At the end of Jesus’ life, as he was dying on the cross, Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). While the people standing near the cross thought Jesus was calling to Elijah to rescue him, it is clear that Jesus did not cry out in desperation but to call attention to God’s work of restoration that was being accomplished. Here Jesus quoted the first line of Psalm 22, a song written by David that captures not only the deep despair of someone who was separated from God but also their faith in God because of who he is and what he does, despite their horrible circumstances.
Certainly, it is easy to see some of the parallels between the suffering described in Psalm 22 and the suffering Jesus experienced on the cross. Verses 7, 8 predict the abuse and insults of those who mocked Jesus as he died; in Matthew 27:43 they said, “He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now.” Verse 15 anticipates Jesus’ thirst, which we find in John 19:28. Verse 16 describes crucifixion itself. Verse 18 predicts how the soldiers gambled for Jesus’ clothing (Mark 15:24). Among these and other statements, we find clear evidence that Jesus was not merely killed by his enemies but that he died to fulfill God’s plan, which was established before the creation of the universe (1 Peter 1:20).
As we approach our annual commemoration of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, we most often focus on those prophetic statements about Jesus’ suffering on the cross and the separation from God that is caused by sin. Obviously, Psalm 22 shows us that David was well aware of how his own sin separated him from God. However, while he was in despair over the separation from God that comes through sin, he also had hope for restoration as well. Even though he began crying out to God about being forsaken by God, David continues with praise and clarification, writing in Psalm 22:23, 24: “You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”
Even in the midst of suffering, David knew that God is “enthroned as the Holy One… the one Israel praises” (Psalm 22:3), so he praised God for who he is and for what he has done and for what he will do for those whose faith is in God. What will God do for the faithful, despite their suffering? He will restore them, and they will praise him; David wrote Psalm 22:6, “The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the LORD will praise him – may your hearts live forever!”
As we have been following Mark’s account of Jesus’ life and ministry, we have seen how Jesus gave the people indisputable signs that he was bringing restoration for all people in God’s kingdom, signs such as feeding thousands, healing people, casting out demons, and more. However, while those signs should have given the people who witnessed them assurance that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, they were only temporal signs that pointed toward the eternal, as David said, “May your hearts live forever!”
That kind of restoration was made possible through the cross. In calling attention to his own suffering on the cross by quoting Psalm 22, Jesus also called attention to God’s plan of restoration for all humanity, something that David could only imagine, and he did! Anticipating one final parallel between Psalm 22 and the crucifixion, David wrote about what was yet to come: “Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!” (Psalm 22:30, 31). David praised God saying, “He has done it!” Jesus fulfilled what God was doing, saying his last words in John 19:30, “It is finished.” Mark 15:38 states that the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, telling us that God removed the separation between himself and humanity and brought restoration through the cross.