Summary: how Jesus was outnumbered by bulls and lions
April 2, 2003 Psalm 22:12-13
Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. 13 Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.
In the town that I grew up in, there were what they called townies and ceeps. The students of Northwestern College - our school for preparing pastors - called the town people “townies.” And the townies called the college students “ceeps.” I don’t even know what “ceeps” meant. But I knew what it felt like to be a ceep. Even though I grew up in the town, when I put on a Northwestern College jacket, I became a ceep.
This brought problems occasionally. If you walked into the wrong bar or the wrong fast food joint, the townies didn’t like it. There are three now pastors that found this out the hard way. As they were walking into the local Hardees, they were suddenly surrounded by “townies” who were much bigger than they. After one future pastor told a ceep that he had a sesame seed on his lip, that future pastor got his head shoved through a wall, and another had his glasses broken. Being surrounded was not a pleasant feeling, nor was the aftermath of it.
Today’s text, Psalm 22 predicts that Jesus would be surrounded. Tonight we’ll see who surrounded Jesus, what it meant for him, and what that means for us today.
Jesus Was Surrounded
I. By Bulls and Lions
Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. 13 Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me. I did a word search on my computer to find any time that bulls or lions were mentioned either with David or Jesus. Some passages mention how David had to kill lions while protecting his sheep. But none mention bulls. There are no references to Jesus with bulls or lions that I could find. So what is the connection between bulls, lions, and Jesus’ life? These terms must be symbolic in some way.
What would the bull be symbolic of? I think I learned the answer to that several summers ago. I had some grass clippings that I wanted to get rid of, so I took them out to my father in law’s house. I don’t know if I had done something wrong the week before to deserve this - but my mother in law told me to put them out in the pasture with the bulls. Hesitantly I went. Slowly, I drove the truck up to the entrance of the pasture, breathing a sigh of relief as the bulls were on the other side of the pasture. I opened the fence and drove in the entrance of the yard, so as to quickly fork the grass off of the truck and keep the bulls from getting out. Unfortunately, the bulls thought that I was bringing some form of feed for them. So there I was, a city boy, in the back of the truck - face to face with a thousand pounds of pure - living - breathing - rawhide steel. Never before had I stood so close to an animal of that magnitude - of that strength - with no barriers but the wall of a pickup between me and it’s wrath. I never realized how powerful bulls were until standing face to face with one. What does the bull represent? Power. Bulls of Bashan were came from northeast of the Sea of Galilee - they were famous for being big and strong - good for jumbo sized steaks.
And what about the lion? The lion is the king of the jungle - known for one thing - being a predator. No other animal can mess with the lion head to head. It will not rest until it has a stomach full. Until that point - it will keep on hunting until the day it dies. Never will it go on a vegetarian diet or eat tofu burgers. Never will it decide to live on leaves. It always wants the taste of blood on it’s lips and running down it’s throat.
David is portraying powerful predators - and not just a few - but many of them - who had surrounded Jesus. Who would this be? It would have to be a large group of people who had very powerful positions in Jesus’ time. It had to be people, who like the lion, wanted His blood. Who would that be? Jesus tells us in Matthew 23:2 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. To the Jews - the synagogue was their ticket to God - without access to the synagogue - Moses’ seat - they were lost. So the Jews were at the mercy of the teachers of the law and Pharisees. As a result, these leaders could influence their thinking - telling them what to believe and how to act. In Acts 9, they even had the authority to send Paul to foreign regions to go and persecute Christians. These powerful bulls also had a thirst for Jesus’ blood, out of fear for their positions of authority Matthew 26:59 says, 59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death.