The Psalm on the Cross
When the story of Jesus’s crucifixion is told in the Gospel, Jesus is said to have spoken these words in Aramaic: “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani.” (“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”)
Perhaps because these words are the most famous of Psalm 22, their depth nearly overshadows the rest of the 31 verses. These words, first written by King David 1,000 years earlier, begin one of the most passionate pieces of Hebrew poetry in the Bible. Jesus, like other rabbis, knew the Book of Psalms by heart, and He would have prayed or recited this particular one many times in His life.
We are told in the Gospel of Mark that when Jesus uttered these words, people in the crowd didn’t understand Him. They thought He was calling on Elijah, perhaps because Eloi and Elijah are similar in sound.
Whatever the reason, it didn’t matter, because He wasn’t talking to them.
Rather, He was speaking to the God He knew, to the God He believed in, in His own language, Aramaic. He cried out to the God who had been His constant source of strength all of His earthly life.
Jesus’s painful ordeal on the Cross began around 9 in the morning and ended at 3 p.m. During those six hours on the Cross, Jesus spoke only a few times. The Gospel records seven of these statements. All of these last words of Jesus give extraordinary insights into His heart and His faith in His Father, and His love for all people.
The Psalm on the Cross is an in-depth look at this signature psalm. It is framed by a single assumption. That Jesus meant more than the opening verse only.
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 of suffering and, as we will see, in this psalm of victory. All 31 verses of Psalm 22 contain the full intent of what Jesus meant when he spoke the first verse. The entire psalm represents the content of our Lord’s heart.
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.
In The Psalm on the Cross, the reader will closely read Psalm 22 verse by verse, thought by thought. It will be a pilgrimage. Along the way, there will be signs, descriptions, and references to what was actually taking place on Mount Calvary where Jesus died. In real-time.
If this is part of a parish reading plan, download this Reading Schedule.