“My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?”
How haunting … Jesus’ words on the cross. He is about to voluntarily give his life to save all of humanity. And his God (his dad) has forsaken him.
This is a man who had done nothing wrong. A man who had spent hours the night before in pure anguish, begging his Father to save him from this painful death.
“Why have you forsaken me?”
It’s chilling, when you think about it. What kind of Father would forsake his son? Leave him to die. Hanging on a cross. Slowly succumbing to the most painful death imaginable.
How often do you read the Psalms? I have a confession: I’ve never really liked poetry, so I haven’t really gotten into the Psalms. But this morning, I read through Psalm 19. Then Psalm 20, then 21.
And I came to Psalm 22.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
Wait a minute. This isn’t Jesus speaking; this is a prayer of King David. Asking God why he was so far away. Why he had abandoned David in his time of need. These were David’s words, prayed in anguish, to a God who seemed to have forsaken him.
I knew that the story of Jesus’ death has Old Testament parallels. That the events of his crucifixion fulfill things written in the Bible centuries upon centuries before.
But I’d never stopped to see exactly what all the parallels were.
When Jesus is dying on the cross, as he calls out to God — yes, he is crying out in pain. He’s crying out in anguish. But he is also quoting Scripture.
He’s speaking words he’s known since childhood. Words memorized carefully over the years. And he is speaking those words to help him walk through the most difficult challenge of his life.
It’s not a cry of despair and hopelessness. It’s a cry of pain … but in that same breath, a cry of devotion and trust.
God, I feel hopeless right now. But in the midst of it all, I am turning to you. I am turning to Your Word. And I am choosing to rely on you for the strength to get through this.
That isn’t the only parallel in Psalm 22. Throughout the 31 verses, there are half a dozen other verses with imagery that came to be during Christ’s death on the cross.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.
4 In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
8 “He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
9 Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me.
15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me.
19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver me from the sword; my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
22 I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise him—may your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations.
29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!
The thing I love the most about Psalm 22 is it’s ending. A Psalm that starts with “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” ends with hope. It’s a Psalm of suffering, but one that ends in joy. The Lord will rescue those in pain. He will bring joy, hope and freedom. A life of joy for those who fear, praise and serve him.
In the midst of Jesus darkest hour, he felt pain. He felt anguish. He cried out to God. And he spoke words that had been written on his heart since childhood. Words that ended with hope. Hope of rescue, freedom and God’s salvation for all who trust in him.
I always thought of Jesus words on the cross as words of hopelessness. Who knew there was such hope in the middle of so much pain?