The Amazing Crucifixion Prophecies of Psalm 22, Part 3

Title: The Amazing Crucifixion Prophecies of Psalm 22, Part 3
Text: Psalm 22
Time: April 20, 2014

I said last time that I’d try to finish up the prophecies of Psalm 22 by going through any of the prophecies I might have missed in my first two messages. I’d like to go ahead and do that today by mentioning three more prophecies. But before I get into these I’d like to take a minute to point out what might indeed be a prophecy, although it’s a little hard to tell. It’s Psalm 22:9-10, “Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” Now the reason I say this section “might” be a prophecy of Christ is that the New Testament doesn’t say it’s a reference to Jesus – which doesn’t necessarily rule against it – but also, it isn’t specific enough to say with certainty that it could exclusively apply to Jesus Christ. It also isn’t dealing specifically with the crucifixion, as the other prophecies in this Psalm. But it could very well be a reference to Jesus because it talks a lot about birth, womb and his mother. Any Christian knows that these are familiar themes, not around Easter time but during the Christmas holiday – although they certainly apply to any time of the year, including Easter. Now why could this verse be talking about Jesus? Because as Messiah, he didn’t just appear out of nowhere; he was born of a virgin, as Isaiah 7:14 prophesied, so he had a mother, who we know as Mary. The Messiah was born of a woman, grew up and became an adult. That’s the uniqueness of the Incarnation. Again, something we celebrate more at Christmas than at Easter, but is perfectly appropriate to mention anytime. Is this a reference or veiled prophecy of Christ? Possibly, although it’s not nearly as clear as the other prophecies in the chapter. I mention it here in passing because I need to do some more exploring, reading and studying on it before I put it definitely in the category of prophecy. Yes, much of it applies to Christ, but then again, it could apply to others as well. We’ll leave it an open question for now. But the other three passages I’ll be looking at today I’m very confident are prophetic passages. First, there’s the verse in Psalm 22:6 that says, “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.” There’s a lot of prophetic messianic material here. Second, there’s the sentence in Psalm 22:14 that states, “My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.” Now at first this might not seem significant, but as I’ll explain later, it has great importance in connection with Christ’s death. Finally, three, there’s the verse in Psalm 22:17 that goes, “People stare and gloat at me.” Again, this is pretty obvious in relation to the whole crucifixion scene. But I’ll talk more about it shortly. Having gone over the main prophetic verses found in Psalm 22 in the last two messages, today I’ll just finish up on lesser know but still power prophetic verses from the same chapter. I hope this builds our faith, as did the last two messages.

First, there’s the verse that describes Christ’s rejection by men. Psalm 22:8, “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.” And Isaiah 53:3, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.” And Matthew 27:39, 41, 44, “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads . . . In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him . . . In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” This is clearly a prophetic messianic prophecy, and we know it is for a number of different reasons. The number one reason is that it is parallel to the Isaiah 53 passage – and we know that passage is prophetic because the whole chapter of this most famous prophetic book is messianic, or in other words, describes the Messiah. Various New Testament writers refer back to Isaiah 53, including the Gospel writers, so we know that anything mentioned in Isaiah 53 is prophetic and related to Jesus, especially related to his atoning death and crucifixion. So when we see Psalm 22:8 saying the same thing as Isaiah 53:3, we can safely assume that it’s talking about the same thing. Then, when we simply look at the context, what the Gospels describe happened at the crucifixion, we then realize that the verse no doubt must be prophetic. It’s describing what actually happened to Jesus. The crowd turned against him. He was despised, rejected and scorned by most of the Jewish people, especially the Jewish leaders. Now not only the Jews, but also the Gospels indicate that the Gentile pagan Romans mocked him, as well as the thieves on the cross, at least at first. We know from another report that at least one of the thieves crucified with Jesus repented and became a believer; Jesus promised him eternal life as a result. But most of the people, most of the crowd there, was clearly hostile to Jesus. Yes, there were his disciples, his followers, and of course, his mother there present. But from the Gospel accounts they were in the minority. Most of the people that day were hostile to Jesus. “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.” That could accurately summarize an evaluation by Jesus of the crowd who witnessed his crucifixion. The reference to him being “a worm and not a man” might be describing his appearance, his disfigured face, his bloody body, his ugly gashes and bruises. After the torture by Roman soldiers we can understand how he could describe himself as something other than a man, at least his appearance was so bad that it might have been difficult to recognize him as a man. Perhaps this is what the prophecy means. But there’s more.

Second, there’s the sentence that describes Jesus’ heart condition. Psalm 22:14, “My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.” And John 19:32-34, “The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.” I’ve read that the flow of blood and water described in the Gospel here is a reference to what happens when the cavity around the heart fills with fluid and eventually and suddenly bursts. Death occurs immediately. In other words, Jesus died of a heart attack, but not a normal heart attack. He died as a result of a broken heart. Whether it was the result of the body’s reaction to crucifixion, or whether it was the result of Jesus taking upon himself the sins of the world – and the emotional and spiritual weight and pressure of that literally broke his heart – we don’t know. But the prophecy of Psalm 22:14 that says “My heart has turned to wax, it has melted within me,” fits perfectly with what we know happed to Jesus on the cross. The report of blood and water flowing from the wounded side, the result of the Roman soldier’s spear tip, makes perfect sense. If that spear tip pierced Jesus’ side, as the Gospel indicates, and if it was aimed at the heart of Jesus, which we might presume was the intention of the soldier, then it probably means that something had happened to his heart. We don’t have the benefit of an autopsy, because that kind of science wasn’t even available back them in ancient times. But if we had an autopsy report, from all indications it would have mentioned heart failure, and the report would have probably been 100% consistent with the Psalm 22 prophecy about Christ’s heart turning to wax and melting within him. That’s probably what happened using figurative language. Now this little prophecy could quite easily be passed by without understanding that it’s a genuine prophecy. And I’m sure the early church figured out the most obvious prophecies concerning Jesus from the Old Testament, but what’s interesting and exciting is that it’s possible, the more we examine the prophets and the older writings of the Bible, to find even more prophecies concerning Christ. And that’s probably what other Christians did later on after the most obvious prophetic connections were made. Again, the New Testament doesn’t say that the verse I’ve been talking about is prophetic, or a reference to Christ’s crucifixion, but I think I’m on pretty safe ground in assuming that it is prophetic, for the reasons I’ve just outlined. But I’ve got one more verse for you to consider.

Third, there’s another verse that talks about people gloating over Christ. Psalm 22, “People stare and gloat at me.” And Matthew 27:42, “’He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.” This is a parallel prophecy to the first one I mentioned today, only it talks specifically about gloating, not just generally mocking and hurling insults. To gloat means to take special pleasure in someone else’s defeat or ill fortune. The Jews, especially the Jewish leaders, were definitely gloating over Jesus as he was on the cross. They kept taunting him to come down off the cross, since he was supposed to be the Messiah. They didn’t believe the claims of Jesus to be the Messiah, so they were gloating over his situation on the cross. “People stare and gloat at me,” perfectly describes the scene at the crucifixion of Christ. There is no question this verse is prophetic. It’s just another detailed description included in the Psalm 22 prophecy, given one thousand years before Christ’s death, yet perfectly describes what actually takes place. That’s amazing. No doubt things like these prophecies convinced the believing Jews to follow Jesus. Take for instance, Nicodemus, a Jewish member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council. He became a believer, a follower of Jesus. What convinced him? Probably fulfilled prophecy played a part. I once had the opportunity to discuss prophecy with an orthodox Jew back in the 80’s at a college I attended briefly near Detroit. I discovered that a classmate was an orthodox Jew – the scull cap gave it away, obviously – and so I asked him what he thought about the Isaiah 53 prophecies concerning the Messiah. He wasn’t very happy with that question, because he had learned from his training that Christians like to talk about the messianic prophecies a lot. So I really wasn’t able to get into a very deep discussion with him about it. But I’ve learned since then that most Jews try to explain Isaiah 53 away as referring to the nation of Israel or in some corporate sense. But the prophecy is clearly referring to an individual, not a group. And in light of the historical figure of Jesus Christ, how can anyone ignore the implications of Isaiah 53 referring to a suffering Messiah? It takes a lot of work to explain away Isaiah 53, and it also takes a lot of work to try to explain away Psalm 22 as well. But why try? Why not just accept that these two prophetic sections of the Old Testament are referring to Jesus? That’s the most normal and natural way of interpreting them.

I’ve tried to show that Psalm 22 produces a lot of prophetic gold in respect to the Messiah Jesus Christ. From the perspective of the early Christian church Psalm 22 is a messianic prophecy that describes important details in the life of Jesus Christ, namely, his death on the cross for our sins. Looking back some two thousand years, we must agree with the early Christians in what they saw – Psalm 22 really does prophecy many details concerning the crucifixion of Christ. It shows us that the Bible is a supernatural book that can be trusted to not only speak the truth, but speak the truth concerning future events. That’s important because we aren’t finished with all the prophecy, not only general prophecy, but also prophecy concerning the Messiah Jesus Christ. He’s coming back at the end of the age, and that too the Bible foretells. Seeing how detailed and descriptive the Bible is concerning past prophecy, we anticipate things will begin to become more clear as the time of Christ’s appearing nears. But we must be careful to not make the same mistakes as the Jews of first century. They read from the same Bible as Christians, but they read it differently. They saw the prophetic passages too, but they didn’t see them as prophetic. They thought they knew when in fact they didn’t know as much as they thought. They understood the Messiah’s coming differently, and their false understanding prevented them from seeing the clear evidence both inside the Bible and outside of it, that the Messiah had come. Will we make the same mistake in respect to the second coming of Christ? Do we have such clear and firm ideas about what will or must happen that we won’t be able to see what is really taking place when it happens? That possibility should humble us and cause us to keep an open mind, as well as read and re-read the Bible in order to get things right in our thinking. This Easter season let’s ask God to teach us the truth concerning himself and the future. Let’s ask God to open our hearts and minds so that we aren’t deceived in the end time. Are you as close to God today as you’ve been in the past? Why not commit yourself to becoming closer to Jesus this year than you’ve ever been. The best way of not being deceived, of being on top of things spiritually, is being close to God. Why not recommit yourself to following Jesus today? Why not confess any known sin in your life, and repent of it today? Why not make this Easter season 2014 a time of renewal and rededication to the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s pray.

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