GOD HAS DONE IT!
There are days when it is an exciting time to preach, and there are days when it is a more solemn occasion; today being one of the latter. I’ve considered preaching what we have in Scripture for Good Friday and sending you home; but if you took that message to heart, you’d go home shaking in your boots with terror, as the disciples undoubtedly did that first night after they saw their Saviour crucified.
Today’s message will be taken from Psalm 22, and you can turn with me there. Psalm 22 has two parts – the first describes the torment and anguish of the psalmist, and the second part covers the praise that comes after the pain. We’re going to cover both today, so don’t worry, you’ll leave here today and you’ll have something to cheer your heart.
A man named Ragnar tells the story of a co-worker who was not a Christian. Jay didn’t believe in God and had no desire to know him, but after Ragnar shared a few things with him, Jay started to get curious.
One day, Jay picked up a Bible, flipped to the middle, and started reading from Psalm 22. He walked into the office still holding the Bible and reading, and Ragnar asked him what he was reading about. “I guess I am reading about the crucifixion of Jesus”, J replied. “Oh yeah?” Ragnar thought, noticing that the Bible was opened to nowhere near the New Testament. What book are you reading from? “I am reading in Psalm chapter 22”, he said (pronouncing the ‘P’ in Psalm).”
It’s true that Psalm 22 gives such a clear picture of Christ’s crucifixion that it could have been written by someone witnessing the event, and you’ll notice that as we read. But it was written one thousand years before Jesus died on the cross. Cass-i-odorus says, “This Psalm seems to be less a prophecy than a history.”
But that’s just the first part of Psalm 22. The second half looks forward to the legacy which the afflicted one – that’s Jesus – will leave, and it’s a picture of today – it could have been written by someone today. We’ll look at both of these. But let’s start by reading together from Psalm 22.
This Psalm was written by David, and it can be applied to circumstances that he likely went through in his life. It can also in some part be applied to all God’s children through the centuries. But as we look at it, you’ll see that it can only be applied in full to one person in history: Jesus; and only to one time in history: when Jesus was on the cross. And Jesus applied it to Himself when he cried out the first verse. He could have spoken the whole Psalm, but it was only necessary for Him to say the first verse and the rest we can see applied in whole to Him.
THE DEATH OF CHRIST
The first half of this Psalm looks at the death of Jesus, and it’s a pretty cruel and painful picture. It is a photograph, as one commentator puts it, of our Lord’s saddest hours. For deep cries of unsearchable depths of woe, we may say of this psalm, ‘There is none like it.’
Martin Luther writes that he doesn’t know any psalm in the whole book from which the hearts of the godly can so truly perceive those sighs and groans, inexpressible by man, by which their Lord Jesus Christ uttered while in the midst and the pains and the terrors of this death.
The first 21 verses are a mixture of complaints, answered by self-comforts, and sprinkled with prayers for deliverance.
It starts out, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
I can still remember when I was little and I shared a bunkbed with my brother. I remember my parents would read us a story and then sit with us until we fell asleep. Sometimes I’d wake up after they left, but I’d see the light was still on in the passage, and I’d know they were still awake. Then I’d sometimes call for them if something frightened me – a small whimper at first, but if they didn’t come I’d get louder and louder until I was yelling for them! I can’t remember if I wanted anything, but their very presence I remember comforted me.
Here’s Jesus: a grown man, not facing something trivial but facing the biggest struggle the world has ever known, and suddenly He feels so alone. He has been forsaken: In the act of taking on the sin of all mankind ever, God His Father has turned His face away from Jesus, and Jesus can feel it.
I wonder if you’ve ever felt really close to God. Did it hurt when that feeling was gone? Did you miss it? Think about Jesus. ‘From the moment of his conception, Jesus had the sight of God, his human soul being immediately united to Him. Now for our Saviour, who had known [experientially] how sweet the comfort of his Father's face had been, and had lived all his days under the warm beams and influences of [God], and had had his soul all along refreshed with the sense of the Divine presence, for him to be left in that horror and darkness, as to have no taste of comfort, no glimpse of the Divinity breaking in upon his human soul, how great an affliction must that needs be unto him!’ – John Row.
So it’s a complaint, ‘My God, my God – where are you, why aren’t you here?’ and it was quoted by our Lord on the cross.
After the complaint comes the comfort in verses 3-5 (read). Here Jesus comforts himself by remembering who God is and what God has done in history.
There are times when worries and the cares of life start to nag at me. Maybe my finances are short. Maybe I have what seems like too much to do, and not enough time to do it in. Maybe I feel like God is calling me to change something big in my life, and I don’t think I have the capacity to give up what I have. It’s at those times that I’m comforted by the stories from Scripture, the stories of history, where God didn’t let His people down.
“You need more time, I can give you more time – you need more power, I can give you more power – you need more space, I can give you more space”. Whatever your need, God can meet it. Why? Because God is that big! God is that big, and you have no reason to doubt His ability. God is big enough to meet your need; He’s strong enough to rescue you; He’s loving enough to save you; He’s holy enough to deliver you.
The knowledge of who God is ought to comfort you! When you’re in dire straits, the knowledge of who God is ought to be what comforts you. That’s what comforted our Lord Jesus. What was the prayer He prayed in the garden before His arrest? “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus knew what was coming, but He was so settled in His knowledge of God’s holiness, God’s goodness, God’s worthiness of praise, that He was settled in accepting the trouble God would put Him through. Jesus wasn’t arrested kicking and screaming, He didn’t stand through His trials crying and begging for mercy, He wasn’t dragged to the cross. He walked there. Why? Because He knew He was doing what the Holy Father of Heaven required of Him; and He knew that God would not fail Him.
After this word of comfort, the complaint comes again in verses 6-8 (read).
This is a direct prophecy, again, of what Jesus would endure. Luke 18:31 “Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again’.”
Then, while He was being tried, “the soldiers of the governor took Jesus, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and struck him.”
Then, while he was in the cross, “those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him’.”(Matthew 27:39-43)
I wonder if they knew at that moment that they were quoting from Scripture. It feels as if God is far, but now the enemies of Jesus are closing in. They’re mocking him, pointing and laughing and deriding him. The chief priests are making fun: “You say you’re close to God. But you’re not! We are close to God, we are pleasing to Him, we follow Him faithfully. And this is the proof: We stand here while you hang there. You are not loved by God and you are not one who loves Him.”
But comes the second comfort (read verse 9-10).
This comfort inspires a prayer (read verse 11).
But despite the small comfort, and despite the earnest, heartfelt prayer, Jesus’ enemies pull in closer. They start to be described as violent and wild animals moving in for the kill. Strong they are too: bulls and lions, able to kill.
Can you imagine facing down a pack of hungry lions? The Bible tells us that Daniel went into the lions’ den, but it doesn’t tell us whether or not he wet his pants when he went in.
Can you think of what would terrify you most?
We come now to really the climax of this Psalm: verse 14-15. Can you hear the horror, the terror that Jesus is going through? “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart it like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.”
This is a fairly accurate description for me of what it’s like to go to the dentist. I literally feel poured out like water, I feel my whole body sinking into the chair as my heart melts, my mouth goes dry, and I lose feeling in my feet.
And as terrifying as that is for me, so much more is Jesus enduring the agonies of the cross. He’s at the hands of violent men, they’ve encircled Him, and now they draw closer to really hurt Him.
(read verses 16-18)
You’ll remember that last verse as a description of what happened to Jesus’ clothes while He was dying on the cross. The man being crucified will look down at those holding his clothes, and he’ll see them starting to divide them up between themselves, and he’ll think, ‘Wait, hold on! Don’t take those, I’ll need them when I get down from here.” But there is no coming down to clothes, or to a bed, or to any comfort – not for those on the cross. Losing your clothes was the last sign that your earthly comforts and dignities were at an end.
And at last, the time has come for Jesus. Forsaken of His Father, mocked and beaten, He is pierced on the cross, and His last earthly possessions are gone. He is dying.
It stirs one last prayer from His heart, “But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion!” Jesus uttered His last cry and then yielded up His spirit.
THE LEGACY OF CHRIST
There’s almost a break midway in Psalm 22 verse 21. The first section ends with a cry, “Save me from the mouth of the lion!” And then there’s a pause. Jesus dies on the cross. He’s taken down. He’s laid in a tomb. His followers go home weeping. Their dreams died with Jesus. They go to sleep that night feeling a greater loss than you or I can imagine: Imagine believing that God has died! What then?
I am tempted to end it there, but that’s not the end of the story. Half of me wants to tell you: if you want to hear the rest, come join us for the Sunrise Service because it’s going to be a celebration! And it will be a celebration! But I want to end the Psalm; I want to tell you what Christ’s death accomplished. Jesus left a legacy. His death accomplished something.
The desperate cry for help in verse 21 gives way to the victorious shout of triumph: “You have rescued me!” Jesus didn’t stay dead. Jesus rose from the dead, as it was prophesied that He would.
He was carried to the tomb, but He walked out. And I didn’t say limped, no! – he stomped out, with a smile on His face, He walked out in His resurrected body.
I like to think of what Jesus must have looked like as He walked out of that tomb, after striving in the greatest trial the world has ever known and coming out victorious. He just carried the sins of the whole world, made everlasting atonement for mankind, died the death you and I deserved, and then when He was done he killed death on His way out to watch the sunrise. How do you think He looked?
And what is the purpose of His resurrection? That the whole world would come to know and WORSHIP the one true God! Jesus purpose was to reconcile man to God – to make it possible. Our purpose is to make it known what Jesus has made possible. He made it possible, we make it known. Jesus purpose was to reconcile man to God – that they would take again their right places before God.
And so the rest of the Psalm expands on that.
Firstly, there’s a cry to all of God’s chosen people, the Israelites, to praise God (read vss. 22-23). It’s a call to those who Jesus was first sent to, to turn again to God and to accept His great gift.
That gift is the good news of what the psalmist writes regarding Jesus in vs. 24: “For He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to Him.” When God looked down at Jesus, who became sin, God could have despised Him, treated Him with contempt; God could have abhorred Him, loathed Him for the filth of the sin that He bore. But no! God didn’t hide his face from Jesus but has heard, yes heard, Jesus’ cry: “Father forgive them!”
Yes, O Israel. Praise Him! Glorify our God, and stand in awe of Him! He is worthy of your praise! He is worthy of my praise! He heard the cry of my Saviour for me.
Jesus’ death on the cross didn’t only accomplish for me forgiveness, but an opportunity to be satisfied. Verse 26 says that the afflicted shall eat and be satisfied. Don’t you want to be satisfied? The Bible tells us that those who are united with Him in death, we shall certainly be united with Him in resurrection. If you join Him in His affliction, you’ll join Him in His satisfaction. Those who seek Him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live forever!
But the psalmist looks beyond the Jewish nation and sees that the legacy of Jesus, the Afflicted One, will stretch far wider to cover the whole earth. “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.”
Since Jesus’ death and resurrection the kingdom of God has been advancing all over the world. God’s kingdom advances as God’s people make known what Jesus has made possible.
I love the final verses, and I’m going to read this time from the NIV. “Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord.” Isn’t that happening today? In every Christian home, parents are telling their children about the wonderful things God has done. In every school where a child has been changed by God, she’s telling her friends, she’s telling her teachers. In every business, godly employees are using the time they have to be witnesses and ambassadors for the Lord.
“They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn:” They’re telling those around them, those that are born again and those that are yet not born again, they’re declaring by their words and actions the great news of what we declare today: “He has done it!” God has done it! God has made a way, through the horrible, terrible, agonising death of the perfect Son and sacrifice, to bring us to right standing before Him.
This is the declaration of Easter: God has done it! There are two responses I want you to join me in: Celebrate that with me this weekend, and join me in making it known to all those who you possibly can.