I am journaling through the book titled The Essential Jesus: 100 Readings Through the Bible's Greatest Story written by Whitney T. Kuniholm. In reflecting on this passage Kuniholm writes "It's not difficult to see how this psalm relates to Jesus; it's a vivid description of what Jesus would experience at his crucifixion."
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? (Psalm 22:1)According to Matthew in the account he wrote of Jesus on the cross this psalm was on his mind just before his death. In this Psalm written hundreds of years before Jesus walked on this earth we get a glimpse of how he would die. A preview of the horrific physical torture the Son of God would endure.
When I read the accounts of his mock trial, torture, and execution I am overwhelmed by the brutality and incredible physical pain Jesus endured. He was spat on, slapped, beaten, wiped, then nailed to the cross, hanging there bloody and naked for all to see. Dr. C. Truman Davis wrote about the pain, suffering, and ultimate death of Jesus on the cross from a medical point of view in an article published in "Arizona Medicine" back in 1965.
As Jesus slowly sagged down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shot along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain. The nails in the wrists were putting pressure on the median nerve, large nerve trunks, which traverse the mid-wrist and hand. As He pushed himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He placed His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there was searing agony as the nail tore through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of this feet. At this point, another phenomenon occurred. As the arms fatigued, great waves of cramps swept over the muscles, knotting them in deep relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps came the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by the arm, the pectoral muscles, the large muscles of the chest, were paralyzed and the intercostal muscles, the small muscles between the ribs, were unable to act. Air could be drawn into the lungs, but could not be exhaled. Jesus fought to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, the carbon dioxide level increased in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subsided."
Spasmodically, He was able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen. It was undoubtedly during these periods that He uttered the seven short sentences that are recorded. The first - looking down at the Roman soldiers throwing dice for His seamless garment: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.” The second - to the penitent thief: “Today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise.” The third - looking down at Mary His mother, He said: “Woman, behold your son.” Then turning to the terrified, grief-stricken adolescent John, the beloved apostle, He said: “Behold your mother.” The fourth cry is from the beginning of Psalm 22: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”"
In reading the scripture that Jesus was thinking about as he was on the cross enduring this unbelievable physical torture and pain we also get a glimpse of what was going on in his mind, the mental pain he was also enduring. We get a psychological picture of what it would be like to have all of the rebellion and evil, all the sin, in the world from the beginning of time to the end, dumped on one individual. We read in this psalm of the agony Jesus felt as God the Father became more distant as all the evil of the world surrounded Jesus while he was dying on the cross.
Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me. (Psalm 22:11-13)The only sinless man that will ever live was experiencing all the sin that had ever been committed and all the sin still to be committed. As a result of the presence of evil there was at this and only this moment in time an immense canyon between God the Father and God the Son. As we read in Matthew's account "darkness came over all the land." (Matthew 27:45) Evil was all around Jesus. My own sin, my own rebellion was on his back pushing him down.
Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. (Psalm 22:16)
We also learn in Psalm 22 that Jesus never turned away from his Father. Under the weight of this evil, the sin of the world, Jesus acknowledges the Father "Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One (Psalm 22:3) ... Yet you brought me out of the womb (Psalm 22:9) ... You are my strength (Pslam 22:19) ... I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you." (Psalm 22:22)
Psalm 22 helps me to understand how Jesus thinks. It gives me the ultimate example of acknowledging God first even in the worst of times, even when I can't sense his presence, even when I think it is over. At the moment of His death on the cross it was over, but not for Jesus. Dr. Davis ends his famous article with these words.
In these events, we have seen a glimpse of the epitome of evil that man can exhibit toward his fellowman and toward God. This is an ugly sight and is likely to leave us despondent and depressed. But the crucifixion was not the end of the story. How grateful we can be that we have a sequel: a glimpse of the infinite mercy of God toward man—the gift of atonement, the miracle of the resurrection, and the expectation of Easter morning."
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