Good Friday is a difficult day – there is a sense of sadness and gloom because of what Jesus went through, but there is a silver lining of expectation because we know that we will celebrate His triumph on Sunday.
I have a difficult time envisioning what the day of Christ’s death must have been like. The denials by His friends, the beatings and ridicule of the guards, the cheers of the crowds for His blood, the crown of thorns on His head as he drug the instrument of His death to Golgotha and then the cross and His feelings of separation from His Father. It’s too awful to imagine the suffering of the thieves that died next too Jesus, but then to add the weight of all of the sins of the world onto Jesus’ shoulders – it’s impossible to imagine.
But King David imagined it and described it over 600 years before it happened in Psalm 22. It is worth reading today so that we can get but a slight glimpse of what it must have been like. As Christians, we need to feel this despair, but cling to the expectation. It is important to do both, as David did in this very prophetic Psalm.
I look at verses 1-10 as pertaining to the time leading up to the cross – from His time praying with his sleepy disciples on the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39) through his walk to “the place of the skull” (John 19:17).
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?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.
4 In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
8 “He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
9 Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God. 11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
– Psalm 22:1-11
I am sure that we all, maybe even during this current time, have felt this same way and can imagine how Jesus felt.
In verses 12-18, I see Jesus suffering on the cross as he hangs, barely conscious, struggling to take each breath all the while surrounded by the chaos of the milling crowds, mocking guards and the blaspheming rulers (Luke 23:33-38).
12 Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me.
15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.
– Psalm 22:12-18
The despair and agony is palpable. Jesus’ feeling of separation from God is beyond comprehension. It is important to know that even though Jesus felt abandoned, He was never actually separated from God in any way, and God was always present for Him. This stands for us as well – Jesus is here for us in these days even if He feels far away.
In that same sense Verses 19-21 reminds me of the very short conversation that Jesus had with the two men who hung next to Him. Even on his worst day on Earth, Jesus pushed aside his despair and remembered to love others. Jesus extended grace to the thief that chose to believe in Him (Luke 23:39-43) and some time later committed his Spirit to God (Luke 23:44-46).
19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
– Psalm 22:19-22
This is Good Friday