Last Words and Psalm 22
By JoAnn Borovicka, Apr 25 2017 06:53AM
Christ’s last words according to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark are: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34 and Matthew 27:46). Sometimes I hear mention of these verses with surprise at Jesus' apparent feeling of abandonment and utter despair, but there is much more going on with this Scripture.
"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" is the first line of Psalm 22 (see below). Being a direct quote this verse effectively evokes the entire psalm, and Psalm 22 as a whole carries a message of great hope and confirmation. While this first line and many verses that follow express the anguish of suffering under tyranny, the psalm itself carries healing answers to that anguish, such as: the assurance of ultimate deliverance (Psalm 22: 4-5); the importance of teaching the Cause of God despite oppression (Psalm 22:22-23; 26-27); God’s solidarity with the oppressed (Psalm 22:24, 26); acknowledgement that knowledge of God is a gift from God (Psalm 22:25); and the knowing that all dominions is God’s (Psalm 22:28). Psalm 22 carries the theme of the suffering servant as well as assurance of salvation; in this way it is similar to Baha'u'llah's Fire Tablet.
In many ways, Psalm 22 holds the essence of many of Christ’s teachings through the voice of Hebrew Scriptures, therefore making it a perfect closure as His last words (reaching into the past, present, and future). Certain verses of Psalm 22 also foretell elements of the crucifixion, effectively connecting the Revelation of Christ and the significance of His Martyrdom to the Hebrew Scriptures (Psalm 22: 7-8, 18).
About the other renditions of Christ’s words: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46) and “It is finished” (John 19:30). These verses convey teachings that could also be connected to Psalm 22. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” confirms the verse in Psalm 22 that “To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him.” (29). It also confirms the verse: “May your hearts live forever!” (Psalm 22:26). Christ’s statement in Luke, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”, makes it a fact that the spirit lives forever; it confirms the message in Psalm 22 and takes it to a higher level.
Christ’s last words in the Gospel of John—“It is finished”—in some ways evokes the last two verses of Psalm 22: “Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it” (30-31). This deliverance spoken of in the Psalms was, in a spiritual sense, finished with Christ’s martyrdom in that Revelation, therefore, “He has done it” or “It is finished.” (Psalm 22:31, John 19:30)
So, from one perspective, these three renditions of the last words of Christ could be seen as united in Psalm 22 with an overall message of hope and confirmation. In a way, the three together summarize that psalm, confirm its healing message, and claim its fulfillment as prophecy:
• “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34 and Matthew 27:46).
• “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
• “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
Not to suggest that it was planned that way by the writers : ) but that the outcome of the three renditions is poetically brilliant and rings of truth together and separately.
1“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.
3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
8 “Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”
9 Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
10 On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;
15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled;
17 I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.
19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog!
21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord. May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
28 For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.
29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him.
30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.”