I love listening to people pray because we all pray a little bit differently. I appreciate how people from a Catholic background or a more formal (aka. liturgical) church setting pray. Their words always seem so reverent and thoughtful. But I also like listening to people pray who just talk to Jesus like they’re talking to a friend. Their prayers seems so relational and honest. I even like hearing people pray who are going through a hard time. There’s something beautiful when you pour out your heart to God.
The Bible has a whole book full of different kinds of prayers, some reverent and formal, some relational and honest, and others for hard times. This book of prayer is called the Psalms. The Psalms are poetry the Israelite community sang and prayed together. God inspired human authors, King David, the Sons of Korah, and others, to write the Psalms to help us pray (this is why I call our series Praying with God).
- If you’re feeling thankful, we have a Psalm for that. They’re called Psalms of Thanksgiving.
- If you’re feeling sad, we have a Psalm for that. They’re called Psalms of Lament.
- If you just feel like praising God, we have a Psalm for that. They’re called Psalms of Praise.
And it doesn’t stop there. There are lots of different Psalms that can help us pray no matter our situation or circumstance. Today we’re focusing on a very special type of Psalm, a prophetic Psalm. King David wrote it about the Messiah, a coming hero who was going to rescue the Israelite people from their sins.
This Psalm, Psalm 22, actually ties directly into Easter. This Psalm, which King David wrote about 1,000 years before the birth of Jesus, tells us about the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that as Jesus was dying on the cross, he was actually meditating on Psalm 22.
Jesus lived and prayed Psalm 22.
The Gospel of Matthew makes very clear connections between what Jesus was seeing, experiencing, and saying with Psalm 22. I want to look at four fulfillments between Matthew 27 and Psalm 22.
Matthew 27:35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. (NIV®)
Psalm 22:18 They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
King David wrote much of Psalm 22 from the point of view of the hero Messiah. It’s his perspective, so he’s saying this about his own garments, and then it happens exactly as foretold to Jesus Christ. The Roman soldiers take and divide up his garments by lot. But it doesn’t stop there.
Matthew 27:39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads
Psalm 22:7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
Lot’s of people mocked Jesus as he hung on the cross. Those passing by insulted him. The priests, teachers, and elders mocked him (v41). Even one of the criminals hanging on the cross next to him insulted him. I think Jesus would have recognized Psalm 22 as he heard their taunts. They taunted…
Matthew 27:43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
Psalm 22:8 “He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”
At the end of Matthew chapter 27 we come to the most glaring similarity, the one that jumps right off the page and that clearly tells us Jesus was meditating on this passage.
Matthew 27:46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
Jesus witnessed what was happening, knew Psalm 22 by heart, and used his last moments to fulfill this prophecy completely. But he didn’t just cry those words because he knew they were the right answer, he cried them because he meant them. Jesus usually called God his “Father,” but here we find him calling him the more formal “God.” This is because there has been a break in the relationship. The Father has forsaken and abandoned the Son. The Father has turned his love away from the Son. It’s not that the Father stopped loving Jesus, but rather that the Father denied his Son the experience of that love.
Have any of you seen the Still Face Experiment on Youtube? It’s a video of a mother and her baby. At first, she is very expressive and loving towards her baby. She speaks and makes loving faces at her baby girl and they interact, and the baby absolutely loves it. She is engaged and happy and pointing at things. But then mom turns away and comes back completely blank faced, and her baby doesn’t know what to do with it. First she tries to get her mom’s attention, and then he becomes distressed, then cries and get’s upset. Now imagine Jesus who has known and experienced his Father’s love for all eternity past, a perfect and ever present love. Now imagine that is gone. Jesus is heartbroken.
But the illustration breaks down because the father not only removed Jesus’ experience of his love, he replaced it with an experience of his wrath, which is his anger towards sin. God is so good and perfect and just he must punish wrongdoing. God can either punish us for our sin, and so we experience the wrath, which is what hell is, or God can take our punishment upon himself. See at the cross, God himself, in Jesus, bore the punishment we deserve. And God takes that love that Jesus has known and experienced for all eternity, and gives it to all who confess their sin and puts their faith in Jesus Christ. God turned his face away from his Son so that he could turn his face towards us. Jesus prays “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” so that you and I can pray “My Father, my Father, you love me!”
Have you ever read a book or article, and thought, “If I could just get my friend to read this, she would really love it.” We’re supposed to think of Jesus when we read Psalm 22.
Pray Psalm 22 with Jesus in mind. (v1-21)
Meditate on what Jesus experienced and prayed as you walk through your experiences and prayers. I want you to notice the structure of this Psalm. It jumps back and forth between the Messiah describing his experience, and then praying to God. It does this three times, starting with verses 1-2 (situation) and verses 3-5 (prayer). This is the first way we pray with Jesus in mind.
When you feel abandoned (v1-2), remember Christ’s presence (v3-5).
Sometimes we go through periods in life where we feel abandoned by the ones we love, our friends or family, or even by God himself. Maybe you’re sick, and wondering if God even exists. Maybe your spouse is divorcing you, and you feel so unloved. Maybe your kids are moving to college and you miss them. Maybe you’re going to college and feeling homesick. Maybe you’re spending time in the Bible and prayer but never feel like you hear from God. These are all ways we can feel abandoned. It’s at these moments that we remember Jesus is still present in our lives just like he chose to remember his Father’s presence.
Remember David wrote this Psalm from the Messiah’s perspective. What does the Messiah do? He purposefully recalls to mind that the Lord is enthroned, he is king, and he is holy. And then he remembers his ancestors, how his family before him trusted in God and God delivered them, like when God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, when God gave the Israelites manna in the desert, and when God delivered the nation from foreign oppressors time and time again during the rule of the judges. Even when Jesus is forsaken by his Father, he remembers his Father still rules and is still good.
Do you remember the first time your parents left you alone in your house? I remember a time when everyone left our house and I didn’t know where they were. It was oddly quiet and I wondered if I had missed the rapture. Then you start to feel scared and worried, and what do you do to combat that fear? You say, “I know my family loves me. They’ll be back. They’ve never abandoned any of my brothers (I think).” Even when our earthly family isn’t reliable, we have a heavenly family, a heavenly Father who will never abandon us because he already abandoned Christ on the cross and that was enough. God hasn’t left generations of Christians and he won’t leave us.
So when we pray, we can say, “Father, I feel like you’ve abandoned me, but I know it’s not true. You’ve never forsaken any of your children except for Christ Jesus on the cross; which you will never have to do again.” When you feel abandoned, remember Christ’s presence.
When others look down on your faith (v6-8), remember Christ’s faithfulness (v9-11).
We live in a culture where people never judge each other. Sometimes when others hear about our faith in Jesus, they will judge us. There are times we may lose friendships or job promotions because of Jesus. When this happens, remember Jesus was also rejected, but he kept his faith in his Father. When the Messiah was rejected, he prayed a prayer in the Psalm remembering God’s faithfulness to him throughout his life, “from my mother’s womb you have been my God” (v10b). When we are rejected by others, let’s pray, “Jesus, when others reject me because of you, help me remember your faithfulness till the very end.” When others look down on your faith, remember Christ’s faithfulness.
When you suffer (v12-18), remember Christ’s suffering and deliverance (v19-21).
When we go through physical or spiritual suffering, we can remember Christ’s suffering and deliverance. In verses 12-18, the Messianic Psalmist uses metaphors to describe his suffering.
- (v12) Strong bulls of Bashan surround me. These bulls were wild, untamed animals, known to attack and gore people. Christ was surrounded by a whole company of soldiers (Matt 27:27-31), maybe as many as 600. They mocked him, spit on him, and struck him. When you go through physical suffering like cancer or depression or migraines or the flu, remember Christ suffered physically too.
- (v13) Roaring lions tear their prey. Lions are a vicious predator that can tear their prey apart. Satan is often pictured as a “roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8). Jesus at the cross was also undergoing spiritual suffering as he bore the weight of our sins and the attacks of Satan. If you’re suffering spiritually, feeling overcome with guilt or like God doesn’t love you, Jesus can relate.
- (v15-16) Verses 15-16 tell us specifically that the Messiah will die, and how he will die. Verse 15b, “you lay me in the dust of death” and verse 16b “they pierce my hands and my feet.” King David wrote this Psalm when crucifixion wasn’t even invented yet. The only way Jesus can fulfill this is by actually dying on a cross, and that’s exactly what he does. Jesus dies.
But then the poem begins to change its tone in verse 19. He begins to speak of deliverance and at the end of verse 21 he says “save me from the horns of the wild oxen!” But the Hebrew word for “save” is in the perfect tense, which means it happened in the past with continuing effects. So it should really say, “You have rescued me” or “you have heard me”!
When Jesus cried out the first verse of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he knew verse 15 would come, his own death, but he still believed verse 18 would come, “You have rescued me!” Even in his suffering, Jesus was meditating on his future deliverance.
As we go through trials, we can pray and remember that Jesus suffered, but he was also delivered. If you know Jesus, you’ve been delivered from sin and everlasting death, and one day God will use your death to deliver you into heaven with Jesus. When you suffer (v12-18), remember Christ’s suffering and deliverance (v19-21). Pray Psalm 22 with Jesus in mind. Why? Because…
Jesus prayed Psalm 22 with us in mind. (v22-31)
When Jesus prayed Psalm 22:1 on the cross, I believe he knew the whole Psalm by heart. Although this Psalm prophecies the Messiah’s death in verses 15-16, it prophecies his resurrection (coming back to life) starting in verses 22 through the end of the Psalm, “I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you.” This resurrection hope doesn’t stop with Jesus, it extends to anyone anywhere who will believe in Jesus. You. Me. People from all the earth and all the nations can receive eternal life (v27), including everyone sitting here today. Jesus shouted the last line of Psalm 22 right before he died.
John 19:30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Psalm 22:31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!
When Jesus said “It is finished” he is echoing Psalm 22’s “He has done it!” God’s work of salvation through Jesus Christ is complete. Now any who repent of their sins and put their faith in Jesus Christ receive eternal life. Have you accepted Jesus’ finished work of salvation? Maybe you’re still trying to earn it or add to it; or you think Jesus needs your help. Do you think if I gave you a paint brush you could improve the Mona Lisa or make the Sistine Chapel more beautiful? On the cross, Jesus painted a masterpiece of salvation, and now he offers it to us as a gift. Will you receive it? Jesus prayed Psalm 22 with us in mind.
Jesus prayed Psalm 22 with us in mind. Pray Psalm 22 with him in mind.
In closing, I’d like to take a moment and put into practice what we’ve just learned. So I’ve asked someone from the congregation to come and pray the closing prayer for this sermon, praying back who we discover Jesus to be in Psalm 22. Jesus prayed Psalm 22 with us in mind. Pray Psalm 22 with him in mind.