The last haunting words of Jesus before he died in Matthew’s gospel were: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”. Taken from the first verse of Psalm 22, it is interesting that Jesus’ last words were the beginning of this psalm that modeled so much of what he was experiencing on the cross. Psalm 22 is a great psalm to dwell with on Good Friday. Not only does it model what Jesus went through in the crucifixion, but he had on it on his own lips and mind as he was experiencing the cross.
Psalm 22 is a one of those brutally honest Psalms in Scripture that does not hide away from pain and suffering. The psalmist begins with a cry of feeling utterly alone and forsaken (vs. 1). The psalmist feels ignored from their cries to God and they cannot rest at night. There seems to be an interesting pattern in the lament Psalms. Before the psalmist can get to praise and thankfulness to YHWH, the darkness that they are facing is directly addressed. It is not pushed to the side or not spoken at all, but rather, the psalmist often times begins the psalm with stating their own disorientation. In a culture where pain and suffering is often seen as something to be avoided, even in regards to our spiritual worship, the psalmist seems to disagree vehemently with the notion that pain does not have a role in worship. And Jesus picks up the psalmist way of worship and lives into his own suffering reality using Psalm 22 as a way of giving voice to his own pain.
The ancient Christian truth that Jesus is fully human and fully Divine means that Jesus really did face the suffering that was inflicted upon him. It means that his fear and tears at Gethsemane were real. Often times Jesus is pictured as a normal human with superhero powers that could have saved himself at any moment, but instead he just chose not too. However, one of the incarnation realities of Jesus being fully human means that he must have faced the human limitations that any “fully human” person would, such as facing the full burden of physical, emotional, and spiritual pain.
The psalmist describes their self as feeling like a worm and not human, and despised by all (vs. 6). Being poured out like water, bones out of joint, bulls encircled around them with their mouths open, the psalmist feels utterly alone and hollowed out. It is no wonder that the beaten and forsaken Christ would have this Psalm on his lips and mind as he was going through is last moments of the cross. He was living this psalm.
As we reflect and meditate on the crucifixion today, let us join Jesus in praying Psalm 22 together. May we learn from the cross how to love better, pray more honesty, and trust God even when darkness overwhelms us.
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
3 Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried, and were saved;
in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm, and not human;
scorned by others, and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock at me;
they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
8 “Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”
9 Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
10 On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me 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 encircle me,
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs are all around me;
a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shriveled;
17 I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
my life from the power of the dog!
21 Save me from the mouth of the lion!
From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
28 For dominion belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.
29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.