On Psalm 22

Psalm 22 reads:

6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people.

7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.

8 “He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”

And Matthew writes:

39 Those who passed by [Jesus] hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

Pretty similar! Psalm 22 Reads:

14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me.

15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.

16 Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet.

17 All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me.

18 They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.

And Matthew 27 records:

33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is Jesus, the king of the Jews.

Again, similar things.

As soon as Jesus said Psalm 22, Matthew’s people would have seen the way Jesus’ death touches on these events in the Psalm. Very likely, just like whole songs get stuck in our heads if someone says certain lyrics, that Psalm would have been rolling through their heads as they heard this story being told. It was certainly rolling through Matthew’s.

Unfulfilled?

And, unusually, Psalm 22 reads:

19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.

20 Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs.

21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

22 I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you.

23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!

24 For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.

Some people will point out that nothing like this happens on Good Friday, but it happens on Easter, and that Jesus’ cry of Psalm 22–“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”–is not simply a cry of abandonment, but also a cry of trust that God will see Jesus through even his death, because in locating his experience in a Psalm that ends in both God and the psalmist’s vindication, Jesus is claiming that vindication for himself, too, even in his sense of abandonment. I’m in this camp, but not everyone is, and I still love those who disagree with me. Those who disagree with me will point out, rightly so, that not every aspect of a Psalm was lifted up as prophetic.

Jesus’ Suffering & Triumph:

But this points out that when it comes to the Psalms and how they are used in the New Testament as affirmation or proof of God’s work in Jesus, they are used largely in two places: Jesus’ death and Jesus’ resurrection. They are used as support, proof, that God’s in Jesus’ suffering, and in Jesus’ triumph, both. (Of course, it’s suffering that needs the most proof, because it was suffering–the Messiah’s suffering–that seems to fit so poorly with glory and power and triumph.)

Ending on Psalm 22:

Jesus saw, in the Psalms, things that he knew to be true about himself, both his suffering and his triumph. If we really believe that the Father, Son, and Spirit are one, as Jesus says in John, they are, then it’s hard to argue with the author of Hebrews who calls the words of the Psalms Jesus’ own words. The authors of the New Testament, inspired by God, saw in the Psalms affirmation and proof that what was happening in the life of Jesus was meaningful, made sense, given who Jesus truly was. And even the truth of who Jesus was, God’s Messiah, was supported and proven with psalms.

~Pastor Rich Hagopian

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