Summary: This series looked at the cross from the OT point of view. Psalm 22 is a perfect prophecy of what would happen to Jesus on the cross. His forsakeness is our assurance we will never be rejected.
PSALM OF THE FORSAKEN
Anyone who reads Psalm 22 can easily see Jesus written all over it and in it. This Psalm is often called the Psalm of Jesus or even the fifth Gospel. It is probably the most amazing of all the Psalms in that we have such a clear picture of the crucifixion of Jesus. And David wrote this piece one thousand years before Jesus was born.
Can you imagine such a thing? The most common question of an earlier generation was “Do you know where you were when President Kennedy was shot?” On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, while riding down a Dallas street in a convertible.
Suppose someone had discovered an authentic document from A.D. 963 that predicted this event. This was at a time when the Byzantine Empire was at its height, Constantinople was the capital of the world and America had not yet been discovered.
Imagine that some visionary had written an oracle back then which predicted that a time would come when a man of great prominence, head of a great nation, would be riding down a street of a large city in a metal chariot not drawn by horses, and would suddenly and violently die from the penetration of his brain by a little piece of metal hurled from a weapon made of wood and iron, aimed at him from a tall building, and that his death would have world-wide effect and cause world-wide mourning (Stedman). Oliver Stone would have to make a different movie based on such a prophecy.
Such a prediction would be very much like what we have in Psalm 22. The details of Jesus’ death are as fantastically recorded in truth as the fictional document we imagined concerning JFK.
The composition of this Psalm is unusual; like a sad, slow mournful song sung in duet with a hopeful, upbeat song. First the writer laments his troubles and then expresses trust in God. That is the way we will look at this Psalm and observe the thoughts of this man of sorrows who believes he is forsaken in every way.
1. Lament: God Abandons Him
It is said that the best way to approach this Psalm is to read it through and make brief comments and let it speak for itself. We begin with the familiar words of Jesus when he hung on the cross:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In the midst of his pain and agony these words came to his mind. No one understood what he cried because he said it in Aramaic mixed with Hebrew: “Eloi, Eloi, Lama sabachthani?” That was as much as he could speak.
The Psalmist went on, “Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.”
When Jesus uttered these words, the NT tells us that a strange darkness settled over the land. Someone said that when Jesus was born that night in Bethlehem, a star shone as bright as the sun in the night sky. When he died in the middle of the day, the sky grew dark. The Sun’s creator was dying.
Did God forsake his Son? Was Jesus actually abandoned by God on the cross? Some would ask: does it matter? Jesus died for me and that’s enough. I believe it does matter so let’s look at four views of Christ’s forsakenness.
a) It was a cry of anger, unbelief or despair – Was Jesus clinging to the hope that at the last moment the Father would send angels to rescue him? Or at the very least that he would feel the presence of the Father as he suffered? But now he felt abandoned and he cried out “Why?” as if his faith had failed him.
The problem is that this understanding of his cry denies the moral perfection of his character. Jesus would then be guilty of unbelief on the cross. It would be failure at Jesus’ greatest moment of sacrifice. We reject this thought then.
b) It was a cry of loneliness – This modifies the first understanding and says that Jesus knew God’s promises and only felt forsaken. Jesus was not guilty of unbelief but was experiencing the dark night of the soul.
The problem is that the words of Psalm 22 express an experience of being forsaken and not just feeling forsaken.
c) It was a cry of victory – the exact opposite of the first thought, Jesus in his understanding, quoted only the first verse to represent the whole Psalm which ends in triumph. This suggests that the people hearing him would know what he was referring to.