“My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”
These were the dying words of Jesus as he hung on the cross on Mount Calvary. But what did He mean by them?
These words are read as part of the “Seven Last Words of Jesus from The Cross”. And they raise some very important questions.
Did Jesus lose His faith? Did Jesus believe that He was truly forsaken, forgotten, and abandoned on the cross?
Or, were these words, taken from the first verse of Psalm 22, a reference to the entire psalm? Did Jesus have in mind all of Psalm 22 as his soliloquy on the Cross?
If so, then this psalm of suffering is also a psalm of victory.
A Psalm of Suffering and Victory
When I attended seminary, there was an active debate about Jesus quote on the Cross from Psalm 22. Even though I had read Psalm 22 many times (every Good Friday at least) I had not paid close attention to it. But after several months of study and repetitive reading, I came to see the Psalm in a new light. I understood the sorrowful beginning, for sure. But I also began to see that the entire psalm is a recapitulation of the Good News of Jesus Christ. That is how the idea for “The Psalm on the Cross” emerged.
The Psalm on the Cross is an in-depth look at Psalm 22, and it is framed by a single assumption. Namely, that Jesus meant more than just the opening verse. He had the entire psalm on His mind and in His heart. “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” was the overture for everything else that is written in this psalm.
After crying out the first line of the psalm, Jesus may have prayed the rest of it silently the way we pray a prayer from memory. He may have whispered the psalm under His labored breath. But in any case, Psalm 22 can help us see the progression of our Lord’s thoughts. It is a reflection of our Lord’s mind and heart. As we think through Psalm 22 line by line, we are able to think His thoughts and pray His prayers on the Cross.
Therefore, Psalm 22 gives us an unparalleled opportunity to come close to Jesus’s heart, to think about what He thought about on that lonely cross, and to feel the depth of His emotion, commitment, and—in the end—His joy.
There are 28 chapters to fully explicate the 31 verses of Psalm 22. Each chapter is a concise commentary and meditation on a particular verse and its prophetic vision of Mount Calvary and the work of Jesus on the Cross. It is a book designed for individual use, small group use, or personal devotions during Lent, on Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.
This book would make a perfect book to be used by an entire congregation for daily reading during Lent. (There are 28 weekdays in Lent from Ash Wednesday through the Friday before Palm Sunday.)