************ Sermon on Psalm 22:1-21 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 18, 2012
"My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me"
"A psalm of David." That is what the inscription over psalm 22 says. "A psalm of David."
Nothing in the psalm indicates the situation or the circumstances that led David to write the words in front of us. We don't know when David wrote this psalm or why. But we can take a couple of guesses. Perhaps David wrote this psalm when he was being hunted by King Saul and chased down like a wild animal. Perhaps David wrote this psalm when his son Absalom rebelled against him. Perhaps David wrote this psalm after his sin of counting the fighting men of Israel caused the Lord to send a plague on the land.
It is obvious that David wrote the psalm in response to tragedy in his life. He felt that everyone was against him – including God. He felt all alone and forsaken. He felt weak and helpless and surrounded by enemies. He felt that his prayers went unheard and unanswered. Trouble surrounded him like flies surround a carcass.
Have you ever felt the same way as David? Has it ever seemed to you as if everyone and everything was against you? You need to realize that what David experienced and what you may be experiencing is nothing compared to what was experienced by the Lord Jesus Christ.
We all know that Jesus quoted the opening words of Psalm 22 while He hung upon the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Ps 22:1; cf Mt 27:46). Now, I need to get technical for a moment and tell you a principle of New Testament interpretation. When the New Testament quotes an Old Testament verse, what is in mind is the entire passage in which that verse is found. In other words, Jesus is not just thinking of the first verse of Psalm 22; Jesus has the entire Psalm in mind.
As I already said, the inscription over Psalm 22 says, "A psalm of David." But do you know what Jesus was saying from the cross? Jesus was saying, "That is my psalm. Psalm 22 is about me. It expresses my pain, my anguish, my torment, my distress. It is my psalm, not yours."
We see three points about the suffering Lord as we look at Psalm 22. First, we see Jesus' spiritual anguish (vs 1-5). Second, we see Jesus' mental torture (vs 6-11). Third, we see Jesus physical pain (vs 12-21).
I Jesus' Spiritual Anguish (vs 1-5)
A The first thing we see is our Lord's spiritual anguish as He was crucified: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Ps 22:1).
Jesus cries out because He has been "forsaken" by God. This is a cry none of us can experience or comprehend because nothing and no one in God's creation has ever been abandoned by Him. To illustrate this, let me ask, what does God need to do to destroy the world? The answer: NOTHING. If God did nothing, the universe would disintegrate. If God forsook the universe, it would fall apart. After all, it is only God's laws of physics that keep the Creation intact. If God simply relaxed His care and abandoned His concern for Creation for even one moment, everything would be lost. Our very existence in this life and on this earth and with this body is proof positive that God has not abandoned us. God has not and God cannot abandon His world because then the universe itself loses its existence.
With this in mind, do you remember what all happened on Good Friday when Jesus died? God released, as it were, His grasp on the world for a moment. And, there were earthquakes, the sun was darkened at midday, the laws of death were reversed, and the temple veil was torn from top to bottom (Mt 27:51-53; Lk 23:44-45). At the moment of Jesus' death God gave the world the smallest taste of what it was like to be abandoned by Him. It was awesome. It was terrifying. In Jesus, it produced anguish of soul and mind.
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Ps 22:1; Mt 27:46). This cry startles, staggers, and surprises us. Imagine, the only begotten of God, the eternal and natural Son of God, making such a cry! Didn't God say at the baptism and the transfiguration of Christ, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Mt 3:17; 16:5)? Didn't Christ live in the bosom of the Father? From eternity, and during the thirty some years here on earth, didn't Christ enjoy unbroken fellowship with the Father? Never once did Christ have a thought, a word, a deed out of harmony with the Father's will. Jesus lived not one second out of the conscious presence of the Father. But now, now the beloved Son is forsaken by the Father.
Isn't this remarkable? Something which our human brain just cannot fathom. Something we can only boggle at. The triune Godhead for a brief moment was torn apart. God the Father separated Himself from God the Son. How can this be? How is this even possible? I thought there was an eternal bond between the persons of the godhead. I thought God the Father from everlasting to everlasting was the Father – but for a brief moment on Good Friday He stopped being the Father of the Son.
Please note, Jesus didn't just feel forsaken by God. Jesus was forsaken by God. This means He was abandoned. Left alone. Separated. Lonely. Isolated.
But it also means more. To be forsaken by God means to suffer the pangs and torments of hell. Hell, you see, is the complete absence of God and all that is good; hell is a total separation from God.
B "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Ps 22:1; Mt 27:46). I want you to notice how this comes to expression.
In the Gospels, Jesus always used the word "Father" when addressing the deity. This speaks of the warm, intimate relationship between Him and God. Indeed, because of what Christ accomplished on the cross ours is the wonder and joy to also call God "Father". But on Good Friday Jesus used the same word for God that is used by unforgiven sinners when they appear before the divine Judge. Jesus doesn't cry out to the loving "Father" but to the judging "God."
C "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Ps 22:1; Mt 27:46). I want you to notice how else being forsaken comes to expression.
(Ps 22:1-2) Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? (2) O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.What happens because Jesus has been forsaken by the Father? His words and prayers are not heard. His cries for help go unanswered. His desperate, urgent pleas fall on deaf ears.
This is so contrary to what has happened in the past throughout all of Israel's history.
(Ps 22:4-5) In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. (5) They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.Time after time, God the Father heard the cries of His people. He heard them cry in Egypt as they were whipped and as their baby boys were drowned in the River Nile. He heard them cry as they stood with the Red Sea in front of them and the Egyptian chariots behind them. He heard them cry in the wilderness as they faced hunger and drought and enemy. He heard them cry as they were oppressed by invading armies in the days of the judges. For fifteen centuries God looked after the wayward nation of Israel. But He does not hear or answer when Jesus cries out from the cross. That's what it means for Jesus to be forsaken.
D "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Ps 22:1; Mt 27:46). Jesus bore the full brunt of complete abandonment by God. Why? Verse 3 gives us the explanation:
(Ps 22:3) Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.The key lies in the phrase, "the Holy One." Scripture teaches us three things about this.
First, Scripture teaches that Jesus became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). All our sins and guilt have invaded His sinless flesh (cf Jn 1:29; 1 Jn 2:2). All our disobedient acts, violent murders, sexual immorality, thefts, lies, and covetous desires have been placed on Him. All our idolatry, images, blasphemies, and desecrations of the Sabbath have been placed on Him.
Second, Scripture teaches that God – the Holy One – hates sin. God – the Holy One – punishes sin. God – the Holy One – cannot bear to look on sin (Hab 1:3).
Third – follow me on this – because Jesus became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21), God – the Holy One – had to abandon Christ. If God – the Holy One – cannot look on sin, then He couldn't bear to look on Christ.
Do you see why Christ was forsaken by the Father? Do you see why Christ had to be forsaken and abandoned by the Father?
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Ps 22:1; Mt 27:46). God the Son separated Himself from God the Father because you and I are sinners. How important is this truth? This truth is so important – and so startling – that in Psalm 22 God found it necessary to reveal this a full thousand years before Good Friday. In fact, God planned this before the foundation of the world (1 Pet 1:20), even before the first atom was created. Jesus endured, in our place and on our behalf, the separation from God which is the penalty of our sin. In this astounding truth is founded our salvation, our eternal hope, and our comfort.
II Jesus' Mental Torture (vs 6-11)
A In verses 6-11 the mental torture Jesus underwent is described. The Messiah is going to be abandoned by God because of the sin and guilt of mankind. How does mankind respond? With appreciation and thanksgiving? By offering comfort and aid? The answer is "NO, NO, NO. A THOUSAND TIMES NO!" To the contrary, they will kick Him when He is down. And, worse, they will trample upon Him with glee.
In Psalm 22, the Holy Spirit minutely describes the mocking, derisive crowd at the foot of the cross a thousand years in advance.
According to verses 6 & 7, the crowd before the cross despises Jesus instead of adores its only Savior.
(Ps 22:6-7) But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. (7) All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads ...
When our sons were boys we used to have wrestling matches. Eventually, I would end up on top and would tickle them until they said from Psalm 22, "I am a worm and not a man." Of course, there reached the point where they got me down and tickled me until I said those same words.
Jesus is being treated like a worm – one of the most insignificant and despised creatures of creation. Isn't this horrible and terrible – that the Creator of the Universe is treated like a worm?
Verse 8 predicts the jeer of the crowd telling Jesus to come down from the cross (cf Mt 27:41-44).
(Ps 22:8) He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.
Of course the Lord would not rescue Him. Because if Jesus came off the cross, then all of mankind would remain in their sins. Because if Jesus came off the cross, then there would be no salvation for any of us. Because if Jesus came off the cross, then God's plan for our salvation would come to nothing. Jesus could not come down AND complete His task. God the Father could not rescue God the Son AND still save a lost-in-sin mankind. Only Jesus upon the cross, only His blood, only His sacrifice, can bring redemption.
B Again, this is contrary to what happened in the past (Ps 22:9-10). All His life, Jesus has experienced the presence of God. It started already in the womb with the virgin birth. It continued with God's hand protecting Him when King Herod killed the baby boys of Bethlehem. And, in turn, all his life Jesus has been faithful to God and trusted in God.
But now, upon the cross, Jesus has no one to help. He is surrounded by enemies rather than friends, jeers instead of cheers, hatred rather than love. "Trouble is near and there is no one to help" (Ps 22:11).
C We see the utter depravity of all men – including you and me – as we look at the cross. Realize that you and I are part of the mocking, derisive crowd. We trample the Son of God underfoot as if He were nothing but a worm. It is your sins and my sins that led Him to the cross.
But do you know what else we see? We also see the love, grace, and mercy of God. As Psalm 103 puts it, God does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities (Ps 103:10). We deserve to be damned and judged and condemned for being part of that crowd. Instead, He hung there for your sins and my sins.
III Jesus' Physical Pain (vs 12-21)
In verses 12-21 the physical pain Jesus underwent is described a thousand years before it happened. We see that a man is dying. A man is dying for you. But more than that, the eternal Son of God is dying for you.
Notice the details given us. First, we see the robust, virile, young soldiers milling around the foot of the cross, for all the world like strong young bulls from Bashan – you should know that this fertile plain produced the most vigorous livestock in Israel (Ps 22:11-12). They surround Him like lions around wounded, dying prey, seeking to devour (Ps 22:13).
Next, we see His pitiful weakness, such a contrast to the strong, manly figure Who strode through the valleys of Judea and Galilee. The weight of His body tears joint after joint from its socket (Ps 22:14). His strength is shattered like a fragmented piece of pottery (Ps 22:15). He becomes desperately thirsty (Ps 22:15).
Meanwhile, the crowds are like a pack of wild dogs around a helpless victim, celebrating His every pain. Each time a joint parts they howl in glee at the torture. The Hebrew text expresses the malicious delight with which these monsters of cruelty feast their eyes on the sorry spectacle. The pain in His hands and feet is unbearable; it feels like a lion gnawing at them (Ps 22:16).
Thanks to the crucifixion process, every bone in His rib cage stands out (Ps 22:17).
Finally, the soldiers at the foot of the cross, oblivious to His pain, gamble over His solitary material possession of any value, a seamless cloak (Ps 22:18).
Do you hear the message of Psalm 22? Jesus suffered spiritual anguish as He was abandoned by God. Jesus suffered mental torture as He was mocked by the people. Jesus suffered unbelievable physical pain as He hung upon the cross.
Now hear this my brothers and sisters: You should have suffered on that cross; you should have endured this humiliation, embarrassment, and pain; you should have been forsaken by God. Your sins demand this. It is only through the atoning death of Jesus that you are spared this fate. Please, therefore, prayerfully consider what He endured for you. And, come to know your debt of gratitude to the Lord. Because God alone could make this payment for sin. God alone could pay this price for your salvation. "Hallelujah, what a Savior!"
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