A excerpt from a post by Jonathan Parnell at Desiring God. Find the post in its entirety here.
So we know overall, because of the Psalms and how it plays out in the
other Gospels, this sour wine is a bad move. It is yet another sting in
the excruciating cross of our Savior. And I think Mark, in particular,
shows us how. Theologically, we can understand it’s heinous
role in the mockery, in the Messiah’s suffering, but then Mark brings us
down to the ground of Golgotha. Again, the details are important.
According to Mark’s account, there is more rationale for why the
bystander, after mistaking Jesus to be calling for Elijah, offers him
the sour wine. We see it in his words. He offers the sponge to Jesus and
says, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come take him down” (Mark
15:36). Wait, he says. Wait. Jesus is nearing his final breath, as the
next verse says, “he breathed his last” (verse 37). And this bystander
says to wait.
Wait, in other words, let’s not let him die yet. Let’s help him hang on a little longer to see if Elijah might really come.
We don’t know exactly what this bystander had seen. Presumably he had
at least heard that Jesus worked wonders. Thousands had eaten when
there wasn’t any food. Real people who once could not walk, or see, now
could. Whether witnessed or heard, this bystander knew the dying man on
the tree had a reputation for the miraculous. And here, in the intensity
of Jesus’s passion, just before he breathed his last, the bystander
wanted to squeeze him just one more time for some good glitz. He didn’t
really think Elijah would come, but maybe. Jesus had done some amazing
things. But now, the bystander didn’t really hope for his rescue, he
wanted his dazzle. He didn’t want a suffering Savior, he wanted a
spectacular stunt. He didn’t want Jesus, he wanted his show.
And so did we.