The Amazing Crucifixion Prophecies of Psalm 22, Part 2

Title: The Amazing Crucifixion Prophecies of Psalm 22, Part 2
Text: Psalm 22
Time: April 19, 2014

Like I said last time, the most famous prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the atoning death and crucifixion of Jesus Christ are found in Isaiah 53. I’ve given many messages showing the detailed prophecies concerning Christ in this Old Testament source, but believe it or not the famous Isaiah prophecy is not the most quoted source in the New Testament. What is the most quoted Old Testament prophecy in the New Testament and Gospel accounts? Psalm 22. I bet you didn’t know that. I bet you are surprised by that. It’s the most under reported prophecy in the Old Testament, although the New Testament writers knew it well. So let’s get to know it well also. Now last time I tackled three of the verses in the Psalm 22 prophecy concerning Christ’s crucifixion. Today, I’d like to cover three more verses. There are actually more than six verses of prophecy in Psalm 22, but I’ll just deal with the main prophecies as they pertain to the Lord’s death on the cross. I’ll also deal with the more obvious prophecies, although we shouldn’t think that these are the only ones in the chapter. I plan to do another message and catch any of the other, smaller prophecies that I might have missed. But in order to do justice to the most obvious prophecies in Psalm 22 I’ll only deal with three more verses today. First, I’ll talk about the reference in Psalm 22 that says, “My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth,” as an indication of Christ’s thirst on the cross. Of course, the Gospels report that Jesus said, “I thirst.” Second, I’ll cover the verse that says, “They have pierced my hands and feet,” which is an obvious reference to the method of his execution – crucifixion. And finally, third, I’ll deal with the verse that explains, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” Again, clearly a reference to the Roman soldiers dividing up the purple robe of Jesus. Now what’s amazing for us Christians is that while we are familiar with these New Testament references, such as the fact that Jesus was thirsty on the cross, that his hand and feet were pierced, and that his robe was divided between the soldiers, what we usually don’t think about is that these things were all prophesied in the Old Testament one thousand years before in the Book of Psalms. We can see how important it is to know the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. In the early church there was a debate as to whether the Old Testament should even be included in the Christian Bible. I’m glad wisdom prevailed and it was included, because it’s really important and essential for understanding the New Testament. Let’s turn to it now to get a fuller understanding of our Lord’s death on the cross, how these events were all spoken of one thousand years beforehand.

First, there’s the reference to Jesus thirsty on the cross. Psalm 22:15, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.” And John 19:28-30, “Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty,’ A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had receive the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” Here’s a New Testament reference by John to the Old Testament prophecy of Psalm 22:15. He says that when Jesus said he was thirsty he fulfilled the prophecy that said the Messiah would thirst. So we see here a conscious and deliberate link between the New Testament and the Old Testament. Not all the prophetic references in the New Testament, like I said before, are mentioned as specifically fulfilling Old Testament prophecy, but some come right out and say so. Here, John in his Gospel comes right out and says that Jesus is fulfilling prophecy. Now when you start listing and comparing all the Old Testament prophecies with their New Testament fulfillments it’s hard to understand how anyone could doubt that something special was happening in the life of Jesus. It’s hard to see how anyone, a good Jew especially, could ignore all the fulfilled prophecies in the life of Christ. How many fulfilled prophecies does it take to establish the fact that God the Father was working salvation through Jesus Christ? Would it take five more fulfilled prophecies to convince some people? How about ten more prophecies? Would that convince them? It gets to the point where you begin to wonder if it isn’t a lack of fulfilled prophecies that’s the problem, but rather that some people simply won’t believe, won’t trust in Jesus. Certainly, any Jew that looks into the fulfilled prophecies of Jesus Christ couldn’t help but think, couldn’t escape the conclusion that Jesus was indeed the Savior and Messiah. Yet most have rejected this conclusion. Nevertheless, the prophecies are impressive. Here is a rather minor, insignificant one. Jesus was thirsty. We can understand why because he was probably not given bread or water while in prison waiting his execution. He was beaten, then he had to walk with a cross to Golgotha. Finally, he was on the cross for hours. No wonder he was thirsty. That small, seemingly insignificant detail was prophesied a thousand years before in Psalm 22. Amazing! God left no detail out. These are the kind of details that convince people that God was with Jesus Christ. These are the kind of details that can stick in someone’s mind until he believes. Truly amazing.

Second, there’s the reference to the method of the Messiah’s execution – crucifixion. Psalm 22:16, “Dogs have surrounded me, a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.” And Luke 23:33, “When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left.” And what is the way the Romans crucified their victims? By driving a nail through the hands and the feet on the cross. This is a direct fulfillment of the prophecy that says, “They have pierced my hands and my feet,” although again the Gospel writers don’t directly state this fulfilled prophecy. John’s Gospel, for example, links another prophecy found in Zechariah 12:10 to a different “piercing” during the crucifixion. John 19:34, 37, “Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. . . . and as another scripture says, ‘They will look on the one they have pierced.’” So here John links the piercing to the soldier’s sword thrust after Jesus’ death. But the prophecy of Psalm 22 talks about a piercing of the hands and feet, which speaks more directly to the nails used in crucifixion. These are both prophecies, two different prophecies. Now if you think about all the different ways the Messiah might have been killed or might have died you begin to see how prophetic Psalm 22 really is in the light of the actual events. If Jesus had died of stoning, the prophecy couldn’t have been fulfilled. In fact, if Jesus had died of stoning – a popular Jewish form of execution, by the way – then in all probability his bones would have been broken, and that would have left unfulfilled the prophecy that his bones wouldn’t be broken. He could have been beheaded, like John the Baptist, for example, and that would have left unfulfilled the prophecy about his feet and hands being pierced. And on and on. Do you see how important it was for everything to happen just the way it did? That’s what got the Jews who finally believed in Jesus so excited! They recognized and appreciated all the prophecies concerning Jesus the Messiah found in the Old Testament. It’s what got the Apostle Paul excited as he began to go through all the Old Testament prophecies and see that Jesus really did fulfill them all. But you don’t have to be a Jew to get excited about the Jesus prophecies, because what we are doing here today should get you excited that you are trusting in and following the Jesus who is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. That’s no small thing. There is no other individual who can claim to fulfill the prophecies like Jesus. This is one of the strongest arguments for the validity of Jesus as Savior, Messiah and Lord. Fulfilled prophecy is one of the greatest faith-building evidences in Christianity. We need to familiarize ourselves with it not only for our own faith, but to share with others to encourage them to believe.

Third, there’s the reference to the Roman soldiers dividing up Jesus’ robe. Psalm 22:18, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” And John 19:23-24, “When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. ‘Let’s not tear it,’ they said to one another. ‘Let’s decide by lot who will get it.’ This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, ‘They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.’ So this is what the soldiers did.” There’s a whole sermon in this verse. The soldiers priorities were so twisted and distorted that they cared more about tearing a stupid piece of cloth than about tearing the flesh of the Savior Jesus. But that’s another message. My point today is that here is an Old Testament prophecy that is fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus, and the Gospel says it’s a fulfillment of prophecy. Again, sometimes we see prophecies being fulfilled but the New Testament writer doesn’t directly mention that it is a fulfillment. We are left to make that conclusion on our own often. But here, John the writer, comes out and tells us directly that when the soldiers divided Christ’s clothes they were fulfilling Old Testament prophecy. Just in case his readers missed the prophecy fulfilled, John tells us that it’s fulfilled so we can’t possibly miss it. But whether the New Testament writer tells us directly or not, we can see prophecy and marvel at it. It’s amazing that here is another example of a fairly small detail that is mentioned in the Gospels. It just shows you that there isn’t much that’s missing; probably nothing important that’s missing from the New Testament accounts of Jesus. We’ve got a remarkable and accurate historical basis for knowing what took place. We even have such details as the fact the soldiers cast lots for the clothes of Jesus. How does that knowledge contribute to our spiritual growth and knowledge? I don’t really know, although it reminds us that we can be confident in the information we have about Jesus, that it’s accurate and true. If we even get details about what happened to the clothes of Jesus, we can be confident that we’ve got the important and essential details, and then some. It builds our faith and confidence in the Bible record, especially living in a skeptical age as we do. Every Easter skeptical articles appear in major magazines, and TV program documentaries that cast doubt on the historical gospels are present that might lead some people away from faith. But with little details like the ones above, we can actually gain confidence in the Bible historical record. What we read in the Bible is what actually happened.

Do you put your trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Easter is a good time to renew and rededicate yourself to trusting fully in God. We’ve just seen some amazing prophecies that were written one thousand years before the events they predict. These are dramatic and powerful proofs that God was in Christ bringing salvation to everyone who believes. Do you believe this morning? Or are you still sitting on the fence. I remember reading about C.S. Lewis the famous Oxford professor and atheist who once recorded that he went along to church one Easter Sunday with his brother out of custom and tradition. He specifically remembers that he started out to the church not believing in the gospel, and by the time the church service ended he found himself actually believing it. What convinced him? Obviously, the Holy Spirit was working in his heart that Easter Sunday morning. But what else convinced him to trust Christ? That’s a mystery. Sometimes people confess their sins and trust Christ for salvation because they been convince by argument; but not usually. Some people truly believe in Christ for the first time because the faithful example of Christian living found in other Christians. That’s common. And some, no doubt, are reading along in the Bible and stumble upon the many and powerful messianic prophecies scattered about and put them all together and suddenly believe. What are the chances of all these prophecies being fulfilled by chance? Pretty slim. What are the chances of someone staging the whole thing, manipulating events in order to fulfill prophecy? Still pretty slim. For example, how do you stage your own execution and the method of execution? Jesus was just as likely to be stoned by Jews than to die by the hands of the Romans on the cross. So you really can’t manipulate things that much to fulfill prophecy. No. God Almighty in heaven is the only possible explanation how Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies the way he did. It was meant to be. God is in control. Why not surrender your life to the one who is in control? Why not get with God’s plan for your life? If you’ve been waiting to follow God wholeheartedly, now’s a good time, Easter, to do so. It’s a good time to return to God, renew your faith, and rededicate yourself back to God if you’ve gone astray. Just confess and repent of your sins, ask God to forgive you. Then, trust in Christ wholeheartedly. Why not do that now, today? This Easter season 2014.

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