“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22:1)
This first line of Psalm 22 pulls us into the culmination of the events of this day. It is no coincidence that the Revised Common Lectionary uses this psalm on Good Friday. The Gospel Passage used for this day does not have this plea spoken by Jesus from the cross, but the gospels of Matthew and Mark do.
“O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” (Verses 2-3)
The psalmist carries on in his/her lament. While the psalmist might feel neglected and passed over, he/she does not think any less of his/her God. (I say his/her because all of us can feel at one time or another that the psalmist is speaking for us.)
“In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.” (Verses 4-5)
In light of the the psalmist’s assurances that God is faithful, Jesus declaration from the cross seems all the more heart rendering. Many have said Jesus knows what it is like to live a human life; we can also know Jesus knows what it feels like to die and to feel like God has abandoned us. The psalmist continues the lament.
“But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people. All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads; “Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver— let him rescue the one in whom he delights!” (Verses 6-8)
None of the gospel writers do, or can for that matter, tell us how Jesus felt and what he thought up on the cross. Did he know this psalm, and was his cry from the a reference to its theme? While the psalmist continues, it is less aligned to Jesus than to the psalmist’s own life.
“Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother’s breast. On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.” (Verses 9-13)
But there is something also familiar about it in relationship to the crucifixion story.
“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.” (Verses 14-15)
I have read several accounts by people who would know telling and explaining the physical aspect of being crucified – where on the body the nails were driven in, what it did to the human body, how the body succumbed to death, and the amount of pain there would be.
“For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled; I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me; they divide my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.” (Verses 16-18)
By all accounts it was a gruesome way to die. It helps me realize that I can call on Jesus Christ when ever I am in pain and distress, of any kind. And my Lord and Savior will understand.
“But you, O Lord, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog!
Save me from the mouth of the lion! From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” (Verses 19-22)
And in the exhortation of the psalmist we can hear Jesus and our Lord God encouraging and inviting us to call on the Divine.
“You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted;he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord. (Verses 23-26a)
We call this “Good Friday” because in despair in the hope, and with hope there is deliverance. What is suffered now will pass away, and what remains will gird us up and give us joy and blessing. Our Lord turned what was suffering and death into what is life and redemption. Our hope was not extinguished but made eternal. Death did not conquer our Lord Jesus, but he conquered death and reigns forever.
“May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him. For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.
To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him.
Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord,and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it. (Verses 26b-31)
May the blessing of the Lord be upon you this day, beloved reader. Selah!