Easter Sermon Series: Finding Jesus in the Psalms
“Psalm 22: Forsaken for our Forgiveness!”
March 25, 2018 (Palm Sunday)
by Pastor Jerry Ingalls
Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week and the day in history of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus was welcomed by the people of Jerusalem as their King to the cries of “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 21:9) but within a week, the people turned their back on Jesus forsaking Him. Have you ever felt forsaken? Has anyone you really cared about ever turned their back on you? Have you ever struggled with the feelings of rejection and abandonment?
We are going to look at Psalm 22 for a message called, “Forsaken for our Forgiveness.” Psalm 22 is the “Psalm of the Cross” and is considered the best description in all the Bible of Christ’s crucifixion AND it was written 900 years before Jesus died this criminal’s death. Psalm 22 has no immediate historical context that we know. It’s language far exceeds the suffering that may come about due to sickness. Interestingly, crucifixion was not yet practiced in the time of David and it would not be used for many centuries to come and then not by the Jews, but by the Romans. Psalm 22 wouldn’t have made sense at the time, unless it was a prophetic picture of the suffering to be endured by the Messiah, the Suffering Savior of Israel. Today, we know that Psalm 22 is prophetic and entirely messianic. Jesus knew this and that’s why He quotes it twice from the cross!
Let me illustrate this point. In the Hebrew culture when a rabbi would quote the first line of a Psalm or prayer, he was quoting the whole thing. This is not something we teach, but we still do it. Ready to help?
When I say, “The Lord is my shepherd” you automatically think… RIGHT! Psalm 23…
Let’s try again, “Our Father who art in Heaven…” you automatically keep going in the Lord’s Prayer… Matthew 6:9-13…
One more time just to make the point, “For God so loved the world…” EXACTLY! John 3:16…
When Jesus cried out, “My God, My God why have you forsaken Me?” from the Cross (Mark 15:34), the Hebrew mind kept going in Psalm 22. I want you to know two things: 1) For the first time Jesus was literally experiencing the anguish of humanity’s estrangement/separation from God that sin causes (Jesus was left alone on the cross to suffer for our sin and feel complete abandonment) and 2) Jesus was revealing to us where His mind was while He was on the cross. As Jesus went through the most gruesome ordeal of all human history—the most profane act of injustice—He was focused on the fulfillment, as the anticipated Messiah, of all the promises of God and what that meant for us, those He was saving!
Let’s now turn to Psalm 22 and see why Jesus chose this psalm to meditate upon and to quote twice from the Cross. I am going to read Psalm 22 to you in three major sections and briefly highlight the major point.
The first section (vv. 1-2) is a description of Christ’s alienation from the Father. This was necessary so that we could be restored into right relationship with the Father. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Listen to Psalm 22:1-2.
Verses 1-2 hauntingly begins the description of the darkest event in history, when the Father turned His back on the Son; when Jesus bore our hell in order that we might share His heaven! This is the truest essence of what Christ did on the cross; it’s called the atonement. As you listen to the cry of Jesus on the cross, “My God, My God why have you forsaken Me?” you are not simply hearing the meditations of Jesus’ mind, you are hearing the anguish of His soul. It was literally happening: To be forsaken means to have the light of God’s countenance and the sense of His presence eclipsed. When it went completely dark when Jesus was on the cross, that was a natural sign of what was happening to Jesus on the cross—a total eclipse is a glimpse of what it means to be forsaken! Listen to Mark 15:33-34 with new ears, “When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” which is translated, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”
Jesus experienced complete and total abandonment on the cross so that you never have to. When you experience the sting of abandonment and rejection, when you are forsaken by someone, Christ is there for you. Jesus was forsaken by God in that moment so that you never have to suffer alone. Christ is with you because He doesn’t desire for you to experience what He did on the cross. Do you allow Christ’s presence to help you in the lonely times, in the hard times, when it feels like a total eclipse of the heart?
The second section (vv. 3-21) shows us the cost with a vivid description of the crucifixion. I invite you to listen to this section with reverence. Crucifixion was not even practiced when this was written, yet God would put these words into David’s mind and record them for Jesus. So that 900 years later Jesus would be ministered to by the prophetic Word of God as He suffered in our place. As Jesus hung upon that cross, becoming the curse for us and becoming sin on our behalf, Jesus would know these words and endure it “for the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2)! Jesus was thinking of us and what His suffering was bringing about so that we who have sinned and deserve suffering would never have to endure such condemnation! The Father gave the Son these words to prepare Him for what He and only He could accomplish.
Listen to Psalm 22:3-21.
Jesus took on Himself the full wrath of God (God’s anger toward sin) for us! Did you hear the explicit description of the cost Jesus took on Himself? This is the payment for all of the sin of the world—past, present, and future—to bear the curse of the Fall. Does this confuse you? Why would God require this of Himself? Then, let me say it this way, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). There is a price to be paid when you give a costly gift! God paid the price for our redemption and this was the cost—Jesus bore our death, our judgment, our anguish—on the cross! Our sin was costly, and Christ paid it all! For you and me. This is love!
The third and final section (vv. 22-31) is the triumphant ending as the Suffering Savior declares that “It is finished” (John 19:30). This is a quotation from the last verse of Psalm 22. The last verse reads, “He has performed [done] it,” referring to God as the subject. But there is no object for the verb in Hebrew, and it can equally well be translated, “It is finished.” (Boice, 2005, 193), which means in Jesus’ last words on the Cross, he puts the exclamation point on the fact that He was meditating upon Psalm 22 by quoting it a second time. Jesus knew Himself to be the Messiah, the One who would fulfill every prophetic promise to bring salvation to all the nations through the line of David, the people of Abraham, Israel. Just as is promised in Psalm 22.
Listen for the promises and the completion found in Psalm 22:22-31.
Jesus Christ did not die in despair, but in triumph. Jesus did not die thinking about Himself but praising God for His triumphant plan that through Him all the peoples of the world could be saved. Paul declares in Galatians 3:13-14, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”—in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
God’s presence in our lives will never leave us because Jesus was forsaken for our forgiveness. Salvation comes by grace, by trusting Jesus personally and completely (faith). There is nothing you need to add to what Christ has sufficiently done for you! Have you trusted in Jesus personally and completely? Are you willing?
I close with an old, but true story from a rural community like ours: “A Christian farmer was concerned about an unsaved neighbor who was a carpenter. The farmer had been trying to explain the gospel to his friend, particularly that the death of Jesus had accomplished everything that was needed for him to be saved. But the carpenter kept insisting that he had to do something for himself.
‘Jesus did it all,’ said the farmer.
‘I must have to do something,’ said the carpenter.
One day the farmer asked his friend to make a gate for him, and when it was finished he came for it and carried it away in his wagon. He hung it on a fence in his field and then arranged for the carpenter to stop by to see that it was hung properly. The carpenter came at the time arranged. But when he arrived he was surprised to see the farmer standing by with a sharp axe in his hand. ‘What is that for?’ he asked.
‘I’m going to add a few cuts to your work,’ was the answer.
‘But there’s no need to do that,’ the carpenter protested. ‘The gate is perfect as it is. There is no need to do anything to it.’ Nevertheless, the farmer took the axe and began to strike the gate with it. He kept at it until, within a very short time, the gate was ruined. ‘Look what you’ve done,’ said the carpenter. ‘You’ve ruined my work.’
‘Yes,’ said his friend. ‘And that is exactly what you are trying to do. You are trying to ruin the work of Christ by your own miserable additions to it’” (Boice, 2005, 204).
The work has been done. You don’t have to perform for Christ’s love. He has redefined love for all of eternity by His fulfillment of Psalm 22 on the Cross of Calvary. Do you feel weary and heavy burdened by the expectations life has put on you, then find rest for your soul and your relationships in Jesus Christ? Do you feel abandoned or alone in life, then find love and acceptance in Jesus Christ?