Bonus this week, two posts. Actually, today’s isn’t anything original. I was listening to a sermon podcast a few months ago and made note of something not only eye-opening for the mind but the heart. There’s so much we don’t understand about Scripture because we don’t know the context. Mark Driscoll points out something I’d never noticed, the vinegar sponge offered to Jesus. Check out the video clip from his sermon or read the transcript that follows.
From Mark Driscoll’s message—Luke’s Gospel: Investigating the Man Who Is God Part 2, Eyewitness to Jesus
And, in closing, I got one question most frequently along the trip through the social networking sites online and from those whom I’ve had the pleasure of talking with, and that was, “Did you learn anything new about Jesus?” or the question is sometimes alternatively stated, “What did you learn about Jesus that was most new and compelling?” I learned a lot of new things about Jesus. See, the good thing is that there’s always something to learn about Jesus. Even if you’ve been investigating for twenty years, there’s still a lot more to learn.
And I’ll share with you in closing what I did learn that I found to be most interesting about Jesus. And I’ll have to explain this photo because I’m sure it’s not clear at first glance how this is what I learned about Jesus. On the left is Gideon Joseph, my youngest child, three years old, just started drum school. He rocks for the Lamb. He looks forward to joining a Mars Hill worship team. In this picture, he is straddling an ancient water trough that would deliver fresh water in front of where my daughter Alexie is sitting. She just started kindergarten. And she is sitting on an ancient public toilet. I said, “Honey, why don’t you have a seat there?” And she said, “I won’t sit on it, but I’ll sit near it.” “Okay.”
And what would happen is, there would be about forty people, this was an ancient public restroom, and there were no stalls. You’d just sit there, and I don’t know, visit or play Frisbee or I don’t know what you would do. And there was no toilet paper, so they would grab water and clean themselves. And the tour guide who was with us, and I believe he was a professor of archaeology, he said something and all of a sudden a portion of the Scriptures just made sense. And here’s what he said. I’ll show you. He said that some of the poorest slaves realized that there was a potential income stream here, there was a way for them to make money. And so what they would do is they would take a sea sponge on a stick and they would moisten it in the fresh water and then put it into the hole where the person was sitting and scrub them after they went to the bathroom. And over time they realized that one sponge for hundreds of people caused some to get infections. So then they would cleanse the sponge with vinegar or sour wine as a disinfectant. And all of a sudden, a part of the Bible made sense. Do you remember the part?
Jesus is being crucified, God comes to earth and we murder him, and as he’s being crucified, he’s preaching. And he just got done saying, “Father, forgive them,” and to shut him up, the Bible says they took a stick and they tried to shove it in his mouth with a sponge on the end. That was the stick, and that was the sponge. Which means that that was the last taste in Jesus’ mouth on the cross. That was the last smell in Jesus’ nose on the cross. And then Jesus said, with those lips, covered in that filth, “It is finished.” What is finished? Forgiveness, the atonement of sin, the forgiveness of the atrocity that is your life and mine. And if Jesus could forgive those people in that moment for that act with that taste in his mouth, he could forgive anyone for everything. Amen.
I had always read that section of Scripture and thought, it was nice that they gave Jesus a bit of compassion in his moment of greatest need. And I realized, there was no compassion for Jesus. There was no love and respect and appreciation for Jesus. But there was a lot of love and respect and compassion from Jesus for people like me, who in our own ways, have just taken the sponge of our life and shoved it in his mouth. And what he says is, “I forgive you, and I have finished the work of salvation. I have paid for all of your sins, and I love you.” That’s our Jesus.