Mark 15:23 - Jesus Denies Himself Relief
Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.Mark 15:23
In the passion narrative, there are many small details that can easily be read over as we are swept along to the crucial moments of Christ's suffering. Yet every detail was recorded for our edification and instruction in the faith. This is also the case with the text before us about the wine mixed with myrrh.
We know from Jewish tradition that those who were going to be executed and suffer much pain in their death would be offered at that time some relief in the form of wine, mixed with something else that would provide relief. One such substance was myrrh which apparently has narcotic qualities, as attested by the ancient physician Dioscorides Pedanius who did an exhaustive study of many plants and drugs in the first century AD. While not all commentators agree on the precise meaning of the soldiers offering Jesus wine mixed with myrrh, given the circumstances it seems quite likely that Jesus was being offered pain relief.
Jesus had just undergone a lot of physical suffering. He had been flogged and beaten. He had had a crown of thorns set upon his head and the soldiers repeatedly struck him on the head with a staff. Finally they took Jesus out to Golgotha to crucify him. Crucifixion is a very painful way to die. Anyone else in these circumstances would have gladly welcomed any kind of relief from the terrible suffering he had undergone and was still about to undergo. But when Jesus was offered the wine mixed with myrrh, he did not take it.
Why not? Why could Jesus not have a little bit of relief from the pain, the worst of which was yet to come? Because there was a lot more going on here than simply physical pain, however severe that, may have been. The wine mixed with myrrh may have been offered in a gesture of basic human kindness, but the devil used it to tempt Jesus to take an easier way, to pay attention to his own body rather than the will of God for his life.
In this simple offer of the wine mixed with myrrh, Jesus Christ is faced with a real temptation to take the easier road, to enter the depths of hell in a dulled state so that he could take the edge off the pain somewhat. But thanks be to God! Jesus remains faithful and does not take the easier road. He knows that he has to suffer God's wrath and punishment for our sins completely to make perfect satisfaction. Nothing less than complete satisfaction would meet God's holy and perfect standards.
See the love of Jesus Christ for sinners like you and me in this action of denying himself relief from pain! He does this willingly and consciously. He lived his life in perfect obedience to all of God's commandments. He had the plan of his Father uppermost in his mind at all times. Under no circumstances would he take shortcuts when it came to God's commandments. He always had his eyes fixed on what God expected from him. He presented himself as the perfect lamb, the lamb without defect – also without the defect of a stupefied mind and an intoxicated spirit. He was slaughtered whole and complete in every way. He experienced the rejection of God with his whole mind, soul, and being. When he cried out, "My God, my God why have you forsaken me?" (Mk 15:34), he did not do so as someone who didn't know what he was saying. He was not hallucinating or imagining things. No, he was experiencing reality to the fullest.
Jesus Christ descended into hell in a total way in order that we might be totally delivered. We do not need to experience it a little bit because part of Christ did not experience it. No, he did it in a way which involved his entire being. Because of his suffering and death, we may have the forgiveness of all of our sins. Jesus drank every drop of God's cup of wrath in order that our cups might be overflowing with the wonderful blessings of the Lord: the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and life everlasting. Let us drink deeply from these treasures which Christ has obtained for us, and live in the joy of his salvation all the days of our life.