The Psalm of the Cross

One of the most detailed descriptions of the crucifixion of Jesus is not found in the gospels, but in the Psalms. Remarkably, Psalm 22 gives what appears to be an eye-witness account of Jesus’ crucifixion, yet it was written centuries before the event occurred! No event in David’s life can begin to resemble what we read in Psalm 22, so the narrative is strictly a prophecy of what would happen to the Messiah.

The Psalm begins with the phrase, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is the anguished cry that Jesus would utter as he took upon himself the guilt and punishment of all the sins that would ever be committed by all the human beings who would ever exist. As our innocent Savior bore the wrath of God in our place, it seemed as though he had been abandoned by God, but the resurrection would soon prove otherwise.

V.7 of this Psalm depicts those who would mock Jesus as he hung on the cross. The predictions of their insults are amazingly accurate in their wording.

V.15 records that the one being tortured would become extremely thirsty, something that would naturally occur in the process of being crucified. The words of Jesus on the cross, “I’m thirsty”, would point out the fulfillment of this prophecy.

“They pierce my hands and feet”, the Psalmist says in v.16. This is a detailed description of what happens during a crucifixion, even though it would be many years until this form of capital punishment would even be invented.

V.18 says, “They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” Right there in the shadow of the cross, the Roman soldiers would greedily vie for the clothing of the One who was in the process of dying to pay for their greed!

The despair of v.1 will be countered by the trust expressed in vv.19-21, where we find such terms as: “strength”, “help”, “deliver”, “rescue” and “save”. God did not save Jesus from the cross. It was Jesus’ mission to seek and save the lost and give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus had to die in order for us to be saved. But God did rescue Jesus from death by resurrecting him on the third day, just as Jesus had predicted.

The Psalm ends with the prediction that the Lord would be praised and served by future generations for his righteousness and his dominion over the nations. Indeed, the church proclaims the gospel message that salvation has been made available through Jesus! The crucified and resurrected Jesus is the only hope for those who are dying in their sins and desperately need a Savior to rescue them! Those who believe in him worship him, serve him and make him known to future generations.

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