“I thirst.” It was just about the last thing Jesus spoke before dying on the cross (John 19:28). His blood, nearly drained from His body, caused the physical mechanism of His human anatomy to struggle hydrating vital bodily functions. There was nothing left to moisten His mouth. “I thirst.”
The centurion in charge of executions had heard this pitiful cry before, likely uttered in whispered grunts by men who were barely able to gasp for the breath needed to move raw vocal cords. He understood the murmured words, and half expected them. From his executioner’s kit, he pulled out a dirty jar full of spoiled wine. A sponge was soaked and tied to a stalk of hyssop. With an act of pretend mercy, it was raised to Jesus’ mouth.
John records that Jesus received the soured wine (19:30). Other Gospel accounts suggest that onlookers taunted Jesus with the rancid thirst-quencher. But He needed not the sour wine or the delivery system, hyssop. In fact, in all likelihood, His human flesh just needed enough of something, anything, to moisten His mouth so He could proclaim, “It is finished!”
But it’s that stalk of hyssop that makes me wonder…
In the Old Testament, God commanded hyssop to be soaked in blood and sprinkled on doorposts so Death would not take the firstborn of the house (Exodus 12:22). Later, He commanded blood-soaked hyssop to be used as an applicator to speckle people or buildings during rituals of purification (Leviticus 14:4-6, 49-52).
And there’s David who, in Psalm 51:7, said, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.” This was something more than just a mere washing or cleansing, for David, in that same verse, went on to say, “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” He was a poet and wordsmith, I know, but he certainly wouldn’t have repeated himself in a mundane way.
The meaning of the word purge as used in David’s psalm is literally “un-sin me.” Un-sin me with hyssop.* And that takes me back to the Cross…
The bloodied, beaten Man needed to speak. The physical man must have moisture to utter words that the Heavenly Man must say: IT IS FINISHED.
“Do not purge Him with hyssop,” is the heavenly mandate. Do not un-sin Him: For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (II Corinthians 5:21).
Just give the Man something to wet His whistle so He can end this thing.
* From The NASB Study Bible, c. 1999.