or mercy.

The Romans had developed a crude system of public toilets, basically just holes to sit on. The poor would capitalize on the opportunity for income by carrying sponges on sticks. They would dip them in sour wine and offer to clean the fecal waste from those using the public restroom for an extremely small fee. This is the same type of sponge which was offered to Jesus.

He came and lived blameless, sinless, and clean. The final hours of his life were marked with horrors, shame, and violence—and one final showing of apparent mercy turned out to really just be a sickening act of disrespect and contempt. No, Jesus was shown no measure of mercy or kindness by his captors.

Not only did Christ take on sin. Not only did he receive a beating, be he was horribly mutilated. He was deeply shamed. He was even force fed the equivalent of ancient toilet water. It was the culmination of all that Hell could muster. An attempt to mire the Son of God in the lowest muck of man. The kindness of Christ crucified by the cruelty of man.

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