We have finally arrived at Golgotha where our Lord is nailed to a cross. There “they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it” (Matthew 27:33-34). This has been interpreted in two different ways.
The traditional view is that it was customary for Jewish women to provide a narcotic drink to those condemned in order to deaden their sensitivity to the pain of crucifixion (see Prov. 31:6-7). If so, then Jesus' unwillingness to drink reflects his determination to endure with complete consciousness the agonies of the cross and the Father's wrath.
Others argue that this was not an act of compassion on the part of the women but an act of cruelty and torment on the part of the soldiers ("they" refers to the soldiers). The mixture was designed to make the wine undrinkable and extremely bitter. Thus the soldiers teased Jesus under the pretense of giving him good wine. Their real purpose was to aggravate his agony and humiliation.
One would think that Jesus had been subjected to enough public humiliation, yet we read in vv. 39-40 that “those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross’” (see Psalm 22:6-8).
Crucifixion was purposely public in order to deter others and especially to add to the humiliation of the victim by exposing him to the taunts of passersby. With expressions of malicious glee, they sadistically mock him and take delight in his pain.
The second taunt (“if you are the Son of God”) not only reminds us of his trial (Matt. 26:63), but for readers of Matthew's gospel it recalls a striking parallel when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness:
“And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread’”