Thursday, April 5, 2012

Psalm 22: Jesus

It’s hard for me to hear about the suffering of Christ and all of the events that led to the cross. Just a couple of weeks ago, I asked for a volunteer in my ESL (English as a Second Language) class to read Psalm 22:1, which says, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (NKJV).* The first volunteer read it in English. The second volunteer began to read it in Spanish, but couldn’t finish. Emotion overtook her, and tears began to swell. I could relate.

Written about a thousand years before Jesus’ crucifixion, Psalm 22 is the only psalm that is entirely devoted to describing Jesus’ death for us. His physical, emotional, and spiritual agony is hard to imagine. The cruel nature of Jesus’ enemies and His pain is described here with picturesque language. This chapter was written by the psalmist David, yet God inspired him to show what His Son would go through on the cross. Verse six foretells that Jesus would be despised by men: “I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men and despised by the people.” Jesus’ enemies would encircle Him like wild, savage animals: “Many bulls have surrounded Me; strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. They gape at Me … like a raging and roaring lion” (Ps 22:12-13). The physical and emotional toll on Jesus would “melt” Him: “I am poured out like water … My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me” (Ps 22:14). Verse 16 foreshadows the brutality of this form of execution: “They pierced My hands and My feet.”

Yet I would think that the most intense form of agony is found in Psalm 22:1: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” In order for Jesus to bear our sin, He had to be separated from God—from the Father and the Spirit with whom He had always been united. Was this separation the reason Jesus asked three times if the Father would take “this cup,” this suffering, from Him (Matt 26:39 NKJV)? But each time Jesus prayed that the Father’s will would be done. Jesus understood that He was the only one who could drink that cup—who could die for our sin—and He was willing to do it because of His great love for us (Romans 5:8).

The resurrection of our Lord from the grave is the Easter story that we celebrate every spring. Sin and death couldn’t hold Him. No “bull” (fierce person) or “dog” (malicious person) could take His life. He willingly laid it down for love’s sake and because it was the Father’s will. Because of His sinless life, His spotless sacrifice, God raised Jesus from the dead as proof of who He was and what He did. He is the Son of God, and He sacrificially gave His life so that we could have life forever with God. What a Savior!

Praise is the heartfelt response we can have to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus won the victory over sin and death for us. We can turn to Him and worship Him (Ps 22:27); we can serve Him and tell others what He has done for us (Ps 22:31). This Easter, let’s praise God for giving us His Son, and look for opportunities to tell others what great things the Lord has done!

*All Scripture quotations taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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