“Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips” (John 19:28-29, NIV).
The Gospel writer John loves to share seemingly insignificant details that point us to grander truths. So, in describing Jesus’ final moments of life, John speaks of the hyssop plant as the instrument with which the Roman soldiers extend Jesus something to drink. The mere mention of hyssop is meant to direct our attention to an event that occurred many years prior to the cross. That event is the Jewish Passover.
For those unfamiliar with the history of the Israelites, the Passover refers to an event that occurred as the Jews, God’s chosen people, were slaves in Egypt. God sent a series of plagues in an attempt to convince the Egyptian ruler, Pharaoh to set the Israelites free. The final plague, often referred to as the death of the firstborn, resulted in the demise of many Egyptians including Pharaoh’s own son. The only way the Israelites were able to avoid such calamity was by following God’s specific directions involving the sacrifice of a blemish-free lamb and the spreading of the animal’s blood with hyssop on the doorframes of their homes. Death itself would “pass over” the homes marked with the blood of the sacrificed lamb.
Jesus is referred to as “ ‘…the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ ” (John 1:29, NIV). Jesus’ blood-stained cross is our doorway into our Heavenly home. Our sins are passed over because he took them in his body and was sacrificed for each of us. We no longer live in bondage to our sins and their spiritually deadly consequences. We are loved. We are forgiven. And we are free.