“Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to his mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19.29-30 NKJV).
Many people become confused by these verses in the Gospel of John. Jesus drank sour wine or old wine before giving up His spirit to God. We are baffled because in the Book of Matthew, Jesus tells His disciples, “I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom” (Matthew 26.29 NLT). Also, Jesus refused to drink the sour wine mixed with gall that the soldiers offered Him before nailing Him to the Cross (Matthew 27.34). What we find is that Jesus is purposefully making a beautiful allusion to the reason for His sacrifice. The sour wine is a symbol of the Old Wine of the Law, the Covenant that God made with His Chosen People through Moses. The people stated emphatically that they could achieve God’s holy standard (Exodus 19.8), so they had to experience failure to realize how much they needed a savior. By the time Jesus was born, the people have proven themselves unable to keep God’s holy standard. A New Wine was needed—a Covenant of Grace between God and His People. Before Jesus died on the Cross, He drank from the Old Wine to illustrate He was consuming the Old Wine and bringing forth the Blood of the New Wine that would save the entire world—not by Law but by Grace, not by our goodness but by His. Jesus would not drink the sour wine mixed with gall because “gall” is a symbol of bitterness. Jesus was not bitter when He drank the Old Wine of the Law that we were unable to fulfill. Rather, Jesus was so in love with us, His Creation, that He consumed it freely. He knew very soon He would drink the New Wine of Grace with all of us in heaven for eternity. Today we live in a New Covenant Age of Grace because of what Jesus did on the Cross and the blood that flowed from His broken body. We don’t need to feel ashamed when we fall short of God’s glory. Instead, we find undeserved salvation in Jesus. He consumed our imperfections, and poured out His perfection on us.
“One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out” (John 19.34 NLT).