At the end of 1 Samuel, the author alternated the reader’s attention between David’s situation among the Philistines and Amalekites and the Philistines’ attack on Saul. After the death of Saul, the author of 2 Samuel was free to give undivided attention to David. Although David had been disciplined and trained by the Lord to shepherd His people Israel, he would have to endure more difficulty before his rule could be confirmed over a united people.
In Psalm 22, the psalmist suffered internal anguish, physical pain, and social ostracism. He began the psalm saying, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Ps 22:1). Though previous generations had cried out to God and received His aid when they were in distress, the psalmist felt that God had turned from him (Ps 22:4-5). But others watched. The psalmist’s opponents saw his destitute situation and mocked him (Ps 22:7-8). He was surrounded by dogs and these opponents would rip his clothes off of him and cast lots for them (Ps 22:9-18). Despite the psalmist’s present moment of grief, he committed himself to trust God and praise Him among His people (Ps 22:22-31). Jesus and the New Testament authors saw in Psalm 22 expressions of suffering and commitment that helped them explain what Jesus endured for sinners in His incarnation and death.
(1) In Heb 2:12, the author of Hebrews explained Jesus’ incarnation as His confession of Ps 22:22. The author of Hebrews compared angels with Jesus and noted that Jesus was superior to these mediators of the old covenant. Jesus carried out God’s will in creation, laid down His own life for the forgiveness of sins, and took His place of honor at God’s right hand (Heb 1:1-4, 13). Jesus was the eternal Son who would never change, and angels were transient as flames of fire (Heb 1:5-12). Jesus was lower than the angels in one aspect: He took up human flesh. Jesus was not ashamed to call humanity His kin and thus effectively spoke Ps 22:22, “I will proclaim Your name to My brothers; I will sing hymns to You in the congregation” (Heb 2:12). Jesus boldly sang about His identification with the human race. Jesus had to be human in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest, satisfying God’s wrath against human sin through the sacrifice of His own body (Heb 2:17).
(2) The Gospel writers cited Ps 22:18 to describe Jesus’ shameful state on the cross. In Psalm 22, as the psalmist’s opponents continued to attack him, his strength evaporated, and his bones were exposed. The psalmist felt so distraught before his opponents that he said, “They divided my garments among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing” (Ps 22:18). The psalmist’s destitute state in Ps 22:18 helped the Evangelists explain that Jesus was crucified bare and in shame. After nailing Jesus to the cross, the Roman soldiers cast lots for His clothes (Matt 27:35//Mark 15:24//Luke 23:34//John 19:24).
(3) The Gospel writers described the crucifixion scene in language that the psalmist used to explain his own suffering. While Jesus was on the cross, the crowds who passed by raised their voices and shouted insults at Him as they shook their heads in disgust at His appearance (Matt 27:39//Mark 15:29). Hanging exposed on the cross, Jesus did not fit the expectations of an eternal king who would establish God’s rule on earth. The Evangelists saw in the psalmist’s confession, “Everyone who sees me mocks me; they sneer and shake their heads” (Ps 22:7), and the shouts of the psalmist’s opponents, “He relies on the LORD; let Him rescue him; let the LORD deliver him since He takes pleasure in him” (Ps 22:8), a means of vindicating Jesus. The chief priests, scribes, and elders who witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion mocked Him saying, “He has put His trust in God; let God rescue Him now—if He wants Him!” (Matt 27:43). Since the psalmist was taunted in his darkest moment—and yet confidently praised God in full assurance that his situation was not outside of God’s plan—Jesus too could trust God while the world mocked Him.
(4) On the cross, Jesus quoted Ps 22:1. The psalmist opened his poem with a question of lament, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” (Ps 22:1). His plight was theological as much as physical, social, or emotional. The psalmist recalled how God faithfully answered the prayers of His people in days gone by. He said to God, “They trusted You and were not disgraced” (Ps 22:5). But the psalmist felt disgraced, and for the psalmist disgrace was evidence that God had forsaken him. Jesus’ use of Ps 22:1 on the cross (Matt 27:46//Mark 15:34) established the degree of His spiritual anguish and reinforced that one can trust in God even while feeling abandoned by Him.
(5) In John 20:20, 27, Jesus showed the disciples His scarred hands and feet, echoing the psalmist’s injuries in Ps 22:16. The psalmist’s opponents attacked him viciously like an animal approaching its prey. He called them bulls, lions, and dogs (Ps 22:12, 13, 16). When the psalmist’s adversaries confronted him, they pierced his hands and feet (Ps 22:16). He had scars to prove his suffering, suffering that God knew, suffering that inclined him to seek God for deliverance. On the evening of the day when Jesus presented Himself alive, Jesus showed the disciples the scars on His hands and feet (John 20:20). All who saw Jesus’ scars rejoiced. But one of the Twelve, Thomas, was not with them when the Lord appeared that evening. Even though the other disciples told Thomas that they had seen Jesus alive and observed the scars by which He died, Thomas said he would not believe unless he saw Jesus’ scars with His own eyes. The next week, Jesus again appeared in a room where the disciples had gathered, and Thomas was present. Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Don’t be an unbeliever but a believer” (John 20:27).