Christ on the Cross

Psalm 22  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Everything in the beginning of this psalm is letting down, and at the end there is everything lifting up. It is full of suffering and joy, but the former chiefly. The Person standing before us here is distinctly the Lord Jesus. There is a difference between this psalm and what we have in Isa. 53, and in the gospels. In Isaiah we have the blessed Lord as a Lamb set before us, but it is taken up with the special object of showing the different feelings of the persons who had to do with Him; some were cleaving to Him, others turning away from Him. In the gospels we have the historical fact of His sufferings, and in each there is something distinctive connected with the narrative. In Matthew the Lord is connected with Israel as the seed of Abraham; and there is the quotation from this Psalm, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" when He was on the cross. In Mark the Lord Jesus is set forth as the servant, and the same words are quoted. Luke takes Him up as the Son of man, and this is not quoted. There is peculiar repose in John and there we have the Lord more in His divine character. Finding the quotation from this psalm in Matthew and in Mark and not in the other gospels, seems to give a clue to the character of Christ's sufferings as the heir of promise, and as the faithful servant in the hour of suffering.
In the psalm it is the sufferings themselves that are shown; you see there the inward feelings, the deep tide of woe that rolled in on His soul. The heading of the psalm has a meaning-" The hind of the morning." The hinds go forth in their timidity in the morning-the harbingers of light, but disappearing as soon as day breaks. If anywhere in the Old Testament light breaks out, we have it in this psalm. In the gospels we have everything that was done to insult our blessed Lord; but that was not the bitterest part of His sufferings; and all that He suffered from men would only leave the question of sin untouched as regards God and one's own conscience. Sin has been committed before the infinite God; whoever has been guilty of it is obnoxious to His wrath. Wherever there has been sin there must be judgment. If I look into Scripture I find the character of God is perfect holiness. If He who is perfectly holy has to do with the sinner, what must be the consequence? Into however small a compass I bring my sin, it has been done against an infinite God. Where do we see what sin is? Is it in the ungodly High Priest, who blasphemed the Son of God? Was it in the Gentile monarch, who sanctioned the crucifixion? No; it was when God's judgment was poured on Him for man's sin. He stood as the sin-bearer, and it is there only we get the true measure of sin. When there " made sin for us," He had not one single ray of light from God to strengthen Him. He represented sin before God, and the sustainment He had-always had-from God now ceased to flow. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" These words have quite a different meaning in Christ's mouth to what they have in any other. Have not you often used this language when God was really drawing you by His own love, but you were afraid to trust Him? and are not you ashamed to think of it? But it was very different in Christ's experience.
The word " Eloi," &c., in the quotation is expressive of nearness-" My God." It is not Hebrew, but Syriac. This expression coming forth to Him who was always so near has deep force in it; and the only moment in which He could be forsaken of God was this, when He was taking our sins upon Him. He was always in the full sunshine of God's favor; for He was holy. Christ could have been no victim if He had not been holy and separate from sinners. Nothing shows the perfect purity and holiness of the Lord like this psalm. A Jewish rabbi has called it a psalm of repining. True indeed there was a deep agony of soul when He said, " My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?" But almost immediately afterward He vindicates God: " But thou art holy."
What a state poor Job was in while waiting for God! But such is the contrast of Christ here. It is as though He had said, " I have taken this place of bearing sins before God, and I ought to know what the award is." There was a spring in Himself that enabled Him to say, " Though thou forsakest me, I will not forsake thee." Thus the essential purity and divine perfectness of what He was stood out in all that depth of humiliation. What a contrast we should exhibit in such circumstances! If we have nothing from God, we have nothing. Though there is the well of water in us springing up to everlasting life, we are dependent upon the divine source to cause it to spring up, and we are utterly and entirely dependent on God. Not so Christ. Though He stooped down as the servant, He was not limited to that. (vv. 5-7.)
He links Himself with Israel (v. 6): " I am a worm;" that is, " I am in the place of a sin-offering. I am a worm and no man-unworthy of the slightest notice or regard. Thou oughtest to turn away from me. Thy holiness requires it." You must have some measure with regard to sin. 'What is your measure? From the bud-dings of it in the garden of Eden to the last heading of it up in the Man of sin there is no divine measure of sin but on the cross. If we think of sin anywhere else but here, we get a human measure according to the circumstances.
If merely a human being had been here as Christ was, and forsaken of God, the well of water would have come to an end, and he would have been ready to call on the rocks to cover him; but in all this agony, when all the full tale of judgment was poured out on Christ, it left His perfectness untouched, and only made the brightness more visible. The contrast might be illustrated by the difference between a new-born babe left out in the open air all night, and a strong man in the same exposure. What would be certain death to the one would be overcome by the other. There was no comparison between the first Adam and Christ. The first Adam was no person to do with God. How could he? What was he to settle with God about sin? He could not, but Christ could; and He has settled it, and there is no fear now of God saying to a poor sinner who believes, " No; you must go and taste the sufferings which He bore on the cross." It was God's Lamb who suffered there, and it was to carry out the idea of mercy in the divine mind that He came: " Lo, I come to do thy will, 0 God." When we look at this force of the first verse, what sort of sanction does it cast upon sin in a disciple? Do you talk of a little sin? the sin in your members little? See what Christ 'suffered for it. Nothing will make the disciple, the servant, so anxious to be free from sin as seeing what the judgment of it was now upon the cross. There is no such thing as little sin to the child of God who has this measure. Everything in yourselves, in your family circles, everything around you, ought to be brought into judgment, the sentence of death passed upon it: " Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." (John 12:2424Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. (John 12:24).)
The great thing in the present day is to learn that grand principle-" Cease to do evil; learn to do well." Not only sins in the general, but sin, have been judged in the cross of Christ; and if God is to show forth His holiness most efficiently, it is in the forgiveness of the poor sinner through this judgment which has been passed upon Christ rather than in the final condemnation of the sinner. Our hearts little understand what He bore in that hour. There is not room in our minds for more than a certain quantity of sorrow; but what another would not have felt, He gathered up and felt it perfectly. It is an important question, dear friends, as to how far death, as to anything that is noxious, is put away from your minds. Is a grave, a sick-bed, a terrible thing to you? or do you feel it better to depart to be with Christ? A remarkable test as to this point was experienced in France in the time of the Revolution. A poor woman was dying in a part of the town which was already cannonaded, and to be thrown down next day. The question was, Who would go to her? One said, "I will go." It was put before him what it would involve; viz., loss of life. But he said, I died 1,800 years ago." He went, and was preserved. (2 Cor. 1:99But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: (2 Corinthians 1:9).)