“Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.” Psalm 22: 13,14
It wasn’t a dream. It was worse than a nightmare. It was a vision—a terrifying vision.
The words were written by David—he who wrote of green pastures and still waters. He knew something about lions. When trying to convince Saul that he was able to battle Goliath, he told of a time when he faced a lion attacking his sheep. (I Samuel 17:36) Lions were not uncommon in the Land of Israel in his day.
But those were not the lions in this vision. These beasts were humans. They just acted like dangerous animals. This must have been a dreadful experience for the shepherd who became king.
Far, far worse was it for the Good Shepherd who was the King of kings!
The words are part of one of the most famous prophetic psalms. When David said, “All my bones are out of joint” he was expressing emotional pain. When some thousand years later the one hailed as “The Son of David” cried out the words, his bones, and tendons were literally being pulled apart.
Psalm 22, written by David, contains the vision of Jesus being slowly executed on a hill outside of Jerusalem. We see the horror through his eyes. We hear his scream for help.
But no help comes.
His disciple, Peter, had bragged that he would defend his Master to the death. He turned coward before a servant girl. So, he was no help.
None of his disciples could help. No one who had come down with him from Galilee could help. He had two followers in the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea. But they were of no help. The wife of Pontius Pilate tried to help but she failed.
There was only one who could step in to put a stop to this execution. He was the one who had said at the baptism of Jesus, “This is my Son, whom I love.”
It was to God the Father in heaven that the one on the center cross cried out for help.
His cry was answered with silence.
Jesus knew his Father could see him suffering. He had sent an angel to strengthen his Son when he was sweating blood in Gethsemane. But now, no angel. No encouragement. No help from heaven. No hope.
In despair came the cry, “O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer.”
He knew the why. In anguish, he had screamed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1,2)
Indeed, he was forsaken! He was abandoned. He was left to face those lions all by himself. They would tear him to pieces.
Yet, this was no surprise. The one called Jesus of Nazareth knew this was coming even before he touched the soil of Bethlehem.
He realized he had come here to die an ugly, painful death. He understood what it would take to cover the cost of mankind’s crimes against heaven.
But now being face to face with the reality of divine justice leveled against him, it should not surprise us to hear him ask, “Is there any other way?” Isn’t there any other way?”
When we look in from the distance of thousands of years and the safety of knowing we won’t have to face this, we still are shocked at the brutality of the judgment and appalled at the perceived miscarriage of justice.
This seems so wrong!
But it wasn’t, was it? The payment demanded every slap, every stripe, every thorn, every nail—and much, much more.
“Many hands were raised to wound him,
none would intervene to save,
But the deepest stroke that pierced him
was the stroke that Justice gave."
What does this tell us?
We are so loved! We are so loved! We are so loved that God the Father was willing to give his Son up for us. And his Son was willing to say, “Your will be done!”
And God the Holy Spirit was willing to enter our hearts with the assurance, “Your sin is now forgiven. Heaven is yours.”
His view from the cross was a terrifying sight. Pain and death staked their claims.
Our view of the cross reveals a precious scene, a comforting picture, a joyous sight.
Now we can see clearly, Jesus has staked his claim of paradise regained—and given it to us.
We confess: “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride.” Amen. (CW 125:1)
Points to Ponder
- Does it surprise us that Jesus asked for a way out of paying the price to rescue us?
- Does it surprise us to learn that Jesus was terrified at the prospect of facing Good Friday?
- Does it surprise us that we do not build our life with the view of his rescue of us in the foreground?