Seeing Jesus in Psalm 22

Rembrandt - The Three Crosses

In my message this past weekend, “The Suffering Messiah,” I mentioned how Psalm 22 is one of the most, if not the most, quoted and alluded to psalms in the New Testament. This is both  Psalm 22 is brought into close connection with Jesus’ work upon the Cross, particularly His exclamation of the first words of the psalm, quoted in both Mark and Matthew:

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’). (Matthew 27:46)

When Jesus’ quotes that first phrase of the psalm from the Cross, He is telling His hearers something about His mission not just from that first verse, but in connection with the entire content of Psalm 22. As Bible scholar James Luther Mays says, “Citing the first words of a text was, in the tradition of the time, a way of identifying the entire passage.”[1] Jesus is helping us see that Psalm 22 is a description of His life mission and ministry work.

When we look at Psalm 22 Christologically, we see echoes again and again of Jesus’ life mission and the gospel.

At the Cross, Jesus faced humanity’s distance from God, something we have already heard in Jesus’ cry of dereliction, quoting Psalm 22:1, as recorded in both Mark 15:34; Matthew 27:46.

At the Cross, Jesus faced opponents, both human & demonic. [2] When Psalm 22:7 says, “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads,” Matthew writes of Jesus on the Cross, “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads” (Matt 27:39; cf. Mark 15:29).

When Psalm 22:15 says, “My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth,” John writes of Jesus on the cross, “so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty’” (John 19:28).

When Psalm 22:18 tells us, “They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment,” Luke writes, “And they divided up his clothes by casting lots” (Luke 23:34; cf. Mark 15:24; Matt 27:35; John 19:23-24).

It is not just the crucifixion that is referenced in Psalm 22, but also the resurrection, where God delivered Jesus from death and won praise from the nations.

When Psalm 22:24 says, “[God] has not hidden his face from the afflicted one but has listened to his cry for help,” the writer to the Hebrews describes Jesus’ resurrection in this way, “[Jesus] offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard” (Hebrews 5:7).

When Psalm 22:27 speaks of the Messiah winning praise from the nations, “all the nations…will turn to the Lord,” Jesus tells His disciples, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8; cf. Matthew 28:18-20).

And when Psalm 22:31 concludes with “He [God] has done it!”, Jesus speaks at the end of His ordeal upon the Cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

When we read Psalm 22 with the eyes of Advent, we find a psalm that spoke of the Israelite king being delivered now gains deeper meaning for us about Jesus as the Messiah.

Now, we can praise God for His deliverance of Jesus, the true Messiah, from death. Because of God’s faithful deliverance of Jesus, we know He will also be faithful to us, His people.

 


[1] James Luther Mays, Psalms (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1994), 105.

[2] See other parallels: Ps 22:6 and Matt 27:29; Ps 22:16 and Mark 15:25; John 20:25.

Crucifixion: Three Short Poems

I wrote three short poems as part of our Crossroads devotional for Lent at Eastbrook Church. I include them below. You can access the entire Crossroads devotional here.

“With loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand.” (Luke 23:23-24)

“Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he said this, he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:46)

No law can withstand human demands.
No governor forestalls foregone conclusions.
We stand amidst the crowd, shouting
for the death of our God to satisfy
our thirst. With no words for the crowd
and no words for Pilate, Jesus submits
meekly to the grinding gears. No tears
now from the King who is not of this world.
No harsh rebuke of a holy and awesome God.
No one leaps to His aid. No angels descend
from the skies. No one stops what has now
been set into motion. The cold, cruel world
reaches out for destruction, but still,
even still, there is divine intention.
Hidden – within and without – from our eye,
God is working, transforming our reality.

*   *   *

Without fanfare, the King of Glory is pinned
with gory force upon the beams of wood.
The people watch with voiceless stares.
The sneering rulers speak their fears.
The soldiers mock with maiming force.
Overhead the notice speaks sharp
truth: this is the King of the Jews.
With no apparent human heroism,
His snapping skeleton – a bloody body –
hangs heavy as God’s heart becomes a wound
opened wide with welcome for all who wash
their weary selves within its messy flow.
Still now He hangs at God’s cross purposes
as holiness and grace collide with fire.
The vulture views the spectacle and waits,
as all earth’s air is drained out of God’s lungs.

*   *   *

In the clamoring cacophony
echoing around the execution,
unseen divine intimacy unveils
to human eyes and ears.
His heaving body, suffocating
with evil, wheezes out a prayer:
pleading, surrendering, commending.
The drama of humanity’s weakness
and God’s strength transfixed at
the crossroads, takes a hard
turn into unexpected avenues
as Messiah gasps, shudders and dies.
Darkness descends and everyone
gapes in stunned silence:
‘What have we done?
What has He done?’

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Difficulties at Work (discussion questions)

God at Work Series Gfx_ThumbHere are the discussion questions that accompany the message I delivered this past weekend at Eastbrook Church, “Difficulties at Work.” This is the second part of our series, “God at Work.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some of the most common difficulties we face at work? How have you dealt with one of those in your own life?
  1. We continue our “God at Work” series this weekend by looking at difficulties with work. Before beginning this study on your own or with a group, take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you.
  1. We work in a world impacted by sin, brokenness, and evil. In the Bible, this reality is known as the Fall, reflecting our fall from God’s grace and into sin. Read Genesis 3:14-19 and name some of the main effects of sin and evil upon our work.
  1. Jesus came to bring the good news that kingdom of God is near (Mark 1:13) and to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). This was, in one sense, the work that Jesus came to do (John 5:17). When you think of Jesus having work to do, what does that say to you about what it means to work?
  1. Read through Luke 22:39-23:56. As you read through this, take time to reflect on each episode of the story by asking the question: how is Jesus approaching His work here? This may take some time. You may want to take notes as you walk through this extended portion of Scripture.
  1. If Jesus worked His way through difficulties, how does that change your approach to working through difficulties? Maybe you want to consider one situation that is particularly difficult for you right now. How will you see or approach that situation differently because of Jesus?
  1. Sometimes we may feel that the distance between Jesus and us is too great for comparison on this topic. That begin said, we need to remember that Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit to strengthen us to live in His ways. What is one way you are asking God to give you Holy Spirit power to work in the midst of difficulty this week? If you are alone, write it down and pray about that. If you are with your small group, share your answers with one another and then pray for one another about these things.

Difficulties at Work

God at Work Series Gfx_ThumbHow should we respond when we face difficulties at work? What do we do when we run into tensions with co-workers? What if our work environment puts undue pressure on us or is simply at odds with God’s ways?

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church we continued our series, “God at Work,” with a message “Difficulties at Work.” The message dealt with…well…the difficulties we face at work and how we respond to them.

You can watch the message right here and follow along with the outline for the message below. You may want to interact with all the messages from this series here.

You can connect with us further at Eastbrook Church on VimeoFacebook, Twitter and Instagram, or listen to the message via our audio podcast here.

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