Why Hyssop at the Cross?
There are no mistakes in Scripture. There are no mis-steps in God’s Bible, His words to us. In this passage the author John includes a seemingly random detail about the crucifixion that is not included in the other 3 Gospels. Notice that he mentions “hyssop”:
“28Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”29A 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. 30When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” – As recorded by John, an eyewitness to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in John 19:28-30
Why did he tell us the type of plant? In the magnitude of this event, most important in history that God in the next line (30v.) willingly gives up His life in taking on the sins of the world. John mentions the hyssop. Does he just like it, a lot?
Well, let’s roll back to the first mention of hyssop in the Bible and see what’s up. In Exodus 12:22, we learn that the Hebrew people used the hyssop branch was used to smear the blood of a sacrificed perfect male lamb over their door as God was freeing them from their enslavement in Egypt. By smearing the blood over the door God promised that He would pass over their household and refrain from killing their first-born in this last and final plague against Pharaoh. The salvation from calamity and death was by putting faith in the blood as a sacrifice before God to be acceptable, based on God’s promise.
From then on the hyssop was used in a variety of tabernacle and temple duties. But very famously mentioned in Psalm 51 of David, his prayer to God about his sin of adultery.
“Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean, wash me and I shall be whiter than snow” – Psalm 51: 7
So what’s the deal with hyssop being mentioned at the cross? God uses hyssop as another undeniable sign of Jesus’ purpose. The Old Testament used hyssop to point to salvation. Whether being used to smear the blood during Passover, in the temple during sacrifices or in David’s prayer of repentance. John 19:29 mentions Hyssop as a key detail because the Hyssop stalk is pointed at Christ in His final moments on the cross, the final sacrifice and final complete salvation. It is by Christ’s blood we are saved. Hyssop points to salvation, it’s just one of the thousands of tiny and not so tiny signs/ prophecies to help us clearly see Jesus for who is He is, our salvation, our King.
Enjoy Easter everyone, enjoy what the hyssop points to.