Jesus and Psalm 22
Today is Holy Saturday, the day between Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. Many sermons have been written about the words that Jesus spoke while on the cross. Speaking while being crucified was a gargantuan effort, so whatever Jesus was trying to say must have been important.
Today, I want to focus on 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?”)."
In this moment, Jesus shows his humanity by crying out to God. We can assume that Jesus feels abandoned by God.
What I didn't know till I was an adult and didn't understand until a few years ago is that Jesus is quoting the beginning of Psalm 22. This psalm is a psalm of lament that ends in triumph. The psalmist (likely David) starts by asking God where He is; the psalmist feels abandoned. He then goes on to state the greatness of God, but moves quickly to lament over his own misery. David spends some time reminding God how bad life is and how his enemies are coming for him.
But, the last third of the psalm is praising God for his attributes and claiming confidence that God will prevail in the end. The last sentence is "He has done it!" While the psalm starts out very sad with David pouring his heart out to God about how bad life is, it ends with David remembering the goodness of God.
When Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?", I don't think he meant to stop there. I believe that he felt abandoned so he turned to scripture. Had he been able to, I think he would have continued to say that, despite not feeling God's presence, he believed it was still there.
I realize this may sound overly optimistic and PollyAnna-ish, but recall that Jesus used scripture throughout his temptation in the wilderness and during his discussions with the Jewish leaders. He knew his Bible. And when things get hard, the people of God turn to scripture to remind them of what they believe.
I think Jesus felt abandoned by God in that moment on the cross, but he invoked Psalm 22 because he knew that in the end, God would still triumph.