Maundy Thursday Mediation on Psalm 22

We cannot begin to imagine what it must have been like for Jesus Christ the Son of God to take upon Himself the sins of the world, our sins, as He was dying in our place on the cross. We could never even glimpse that awful suffering. But the Gospels themselves give us a window into Christ’s sufferings. The key comes in those words Jesus uttered as His torment was coming to an end, recorded for us in Mark 15:33
At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”- which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Those words come from the beginning of Psalm 22. Jesus was expressing his deepest anguish by quoting Scripture. And many writers believe that Jesus on the cross then continued to meditate on this Psalm. Because its words fit so well with all that He was enduring. Psalm 22 is remarkable! It gives a vivid picture of the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus which was painted by King David the Psalm writer one thousand years before the day when Christ died. Psalm 22 actually predicts at least nine particular aspects of the crucifixion which were fulfilled during the six hours in which Jesus hung upon the cross, from nine o’clock in the morning until three o’clock in the afternoon. The first twenty-one verses of Psalm 22 describe the sufferings of an unidentified individual who is all alone and is crying out unto God in his agony. Then from verse twenty-two the second half of the psalm clearly depicts the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. And so Christians believe that Psalm 22 represent the thoughts which went through the mind of our Saviour as he hung upon the cross. This is what it cost Christ to die for us!
Christ’s Rejection By God (1-5)
1. My God,my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.
4 In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.
5 They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
PAUSE

“Why have you forsaken me?” These opening words have been called “the cry of dereliction,” the cry of abandonment as the sufferer became aware that he is forsaken by his God. For the first three hours that He hang on the cross the sun shone brightly. But then from noon a strange darkness covered the land for three hours. It was as if even the sun refused to shine on the sufferings of its creator. The speaker is remembering the history of men of faith in the past, and the fact that a faithful God never abandoned one of them. Even though they were sinful men, God saved them when they cried out to him. Yet here was the Son of God, abandoned by God the Father! God allowing his beloved Son to drink the full measure of suffering and death without intervening because of His great love for humanity.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says this: “We have a sorrowful complaint of God’s withdrawings. This may be applied to any child of God, pressed down, overwhelmed with grief and terror. Spiritual desertions are the saints’ sorest afflictions; but even their complaint of these burdens is a sign of spiritual life, and spiritual senses exercised. To cry out, “My God, why am I sick? why am I poor?” savours of discontent and worldliness. But, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” is the language of a heart binding up its happiness in God’s favor.”

So the words of Psalm 22 not only reveal a little of the mind of Christ during those terrible hours of the crucifixion. They also give believers a pattern for prayer in our own times of suffering and anguish and fear, even in those darkest times when God seems so very far away – what the saints have called the “dark night of the soul”.
Christ’s Rejection By Man (6-13) as well as by God
6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads:
8 “He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
9 Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 ¶ Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no-one to help.
12 Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.
PAUSE

The Son of God was being treated as a “worm” at the hands of cruel men, He was despised, ridiculed, and abused. Dehumanised. Treated like hated criminal, as though he had lost his right to live in human society. Matthew records for us the fact that the crowd actually used these very words. The unthinking crowds who passed by, looked at the one suffering on the cross, and said, “He trusts in God; let God deliver him now,” {Matt 27:43a RSV}. They were quoting Psalm 22 verse 8 without even realising it! The prophecy is fulfilled.

How completely and utterly forsaken Jesus is! His disciples have left him alone. His friends and his family have rejected him and fled. Only God is left and now he senses that God himself is forsaking him.

This must have been impossible for the Son of God to understand, From the very moment of his birth he was in fellowship with God. He was always the delight of God’s heart, kept by his Father right from birth. As Jesus began his public ministry the Father spoke from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” {Matt 3:17b, cf, Mark 1:11}. Yet here Jesus is on the cross, abandoned and forsaken. We of course understand that it was because Jesus was being made an offering for the sins of the world. All the ugliness and meanness and defilement of our sin was laid upon him.
Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in our place condemned He stood.
Sealed our pardon with His blood – Hallelujah, what a Saviour!
Christ’s Suffering At Calvary (14-18)
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.
PAUSE

What an accurate description of the sufferings of the cross! Jesus was hanging there for six hours. His body was suspended by the nails in his hands and feet, his bones were pulled out of joint. Complete exhaustion. His heart felt like melted wax within him and he was gripped by a terrible thirst. No wonder Jesus cried out from the cross, “I am thirsty,” {John 19:28b}. This really is a most amazing and unmistakable description of death by crucifixion, written centuries before the method of crucifixion was devised.

The Psalmist says that he is surrounded by “dogs”. This was the common Jewish term for the Romans. Roman executioners are all around the cross here. He can see all his bones and, worse yet, he can feel them. And at the foot of the cross they are actually casting lots for his garments. Those hardened Roman soldiers were dividing the spoils of his clothing {Matt 27:35, Luke 23:34, John 19:34}. Because of their greed they did not want to rip his seamless robe apart, they cast lots for it. And here this is in Psalm 22, clearly described 1000 years beforehand. Jesus’ death by crucifixion is clearly foretold. All the cruelty of death by crucifixion – bones out of joint, parched tongue, pierced hands and feet. The physical pain and emotional turmoil are incalculable. Psalm 22 helps us see just how much it cost Christ to die for us!

Christ’s Prayer For Deliverance (19-21)

19 But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
PAUSE
The “sword” is a symbol for the authority of the Roman government. The “mouth of the lion” gives us a picture of the invisible demonic principalities and powers. In this picture of the “horns of the wild oxen” it is as though the sufferer is impaled upon two great, widespread horns, crying out to God for rescue Him. So Jesus cried out from the cross, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” {Luke 23:46b RSV}. In other words, “I trust myself to you”.
And with that, Jesus died. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. (Mark 15:37) For the women at the foot of the cross and the disciples looking on from a distance, that was the end of the story!
Hebrews 2: 9 puts it this way. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10 ¶ In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. ….. 12 He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.”
And here Hebrews quotes exactly Psalm 22 verse 22 – the beginning of the second half!
Christ’s Thanksgiving For Victory (22-26)
22 ¶ I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you.
23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honour him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfil my vows. 26 The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD will praise him- may your hearts live for ever!
PAUSE

Here is resurrection! The sufferer in the Psalm speaks as though he has risen from the dead, praising God in the midst of His people. May your hearts live forever! In the end God has not abandoned his chosen one! He has “heard” the cries of His suffering child. God has turned back and heard and rescued him. Psalm 22 continues with a song of praise which anticipates Easter Day as the whole universe celebrates the wonderful salvation which Christ has accomplished. And the psalm ends with these remarkable words. Grateful people from the “ends of the earth” will “turn to the Lord,” will come and “worship” God. Jesus had foretold his own resurrection. I believe that in his last moments of life on the cross, Christ did see beyond the grave.

And Psalm 22 ends with these words.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn- for he has done it.
In Hebrew, “it is finished.” On the cross, as Jesus concluded his meditation on Psalm 22, John’s Gospel tells us that final words echoed Psalm 22.
“Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
Jesus began in despair. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” Yet He ends in triumph, “It is finished. It is accomplished. The price is paid.” That is what Jesus has done for you and for me. “It is finished.”

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