Psalm 22:  The Passion of Christ

How interesting that in His darkest hour, Jesus cited Psalm 22 as one of the last things that He would say before He breathed His last.  Perhaps those words will give us some insight into what Jesus was thinking during those torturous hours while He hung on the cross.  What was the passage that Jesus specifically quoted?  Look at the passage below.  

Psalm 22.1:  “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” 

Have you ever wondered why He chose that passage to recite?  There is no prophecy in the Old Testament that would demand that Jesus say anything.  Jesus did not have to say anything to fulfill the Old Testament.  Yet when He was subjected to the most painful suffering and death anyone could ever experience, He quoted this psalm.  

When you turn back to Psalm 22, you will find that it is actually called by scholars as a Psalm of the Passion.  When you look at the various points and the language that is used throughout the psalm, you will find that it is directly linked to what happened at Calvary.   For example…

  • Psalm 22.1:  “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  (quoted in Matt. 27.46).
  • Psalm 22.8:  “He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him”  (quoted in Luke 23.35).
  • Psalm 22.16:  “They pierced My hands and My feet.”
  • Psalm 22.18:  “They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing, they cast lots.”  (quoted in Matt. 27.35).

Let’s look closely at the first 18 verses of this psalm and see how they apply to Christ.  Maybe we will learn to love Him a little more and appreciate that great sacrifice that He made for you and me.

Psalm 22 Tells Us How Jesus Felt

Psalm 22.1:  “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?  Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning?”

These are the words that Jesus quoted from the cross.  These are words that are powerful and abrupt.  The word “forsaken” carries the idea of leaving someone behind at a time when they need you the most.  It was as if Jesus was shouting to God out of pure emotional distress.  Jesus quoted this passage to ask God, “Why did You turn Your back on Me when I needed You?”  

The verse continues, “Why are You so far from helping me”  Notice that the psalmist did not ask why God was so far from Him as if God was at a great distance.  He asked why God was so far from helping Him.  It was not a matter of distance, but of indifference.  He was asking, God why He didn’t seem to care about Him anymore.  

Psalm 22.2:  “O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear;  and in the night season, and am not silent.”

Jesus is crying during the day.  Do you remember when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane?  He fell on His knees and prayed to God with sweat like great drops of blood (Luke 22.44).  Later in the book of Hebrews, this scene of Gethsemane is described, and it says that Jesus prayed “with vehement cries and tears to the One who was able to save Him from death”  (Heb. 5.7).  

Here is Jesus in Gethsemane making a request to God, and His request came with great emotional upheaval.  This prayer went up to God who was able to save Him.  He knew that God could grant Him this favor.  He knew that God could save Him from the cross.  He prayed to God with so much emotional trauma that He tears and sweat were as blood.  Yet God did not rescue Him from the cross.  Perhaps that is why Jesus referred to this psalm to express how He felt.  

The verse continues, “and in the night season, I am not silent.”  

In the night, things seem to be worse than during the day.  Storms seem more fierce.  Thunder is louder.  Problems seem to be more severe.  Jesus is praying to God, crying all day and all night, and it seems as though God is not listening.  These are the thoughts expressed by Jesus as He quoted this psalm.  

This is the same Jesus who we can read about repeatedly in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John praying to God.  This is the same Jesus who would pray to God, and His disciples were so impressed that they asked Jesus to teach them to pray.  This is the same Jesus who raised Lazarus from the dead, and before He did so prayed and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me, and I know that You always hear Me”  (John 10.41,42).  Now as He hangs from the cross, He asks why God did not rescue Him from the cross though He had cried out to Him all day and all night.  

Psalm 22.3:  "But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel."

Peter said the same thing when He wrote, “as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct”  (1 Pet. 1.15). 

The idea is that God is on His throne, and surrounding Him in His place of exaltation are the praises of Israel.  

Psalm 22.4,5:  “Our fathers trusted in You; They trusted, and You delivered them.  They cried to You, and were delivered;  They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.”

The idea is that there were others who cried out to God and He did not forsake them.  There were others who asked for God’s help, and He was there for them.  We can read about individuals such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Joshua, who found themselves in need, and God rescued them.  

Why will He not rescue Me?  God is holy.  Others have trusted in Him, and He delivered them.  Why won’t He deliver Me?  That is how Jesus felt as He hung from the cross.  

Psalm 22.6:  “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised by the people.”

God helped others who cried out to Him, but He is not helping Jesus.  He felt worthless, like a worm and not a man.  When Jesus was born, He was given the name, “Immanuel” which means, “God with us”  (Matt. 1.23).  The demons knew who He was because they said, “You are the Holy One of God”  (Luke 4.34).  Now as He is hanging from the cross, how much like God did He feel?  

In the book of Hebrews, Jesus is described as “despising the shame”  (Heb. 12.2).  Literally, the word “despising” means “to think down.”  Jesus felt shame as He hung on that cross.  He did not think of the humiliation that He suffered as a badge of honor.  He despised the shame that he felt.

John 19 tells us that there were four soldiers who were responsible for executing Jesus.  In those days, the men typically wore five pieces of clothing.  These soldiers divided four of His garments among them.  For the fifth one, they gambled to see who would get it.  (John 19.23,24).  These four soldiers took away all His clothing leaving the Lord wearing absolutely nothing.  He was ashamed, and God did not save Him from the agony and shame of the cross.

Psalm 22 Tells Us How Jesus Hurt

Psalm 22.7,8:  “All those who see Me ridicule Me; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, ‘He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him;  Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!’”

Psalm 22.7:  “All those who see me ridicule me”  The idea is that they mock Him and make fun of Him.  Some translations will say, “laugh me to scorn.”  

Psalm 22.7:  “They shoot out the lip”   In the original language, this literally means, “they stretch out their mouths.”  When you were a child, did you ever put a finger in the left side of your mouth and put a finger in the right side of your mouth and stretch your mouth to make faces?  This is the idea of “they shoot out the lip.”  They were making fun of Jesus and making faces at Him.  

Psalm 22.8:  “He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him”  This is what they were saying to Jesus as they made fun of Him.

Psalm 22.9,10:  “But You are He who took Me out of the womb; You made Me trust while on My mother’s breasts.  I was cast upon You from birth.  From My mother’s womb You have been My God.”

Jesus is expressing how He always trusted in God.  God was there for Him from the very beginning.  Jesus had learned to trust in God even from the womb, even from the time when He was a nursing infant.  He knew and trusted in God His whole life.  

Psalm 22.11:  “Be not far from Me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help."

Jesus was in trouble.  He was facing the most difficult and darkest hours of His life.  Trouble was near, and there is no one that will help Him.  His point is that He trusted in God His whole life, and now, God is not there when He needed Him.  Listen to the words that Jesus heard from those who mocked and ridiculed Him.

  • They mocked His Might.  “And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads  and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself!”  (Matt. 27.39,40)
  • They mocked His Messiahship.  “If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”  (Matt. 27.40)
  • They mocked His Mission.  “Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, ‘“He saved others; Himself He cannot save.”  (Matt. 27.41,42)
  • They mocked His Majesty.  “If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.”  (Matt. 27.42)
  • They mocked His Message.  “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”  (Matt. 27.43)

He came to this earth as the hope of the world.  He came to this world as the Savior of men, and now He hangs on the cross as a Man who is seen as nothing more than a farce.  He was a man who had multitudes of people calling out to Him praising Him wanting His help, and now He hangs on the cross as a man who is mocked and ridiculed.  

Psalm 22.12-14:  “Many bulls have surrounded Me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me.  They gape at Me with their mouths, like a raging and roaring lion.  I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint;  My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death.”

There are bulls that have surrounded Him, but they are not just running in circles around Him.  They have surrounded Him and have turned and pointed their horns in His direction.  Their mouths are gaped open ready to devour Him.  The hostility that He felt from those who mocked Him has drained Him of strength and made His heart sink down with Him.    

Psalm 22.16:  “For dogs have surrounded me; the congregation of the wicked have enclosed Me.” 

Just like the bulls, dogs also surround Him, and they are being held back only by a congregation of the wicked.  His point is that He is attached to the cross, and surrounding Him are these vicious carnivorous beasts who are waiting for an opportunity to come in and tear Him to pieces.  

Psalm 22.17,18:  “I can count all My bones.  They look and stare at Me.  They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”

They have taken His garments and divided them.  All He had was the shirt on His back, and they even took that from Him.  

The crowd mocked and ridiculed Him.  They challenged Him to call out to God and let God deliver Him.  In response, Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me.”  (Matt. 27.43).  

All Jesus did was come and help people and preach a message of hope and peace. As He hung on the cross, He had no mother to come to Him and comfort Him.  He had no words of advice coming from a friendly face.  All He hears are those who pass by mocking the very idea of His being the Son of God.  All He hears and sees are those wagging their fingers at Him and shaking their heads.  All He sees is His mother walking away with His most loved disciple John.  Where was the love?  Where was the comfort when Jesus was hurting?  

The story is told of a preacher who was trying to vividly portray the suffering of Christ, and it touched the heart of a young child who then began to cry.  The mother, embarrassed, leaned over and said, “Don’t take it so seriously.”  

Jesus did not just go through the motions like a lifeless unfeeling robot.  Everything that He suffered, every cruel, torturous, evil act they brought upon Him, He felt physically and emotionally.

Psalm 22 helps us understand what Jesus experienced.  Jesus felt abandoned by God.  He was mocked and beaten.  He hung on the cross and a man broken and bleeding with no one to help Him.  You and I put Him there, because it was for our sins that He died.  

Psalm 22 helps us understand that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  

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