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The Psalm of Christ’s Suffering

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Psalms 22

Psalm 22 brings us prophetically to the cross of Jesus a thousand years before that event unfolded. It reminds us that the death and resurrection of Christ were always in God’s plan because we were always the objects of His infinite love.


The Psalm of Christ’s Suffering

Psalm 22

I believe all of Scripture is sacred and inspired—literally, God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). And even though all of this Book, the Bible, is sacred Scripture, there are some passages where you want to slip off your shoes because you recognize that you are standing, as it were, on holy ground.

Psalm 22 is that kind of sacred ground. It is one of the Bible’s most emotional and profound prophecies regarding the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. 

Now you might recognize the opening line of this great psalm. In fact, Jesus quoted it from the cross a thousand years after it was written: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). Beloved, nothing Jesus said on the cross was random or haphazard.

This psalm also gives us incredible insight into how Jesus felt while forsaken by His Father. The apostle Peter and the apostle John write that when Jesus hung on the cross, He bore in His own body the sins of the whole world (1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 2:2). As such, His communion with God the Father was severed.

The Father essentially turned His back on God the Son, as Jesus became drenched, so to say, with our sin. Jesus suffered as a man; but as the infinite Son of God, He was able to pay for all your sins and mine as a sacrifice on that wooden altar called the cross.

The psalm now takes us here in verse 6 to that crucifixion scene, as we hear the Lord saying, “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.” Isaiah will later write of the Messiah’s rejection, “He was despised and rejected of men” (Isaiah 53:3). Both the Jewish and Gentile worlds conspired together to put Him to death.

In verses 7-8 David cites more words from the Lord’s perspective: “All who see me mock me . . . [They say,] He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him.” Matthew records, “The chief priests . . . scribes and elders, mocked him, saying . . . He trusts in God; let God deliver him” (Matthew 27:41, 43). They were fulfilling Psalm 22, word for word!

Let me go back to this expression in verse 6, where the Lord says of Himself, “I am a worm.” The Hebrew word for “worm” here refers to a specific type of worm called the scarlet worm. The word also can refer simply to a color—“crimson” as in Isaiah 1:18, or “scarlet” as in Exodus 25:4.

The scarlet worm attaches itself to a tree or a wooden post and then delivers her young. They are born, but she dies, and her body becomes their sustenance and refuge until they are old enough to fend for themselves. And when she dies, scarlet fluid from her body stains them and leaves a crimson stain on that tree where she has attached herself.[1] What a powerful illustration this is of Jesus, whose crimson-red blood stained the cross and covered us so that we could become children of God.

David now writes of the physical pain of the Lord’s death:

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd. (verses 14-15)

A potsherd is a broken piece of pottery that is all dried out.

David continues in verse 15, recording, “My tongue sticks to my jaws.” On top of everything else, Jesus was extremely thirsty.

Mark’s Gospel tells us Jesus was offered wine mixed with myrrh (Mark 15:23). This was a customary drink offered at crucifixion, but He would not drink it. Myrrh served as a narcotic to deaden the pain, and Jesus wanted to be in full control of everything He did and said on the cross. We have already learned that He was quoting Scripture!

Later on, Jesus cried out from the cross, “I thirst.” This time He was given bitter wine, which He accepted (John 19:28-30).

One author wrote that Jesus began His ministry hungry, and He ended His ministry thirsty.[2] And He is the one who gives satisfaction forever to those who hunger and thirst after God.

Now David speaks even more specifically about Christ’s crucifixion. And we need to understand that David is writing here about something he did not fully understand. You see, in his day crucifixion had not even been conceived yet. That would come later by the Persians and then be perfected by the Romans as the most hideous, cruel, painful means of execution.

But listen to what David writes here in verse 16: “They have pierced my hands and feet.” Beloved, this never happened to David. This is a prophecy reserved for the Son of David, the Messiah, whose hands and feet would be nailed to a cross.

David goes on to write in verse 18, “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” Does this sound familiar? This is one of the events at the cross that all four Gospels record. And that is probably because it gives such amazing prophetic testimony that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.

John’s Gospel makes the connection crystal clear:

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts . . . But the tunic was seamless . . . so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it . . . This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, ‘They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.’” (John 19:23-24)

Beloved, you can’t miss it. Jesus the Messiah suffered and died on a cross, just as the Bible foretold, so that your sins and mine could be atoned for and forgiven.

Now the very last verse of this psalm triumphantly announces, “He has done it.” That same word is translated “He finished the work” in 2 Chronicles 4:11.[3] What did Jesus say just before He died on the cross? “It is finished” (John 19:30). Jesus did not say, “I am finished but it is finished.”

This psalm begins with Jesus saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” It ends with this victorious declaration: “He has done it.”

It’s finished. You could translate the expression in John, “Paid in full.” He paid for your redemption; He finished the payment.

The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Salvation is free to you because Jesus made the full payment. In fact, to add your good works as necessary for salvation is offensive to His great work, which He finished for you.

Have you trusted His work on the cross? Have you asked Him to be your personal Savior? Have you asked Him to cover you with His crimson blood, as it were, and wash away your sins? He will, and you can ask Him right now.

“Lord, You gave Your life for me”—say that to Him—“Lord, Your Word says that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13); so I’m calling now. You sacrificed Yourself; You shed Your blood for me; You paid for all my sin; so please forgive me, save me. I am trusting in You alone. Thank You for answering me today. And Lord, now that You’ve saved me, I just want is give my life back to You.”

If you have just now prayed that prayer, would you let me know? We would love to rejoice with you today.

Send the good news to a friend, copy and paste:

[1] Henry M. Morris, Treasures in the Psalms (Master Books, 2000), 42.

[2] John Phillips, Exploring the Psalms: Volume One (Loizeaux Brothers, 1988), 171.

[3] Ibid., 173.

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