Christ in the Psalms: The Psalm of Crucifixion—Psalm 22

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During this year’s Advent season, we have been looking at Christ in the Psalms. Jesus told the religious leaders of his day, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me.” (John 5:39, NIV84). Since the Jewish Tanakh testify about Jesus, it behooves us to look at the Old Testament Scriptures to see what they say about our Savior. What we discover is that all of the major event in the life of Jesus were prophesied in the Psalms.

    • The first great event in the life of our Savior, is of course, his supernatural conception which is hinted at in the Psalm of the Incarnation—Psalm 40.
    • The second great event in the life of our Savior was his temptation in the Judean wilderness. That event is recorded in the Psalm of the Temptation—Psalm 91.
    • This morning we look at another great event in the life of our Savior, which is his crucifixion. For this we turn to the 22nd Psalm—The Psalm of Crucifixion

It may seem strange talking about the crucifixion at Christmas time. Yet, we know they are inextricably linked. In our hymnals we find a hymn entitled “Christmas Has Its Cradle.” The first stanza reads, “Christmas has its cradle, where a baby cried; did the lantern’s shadow show him crucified? Did he foresee darkly his life’s willing loss? Christmas has its cradle and Easter has its cross.” As believers, we must not forget that the only reason for Christmas is the cross of Calvary. The Cross is the ultimate explanation for why incarnation takes place.

Psalm 22 is the first and greatest of what we call the passional psalms. Its quotation by the New Testament writers makes it clear they believed that this Davidic psalm pointed foreword to Jesus. The description of the suffering here transcends anything which might have befallen David personally.

In this psalm, David lifts up his eyes, looks down the long corridor of time, and sees in striking detail the crucifixion of the Messiah who was yet to come. It is almost as if David is at the foot of the cross personally witnessing the crucifixion of The Anointed One. Yet, we know that this psalm is written a thousand years before the event. We have to say, therefore, that this psalm is the result of the Spirit of God taking over the pen of David in a strange and marvelous way so that David writes the very words of the suffering Messiah himself.

The psalm falls into two easily discernible sections. The first is the Messiah’s description of the crucifixion (vv. 1–21a). The second is his exultation in the results of the cross.


    • "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame." (Psalm 22:1-5, ESV)
            1. the crucifixion as depicted in Psalm 22 is just as graphic as the passion narratives found in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
                1. the only difference is the gospel writers tell of the actual event after it happened and David tells the same story before it happened.
                    1. the accuracy of the prophecy is to say the least, amazing
                2. the gospels tell us the events and the details of the crucifixion but this Psalm tells us the heart and mind of Christ while he was suspended between heaven and earth


            1. His Travail was Divinely from God (22:1–5) “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?”
              • ILLUS. William MacDonald, in his commentary on this Psalm, writes: “Approach this Psalm with the utmost solemnity and reverence, because you have probably never stood on holier ground before. You have come to Golgotha where the Good Shepherd is giving His life for the sheep. For three hours the earth has been enveloped in thick darkness. Now “Immanuel’s orphaned cry” echoes through the universe: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
                1. behind our Lord’s poignant question lies an awful reality—the suffering Savior actually was, literally and completely, forsaken by God
                    1. the Eternal Son, who had always been the object of His Father’s delight, was now abandoned
                        1. on two occasions—His baptism and His transfiguration—the heavenly voice had boomed “This is my beloved son ... listen to Him.”
                        2. now the voice is silent, and the presence of God in His life is absent
                        3. Jesus knew it was coming; He knew it was part of the penalty that had to be paid for sinners; and yet when the abandonment actually comes it had to be heart-rending to the Son
                    2. the Perfect Man who unfailingly did the will of God experienced the terrible desolation of being cut off from God
                        1. the opening utterance of the psalm furnished Jesus with the agonizing cry of his dying hour (Matt 27:45ff.)
                        2. the word "groaning" at the end of verse one is a strong word used of the shrieking of a person in intense pain
                    3. even in this awful moment, Jesus is fully aware of the Scriptures and what they say about His life, death, and coming resurrection
                2. despite his suffering; despite his brief abandonment by the Father as God judges our sin through His own Son, Jesus remains confident in God the Father
                    1. He acknowledges the Father’s holiness and sovereignty (v. 3)
                      • “Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.” (Psalm 22:3, NIV84)
                    2. in these words, Jesus explains the reason for His forsakenness
                        1. the love of God demanded that sin’s wages be paid
                        2. God’s love provided what His holiness demanded
                        3. He sent His Son to die as a substitutionary sacrifice
                    3. He acknowledges the Father’s deliverance (vv. 4-5)
                      • “In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.” (Psalm 22:4–5, NIV84)
                        1. just as the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob trusted in God for their deliverance and God came through, so God the Son will trust God the Father
                        2. He has cried out, and He will be delivered
                        3. He has trusted in God the Father and he will not be disappointed
                3. for our sake, God the Father crushed God the Son like a worm
                  • "But I am a worm and not a man, ... ." (Psalm 22:6, ESV)
                    1. this is one of the more fascinating verses in the Psalm, which, when you understand, speaks wonderfully of God’s redemptive work on our behalf
                      • ILLUS. The word worm in this passage is the Hebrew tola’at—known as the “Crimson Worm.” In Palestine and Syria, these worms were collected and crushed in a basin because their blood was used as a dye to create the brilliant scarlet vestments worn by the priests. In fact the word scarlet in the Old Testament literally translates as the splendor of a worm.
                    2. in the Psalm, the Anointed One cries out, I am the tola’at and was an epitaph I think he wore proudly
                        1. First, the title reminds us of our Lord’s humiliation at the hands of men—he was crushed as a man would crush a worm
                        2. to that epitaph he adds and [I am] not a man implying that he is a nobody in contrast to being a somebody as far as the Jewish authorities are concerned
                          • "who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:6-8, ESV)
                4. Second, the title reminds us that He had to be crushed in death, and His blood had to be poured out so that you and I might be clothed in glory
            2. His Travail was Physically from Man (vv. 22:6b–18)
                1. the last half of verse six through verse eighteen refers to the travail that Jesus suffered at the hands of men
                    1. He is scorned and despised (22:6)
                    2. He is mocked and insulted (22:7–8)
                      • ILLUS Do you hear the taunts of the Jewish religious elite in these verses as they sneer, He saved others. Let him save himself and come down off the cross!
                        1. vv. 7-8 are virtually word-for-word what the jeering crowd said at Calvary
                    3. He is viciously attacked by his enemies (22:12–13, 16)
                      • ILLUS. The Prophet Amos compares the leaders of the Jewish nation to the cattle of Bashan, and castigates them for oppressing the poor and crushing the needy. These bovines represent the chief priests and scribes who were responsible for the arrest and illegal trial of Jesus, and who handed Him over to Pilate and the Roman government for execution.
                    4. His life is poured out like water (22:14)
                    5. His bones are out of joint (22:14, 17)
                    6. His heart is melted like wax (22:14)
                    7. His strength is totally dried up (22:15)
                    8. His hands and feet are pierced (22:16)
                    9. His clothes are divided up and gambled for (22:18)
            3. His Travail was Diabolically from Satan (vv. 19-21a)
              • "But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!" (Psalm 22:19-21, ESV)
                1. Jesus refers to three enemies in this passage: the dog, the lion and the wild ox
                    1. the dogs (plural of v. 16) most likely refers to the Roman soldiers who carried out the execution
                    2. the dog (singular of v. 20) is probably a prophetic reference to Pilate, who, even though he finds “no fault” with Jesus, sentences him to death of the cross
                    3. the lion is a representation of Satan who in 1 Pet. 5:8 is called a roaring lion
                        1. at the end of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness the bible says that Satan left him for a season
                          • ILLUS. Now he has returned and he is the roaring lion: He has personally entered Judas in order to accomplish his nefarious work; He has whipped the crowed into a frenzy—first before Pilate, and then at Calvary; he gleefully guides the hands of the Roman soldiers as the nails pierce his hands and feet; he instigates the Jewish leader in their taunts.
                    4. the wild ox is a picture of crucifixion itself
                      • ILLUS. The Auroch was a huge wild ox that stood six feet tall at the shoulder that roamed throughout Europe, Asia and North Africa. Picture a Texan Longhorn and you’ve got a picture of what they looked like. In the near east, the Auroch was often used as a means of torturing and executing a person. Condemned victims, were bound, impaled upon the sharp horns and then the ox was released into the desert to run about until the man died.
                        1. the Psalmist writes that crucifixion was like impaling a man upon the horns of a wild ox
            4. as Jesus walked with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, the Bible says that
              • “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in the Scriptures concerning himself.”
                1. I have a feeling he lingered on Psalm 22


    • ILLUS James Boice, in his commentary on this Psalm, writes: “The second half of Psalm 22 is a throbbing, soaring anticipation of the expanding proclamation of the gospel and of the growing and triumphant Christian church.”


    • "I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him." (Psalm 22:22-25, ESV)
            1. this grace is going to bring many sons to glory
                1. this part of the Psalm is quoted in Hebrews chapter 2
                  • "But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”" (Hebrews 2:9-12, ESV)
            2. God’s grace is represented in three phases in this Psalm
                1. My brothers (vv. 22-24)—Jews
                2. The Great Assembly (vv. 25-29)—Jews and Gentiles
                3. Future Generations (v. 30)—to a people who will be born
                  • ILLUS. Here is a hint of the Great Commission in the Old Testament.


            1. In forsaking his son God revealed his judgment upon sin
              • ILLUS. In Shakspere’s play McBeth, Lady McBeth goe up and down the corridors of her castle rubbing her hands, insane with the guilt of murder. She says, “All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.” And she was right; they could not. She seemed to be continually washing her hands as she rubbed them together, and she cried, “Out spot! Out, I say!” My friends, there is only one things that will take the spot of sin out of our lives, and that is the blood of Christ. The blood of the Lord Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses from all sin.
            2. In Forsaking His Son God Revealed the Necessity of a Vicarious Substitute for us
              • ILLUS. I once heard Adrian Rogers tall a story about a woman who was out Christmas shopping with her two young children. After many hours of looking at row after row of toys and everything else imaginable, and after hours of hearing both her children asking for everything they saw on those many shelves, she finally made it to the elevator with her two kids. She was feeling what so many of us feel during the holiday season time of the year. Overwhelming pressure to go to every party, every housewarming, taste all the holiday food and treats, getting that perfect gift for every single person on our shopping list, making sure we don’t forget anyone on our card list, and the pressure of making sure we respond to everyone who sent us a card. Finally the elevator doors opened and there was already a crowd in the car. She pushed her way into the car and dragged her two kids in with her and all the bags of stuff. When the doors closed she couldn’t take it anymore and stated, “Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up and shot.” From the back of the elevator everyone heard a quiet calm voice respond, “Don’t worry we already crucified him.” For the rest of the trip down the elevator it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.
            3. If You Trust in God the Father, You Will Not Be Disappointed

Con. When Jesus was NAILED to the CROSS, our SINS were NAILED there, too. This is what the Christmas story is really all about.

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