Seeing Jesus in Psalm 22

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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.

The Suffering Messiah (Psalm 22)

Songs of the Savior Series GFX_App SquareThis past weekend at Eastbrook, I continued our series, “Songs of the Savior: Psalms for Advent,” by exploring Psalm 22.

I began by walking through the three sections of the psalm, giving attention to both lament and praise in the Psalm 22. I followed this by looking at the psalm Christologically, with attention to the many New Testament references and allusions to this psalm (the most of any psalm). Finally, we explored what it looks like to utilize this psalm, typically thought of as a Good Friday psalm, within our Advent journey toward Christmas.

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here, participate in Eastbrook’s Advent devotional, or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities to connect.

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The Suffering Servant: Advent Devotional, Week 2

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Read Psalm 22

One of the most memorable events of my life was seeing my grandfather, a person I respected greatly, enter into a battle with cancer at the end of his life. While he retained great dignity to the end, his body became worn out and drawn thin. When we see people of strength in our lives go through times of suffering, it is a difficult thing to watch.

Of all the psalms connected with Jesus, perhaps the most penetrating is Psalm 22. This psalm of anguish and suffering serves as a backdrop for Jesus’ crucifixion, the first phrases leaping from His lips while He hangs affixed to that tortuous wood. There is a wonder here because the chosen one, anointed by God and by His Spirit, now enters into the suffering of humanity. He endures both the suffering humanity deserves and the suffering humanity inflicts. The intensity of the cup of suffering that Jesus drinks at the Cross finds expression in the strong words of this psalm.

It is ironic that the political and religious leaders who gather around to watch Jesus’ crucifixion mock Him as He suffers. “They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One’” (Luke 23:35). They seem to delight in the suffering of this supposed Messiah, even as Jesus’ followers hide away in fear or lurk nearby in anguish. This is ironic because even as they mock, the Jewish belief structure of Jesus’ time earnestly anticipated a messiah figure to relieve their suffering under the oppression of the Roman regime. As happens to all of us, they failed to see that what they most need is right in front of them.

Advent may seem like an odd time to focus on Psalm 22. The theme and words seem more like a Good Friday portion of Scripture. Yet the anticipation of Advent calls us to a watchful attention of the way that God works. Even before the foundations of the earth, God had a plan to reveal His glory in Christ and to bring us back to Him through the suffering of Jesus. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us” (Ephesians 1:7-8a).

As we continue our Advent journey, may the suffering of Jesus the Messiah, described in Psalm 22, give us hope that God has come to rescue us. And may we meet that hope with faith as we live for God and wait for Christ’s return. R

REFLECTION QUESTIONS FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT:

  1. “The Lord works in mysterious ways” is a phrase we often hear. In what way was the arrival and suffering of Jesus a mysterious path of God? And in what way would you say it all made sense?
  2. As you reflect on the birth stories of Jesus from the Gospels, where do you see His purpose and suffering anticipated? What is your reaction to God’s long-planned and perfectly-executed plan for our salvation?

FAMILY TALK WEEK 2

INTENDED FOR FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN

When park rangers rescue someone from a mountaintop or deep in a canyon, they have to do a short-haul rescue operation. This means that they y a helicopter as close as possible to the rescue site, then one ranger straps on a harness and is let out of the helicopter on a cable. The ranger dangles over the rescue site and eventually lands near the person to be rescued. The ranger links his harness to the stranded person, and together they are pulled back toward the helicopter where they can be safe.

Short-haul rescues are really dangerous! Park rangers who do them know that they are risking their own lives to save someone else’s.

This is exactly what Jesus did—but so much more! Jesus did lay down His life in order to save us. This is the whole point of the Savior Song in Psalm 22. Even though it was written hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth, this psalm gives clues about Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. It tells us that Jesus would feel all alone (verse 1-2), that He would be made fun of (verses 6-8), that His body would be weak and broken (verses 14-17) and it even tells us that soldiers would play games for His cloak (verse 18). It’s a sad picture!

But, it’s also a hopeful picture. Jesus loved us enough to rescue us—to take the punishment for our sins! Like the short-haul rescuer, he links Himself to us and brings us to safety! We know that Jesus rose again, and those of us who trust Him, will rise to live forever with Him!

[This is part of the Eastbrook Church 2019 Advent devotional, “Songs of the Savior.”]

The Beloved Anointed of God: Advent Devotional, Week 1

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Read Psalm 2

The story of God’s people, Israel, in the Bible feels like a story of people constantly looking for something. When Abraham and Sarah follow God’s call, they end up looking for a child of promise until Isaac is born. When Joseph is sold off into captivity by his brothers, he is looking for freedom, forgiveness, and a new beginning. When the people end up enslaved in Egypt, they call out to God, looking for deliverance.

Eventually, God’s people begin to look for a sort of leader who will come forth chosen by God. God raises up the judges one after another to fill this role, but the people want something more dependable. They ask for a king, like the nations around them. First it is Saul, then David, and eventually a succession of kings, some who are good and others who are bad. All the while, there is a deep searching for the kind of king truly set apart by God.

There is a word for that sort of king: the anointed one or, in Hebrew, messiah. When a leader was anointed, oil was poured upon their head as an outward symbol of God’s Spirit being poured upon them for the role of leadership. All through Scripture we hear the longing for an anointed one to come and make things right, both internally for God’s people and in relation to the peoples surrounding them.

Psalm 2 is a prayer song of that latter kind, calling out for God and His anointed to set things right with the nations raging around them. The anointed one is described as the son of the Most High, one whom the nations should kiss as a sign of their service to that kingly figure.

The early believers in Jerusalem later quote this psalm when they are being persecuted by religious and political authorities in Acts 4. It becomes a point of reference for them as they pray that God would enable them to step forward boldly to witness to Jesus, the true Messiah.

When we read Psalm 2 with Jesus in mind, suddenly some phrases take on new meaning. Verses 11 and 12 read: “Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. Kiss his son.”Once these words may have sounded like a demand from the writer, but now, through Christ, they sound like an invitation to devoted worship. It is probably no mistake that the most common word for worship in the New Testament (proskyneō / προσκυνέω) literally means to “kiss toward” someone as a sign of reverent adoration.

This Advent, may the words of Psalm 2 help us sing the song of the beloved anointed one of God, Jesus the Messiah, who is worthy of our love and worship.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT:

  1. When you think back on Christmases past, what have been things you’ve sought throughout the season that determine whether it was a “successful” season for you or your family?
  2. Knowing that Christ is the anointed one, the promised Messiah of God, what are the ways you will keep Him as the object of your focus/worship this Christmas?

FAMILY TALK WEEK 1

INTENDED FOR FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN

There’s a playground game called “Captain, May I?”. Maybe you’ve played it before? The “Captain” stands on one end of the play area while everyone else lines up at the opposite end. The Captain calls out a player and gives directions: Take five hops forward, or Spin in place three times.” The player called on must first ask: “Captain, may I?”. If a player forgets to ask, they are sent back to the starting line!

Of course, everyone wants to be the captain! It’s fun to be the one in charge, telling some players to go and others to stop, and really fun to send some all the way back to the start! This is what some people think it’s like to be king—telling everyone else what to do. The king is IN CHARGE!

But, who is in charge of the king?

This is what happened to God’s people. God wanted to be their king, but His people wanted to be like all the other nations—they wanted a person to be king. So, God allowed this. Sometimes, these kings were good, but sometimes they were bad—really bad.

Then, God sang a Savior Song! We hear it in Psalm 2: “I have placed my king on my holy mountain of Zion” (verse 6). God would set apart a special king, his own Son, Jesus, to be a king over all other kings!

This is what we celebrate throughout the season of Advent—the coming of God’s Son Jesus as the chosen, anointed king who would make everything right again. That’s why later in Psalm 2 God says:

Kings, be wise!
Rulers of the earth, be warned!
Serve the LORD and have respect for him.
Celebrate his rule with trembling. (verses 10-11, NIrV)

As God’s people today, we can be happy knowing that Jesus is charge! And we can worship Him as the king over all other leaders on earth.

[This is part of the Eastbrook Church 2019 Advent devotional, “Songs of the Savior.”]

Songs of the Savior: Psalms for Advent

 

This coming weekend at Eastbrook Church we begin a new preaching series entitled “Songs of the Savior: Psalms for Advent.” As you can already tell, this series corresponds to the season of Advent, the start of the liturgical year that leads to our celebration of Christ’s birth.

The Psalms are referred to as the prayerbook of the Bible. This collection of prayer-songs gathers up the wide-ranging experiences and emotions of humanity at prayer with God. All through these prayers are clues to God’s plan to bring lasting hope and new beginnings through a promised Messiah. As we enter into Advent, remembering Christ’s nativity and anticipating His return, we journey through four psalms that are songs of the Messiah.

November 30/December 1 – “The Beloved Anointed of God” [Psalm 2]

December 7/8 – “The Suffering Messiah” [Psalm 22]

December 14/15 – “The Eternal Priest” [Psalm 110]

December 21/22 – “The Perfect King” [Psalm 72]

Knowing Who We Are and Who We’re Not: a lesson from John the Baptist

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One of the most gripping commendations Jesus ever offered was about John the Baptist when He said, “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John” (Luke 7:28). There was really no one quite like John, and Jesus recognized that.

Of course, the other part of that statement was this: “yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” John knew who he was and also knew who he wasn’t, and that shaped the way he lived.

At one point in his ministry, John said to a group of his disciples and gathered onlookers: “You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him'” (John 3:28). John knows who he is and knows who he is not.

John the Apostle sets us up for this in the first chapter of his gospel when he says that John the Baptist is not “the Light”:

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (1:6-8)

Later on, when John is questioned by religious leaders, he knows that he is not the Messiah,  Elijah or the long-awaited Prophet:

Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Messiah.’

They asked him, ‘Then who are you? Are you Elijah?’
He said, ‘I am not.’
‘Are you the Prophet?’
He answered, ‘No.’

Finally they said, ‘Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Make straight the way for the Lord.”‘ (John 1:19-21)

John clearly knew who he was and who he was not.

Not only that, John knew that Jesus was the Messiah, and that he, John, was not Jesus:

  • John was not the light, but, as we read in John 1:9 – “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” – Jesus is the light
  • John was not the privileged son, but, as we read in John 1:14, “the word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” – Jesus is the One and Only Son.
  • John was not the Messiah, but more than once he exclaimed to his followers when Jesus passed by, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (1:29)

John knew that he was not the awaited one, but that Jesus was the one the world was waiting for.

So, when John the Baptist’s followers come to him feeling out of sorts because Jesus’ ministry is increasing, John is not really bothered. In fact, he knows this is the way things are supposed to be. He knows that all of what he is doing is really about Jesus.

John the Baptist is a powerful example for all of us who follow Jesus. He reminds us that not any one of us is the Messiah, and we should live accordingly. I am not the Messiah. You are not the Messiah. We cannot solve everyone’s problems, be everywhere at once, or be the one to save the world. That was Jesus’ job. Believing this and live out of this belief  is a significant part of our discipleship.

We are not here to replace Jesus, but to display Jesus in our life on earth. The difference seems slight, but it is gargantuan in practice. In our lives we are not trying to be the Messiah, we are trying to direct people to the Messiah.

John the Baptist knew who he was and who he was not, and it set him free to minister as God would have him regardless of the outcome.

Son of God [Name Above All Names]

NAAN-Series-GFX_App-Wide.pngAs we continued our series, “Name Above All Names,” this past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I looked at one of Jesus’ most revered titles: Son of God.  With roots in the promises to Abraham and David, Jesus’ identity as the Son of God stretches all the way before Creation and speaks of His unique relationship with God the Father and way of living upon earth.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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