Psalm 22 is a psalm every follower of Jesus should meditate on frequently. It’s one of my “go to” places for meditation on the crucifixion of Jesus. Just a quick reading should draw the minds of most people to the cross, but the writers of the Gospel specifically wanted their readers to recognize that Jesus was the suffering Messiah of Psalm 22. The Gospels quote this psalm extensively throughout the Passion narrative.
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?Psalm 22:1 CSB
Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:33 include Jesus quoting these words from the cross. I read somewhere that this psalm was “the death psalm” and every devout Jew wanted to die while reciting it. But I think there’s more to this quote than just that. When the one who had no sin was made sin for our benefit (2 Cor. 5:21), it distanced Jesus from the Father in a way he had never experienced. A closeness we can only dream of was destroyed because of our sin. And in that moment Jesus felt the distance, felt alone, and felt abandoned.
Everyone who sees me mocks me;Psalm 22:7-8 CSB
they sneer and shake their heads:
“He relies on the Lord;
let him save him;
let the Lord rescue him,
since he takes pleasure in him.”
Matthew 27:39-44, Mark 15:29, and Luke 23:35 all include elements of these mockers shaking their heads and hurling insults. Part of the crucifixion process was public shaming. If they wanted you dead they could just use a sword. Crucifixion usually lasted a long time and included being stripped naked (see 22:17), as well as insults from accusers being hurled upon you as you died.
It’s always struck me that Jesus could have done exactly what the accusers said. “Let the LORD rescue him.” It certainly could have happened, but would the accusers really have believed? And if Jesus did come down from the cross and the accusers did believe, then our sin would remain because Jesus would not have conquered death. No doubt Jesus wanted them to believe, and Satan knew that too. Even on the cross there is a temptation for Jesus to take the easy way out. Yet his love for us held him there.
My strength is dried up like baked clay;Psalm 22:15 CSB
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You put me into the dust of death.
NIV renders the first line of this verse: “My mouth is dried up like a potsherd…” but both translations show that there seems to be a dry mouth at play. No doubt Jesus would have been dehydrated and thirsty. John 19:28 recalls Jesus crying out because of thirst.
For dogs have surrounded me;Psalm 22:16 CSB
a gang of evildoers has closed in on me;
they pierced my hands and my feet.
We read verse 16 and instantly think of the cross. What we may not realize is that crucifixion wasn’t even invented when this psalm was written! What would it mean to pierce hand and foot? The Holy Spirit knew as he inspired these words to be written in a time when they didn’t make sense in their immediate context.
They divided my garments among themselves,Psalm 22:18 CSB
and they cast lots for my clothing.
All four Gospels include this detail about the soldiers at the foot of the cross. (Mt. 27:35, Mk. 15:24, Lk. 23:34, Jn. 19:23-24) Cloth was valuable. Jesus certainly didn’t have much in the way of earthly possessions, and even what he had was taken from him. Afterall, what good will clothes do for a dead man?
They will come and declare his righteousness;Psalm 22:31 CSB
to a people yet to be born
they will declare what he has done.
We now have the responsibility of fulfilling Psalm 22. Jesus went to the cross for us. We don’t have to worry about that part. But we do have the responsibility to tell future generations of his goodness! We must declare what Jesus has done!
Every verse of this psalm points to something in the ministry, death, or resurrection of Jesus. I praise God for passages like this that tell the story of the Messiah hundreds of years before his birth. Now let us tell his story hundreds of years after his death and resurrection! Blessings.