post by Lisa Buffum, February 9, 2023
Begin by reading Psalm 22 on Biblegateway.com or in your own Bible.
Psalm 22 is very well-known in connection to the words spoken by Jesus on the cross, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). [Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34]
There is much scholarly debate over what Jesus meant by this phrase. Did Jesus feel like God had turned away from him? Does this show Jesus’ connection to our humanity and the human feeling we all experience at times of wondering if God is as distant as we sometimes feel? Did God actually turn His face away from Jesus because He could not bear to see Jesus’ suffering? Did Jesus’ distance from God in this moment give him understanding of what it is like to be me?
When I am experiencing a time of suffering, I want to know that Jesus understands my human condition. But, is that all there is to this psalm?
It might help if we pause to once again remember that the Jewish people who walked with Jesus and witnessed his suffering and death on the cross had an intimacy with the psalms that we most likely do not. The psalms were part of the Jewish culture, privately and corporately. Hearing this one opening line of this psalm would have stirred up in them a connection to the entire psalm.
So, if we let verse 1 of Psalm 22 lead us to the psalm, what else do we see in connection to Jesus? Much more of the psalm directly correlates to the death of Jesus on the cross. Death on the cross was for criminals who were dehumanized, scorned, and despised (verse 6.) Jesus was mocked and insulted (verse 7.) Even the words of the mockers are similar “He trusts in the Lord, let the Lord rescue him” (verse 8 and Matthew 27:41-43.) Jesus’ hands and feet were pierced (verse 16.) The soldiers divided his clothes and cast lots for his robe (verse 18 and John 19:24.)
If the psalm ended there, it would be a miraculous connection between the prophecy of the psalm and the passion of the Christ. But, the psalm does not end there. Verse 24 tells us that God did not despise or scorn the suffering of Jesus, and He did not turn His face away. The psalm continues to witness that out of the obedience of Jesus to fulfill his vow all the way to death on a Roman cross, God will be praised. Verses 27-31 celebrate who God is and all that comes next for those living at the time who knew the psalm intimately:
All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!
This is what the Jewish contemporaries to Jesus knew. They could recite this psalm by heart. When Jesus shouted “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” from the cross, any “good Jew with ears to hear” would have known the connection. They would have drawn the comparisons to what was playing out before their own eyes. And they now declare his righteousness to us who were then a people yet unborn:
He has done it! Amen!
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
PS – I love the book of Acts! As an experience for Lent this year, consider the online course Acts as a Lenten Journey. It begins Ash Wednesday, February 22.
If you want to discuss this post, go to the BeADisciple Facebook Group and find the prompt there.
Lisa is the Director of Online Education for the Institute for Discipleship, overseeing the ministries of BeADisciple.com. Lisa completed a Master’s degree in Christian Ministry from Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, in May of 2006.
She is the mother of three children, and currently, “Mimi” to four grandbabies. Lisa teaches the instructor training course, Lay Servants as Christian Transformational Leaders, and other courses as needed, and provides technical assistance for instructors and learners for every IFD course.