Summary: Psalm 22 is: 1. A word of prophecy. 2. An expression of human emotion. 3. A message of hope.
This morning I would like to read you some verses from a particular passage of Scripture and ask: To what event are these phrases referring, and from where do they come?:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
“All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: ‘He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.’”
“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.”
“They have pierced my hands and my feet.”
“They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”
So, to what event is the writer referring? Now, from where do these words come, the New Testament or the Old Testament? If you said that they were the words of Jesus found in the New Testament describing his crucifixion, you would be wrong — at least partly. What I have read to you is actually a psalm written by King David — Psalm 22. It is a fascinating psalm describing the full gamut of human emotion, as well as being a prophetic word of what the coming Messiah would have to endure at the hands of sinners.
Let’s look at this psalm and see what it has for us today. The first thing I notice in this psalm is that: It is a word of prophecy. We have to ask the question: “How did David, who lived a thousand years before Christ, describe the crucifixion of Christ in such detail?” David wrote before the Roman empire existed, and before crucifixion was invented as a means of torture and death. We can understand that Jesus may have chosen to quote this psalm as he was dying on the cross, but how did David literally quote the Pharisees as they stood taunting Jesus while he was on the cross. Centuries before there were anything such as a Pharisee, David wrote: “He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” (Psalm 22:8). Then, at the crucifixion of Jesus, we hear the Pharisees saying: “He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.” (Matthew 27:43). Imagine Jesus reading this psalm as a 12-year-old boy. He had begun to study the law in synagogue and by adulthood had much of the Old Testament memorized. As he memorized the words, they burned their way into his heart as he understood that the words would applied to him and his sacrificial death for the sins of the world. This death had been planned before the world began, for the Bible tells us, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake” (1 Peter 1:19-20). The book of Revelation says that Jesus was the “Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).
He knew. He knew that he was facing death by crucifixion. They would pierce his hands and feet. His tongue would stick to the roof of his mouth, because he would lose fluids from his wounds as he hung in the scorching sun. What little fluids were left would pool in his lungs. Those who should have welcomed him hurled their insults instead. How could David have known, hundreds of years before, that the soldiers would divide his clothing and cast lots for the one piece that was made without a seam? How could he have known any of this. It was a prophetic word given to him by God. As far as David knew, he was simply describing his own agony and feelings of rejection as the King of Israel in metaphorical terms. He had no clue that he was giving a precise description of the death of his ancestor — the ultimate King of Israel, the Messiah who would be called “The Son of David.”
Many of the Pharisees had memorized Psalm 22, but they failed to see that it had anything to do with the Messiah. I wondered as I studied this if Jesus purposely quoted the first verse of this psalm, at the end of his experience on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, simply to get them to finish the rest of the psalm in their heads. If they did begin to go over the psalm in their minds, they must have been pierced to the heart. Jesus, in effect, pushed the play button on a tape recorder which began playing the psalm in their minds. Imagine one of the Pharisees finishing the psalm that Jesus had begun, only to hear himself quoted, and to recognize the awful events surrounding the crucifixion They would never have put it together before, but now the reality would be inescapable.