And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”
One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
It was an old Jewish legend that Elijah would rescue those who were persecuted unjustly. Unfortunately, they misunderstood the meaning of Jesus’ cry. He’s not filled with sorrow that his disciples have forsaken him but because his Father has. He is dying for sinners – even those who are torturing him and hurling the insults.
The vinegar on the sponge could be seen in one of two ways:
- It is an act of kindness. The vinegar (or sour wine, as vinegar literally means) was intended to ease his discomfort, or
- It is intended to sustain him and more specifically, his suffering. With all the blood that was lost in the flogging, he is weak and his torturers know he won’t last long. The vinegar could have been an attempt to prolong the suffering and spectacle of it all.
But the real mystery to me is the person who brings him the vinegar. Who was this person? There was a woman who tried to get him to drink a similar concoction six hours ago. Was it her? It wouldn’t have likely been a Roman, because a Roman wouldn’t have known the legend of Elijah. A Jew would have known the legend, but wouldn’t a Jew have recognised that Jesus wasn’t calling Elijah (because they would know that Aramaic that Jesus was speaking)?
So who was this person?