From “How to become a Christian”: Chapter 10 – Jesus’s death on the cross
Just as we have seen with the long prophecy by Isaiah, much of the information we have about what Jesus had to suffer on the cross is actually set out in the Old Testament rather than the New Testament. For example, consider Psalm 22. This was written by King David (a physical ancestor of Jesus). In this psalm, although David is speaking, for most of the time he is actually speaking on behalf of Jesus, the future Messiah. David is setting out what Jesus would think and feel while on the cross. It is a long psalm so we will not look at all of it, but here are some of the most relevant parts. They reveal a lot of useful and poignant facts about what Jesus experienced during his crucifixion:
Psalm 22 (NIV)
1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
2My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
In verses 1-2 King David reveals the anguish Jesus felt on the cross about being abandoned by God. This occurred when God the Father and the Holy Spirit withdrew from Him and rejected Him while He was carrying the guilt of the sin of the whole world.
Then in verses 6-8 David goes on to express the pain Jesus felt at being despised, mocked and insulted by those around Him as He hung on the cross. They jeered at Him, telling Him to get God to rescue Him, even as He was dying to save them:
6But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
7All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
8“He trusts in the LORD,” they say,
“let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”
In verses 12-13, David expresses what Jesus experienced as He was surrounded by jeering, snarling enemies. This refers to both human beings and demons, i.e. all of those who were gnashing their teeth at Him in hatred and contempt. Note that the “bulls of Bashan” referred to here are demons. While Jesus was dying on the cross, demons were surrounding Him.
The demons believed they had defeated Him and prevented Him from becoming the Messiah, Saviour and King of Israel. That is why they were rejoicing, jeering and roaring at Him. But in fact, He was outwitting them and triumphing over them. Even though Jesus knew the truth, the hatred and mockery of His enemies, especially that of the demons, must have been intensely degrading for Him. He could see them clearly, all around Him:
12Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
Then, in verses 14-15 David refers to Jesus’ physical suffering and to the agonising movements He had to endure. He had to struggle to lift Himself up to be able to breathe, because His hands and feet had been nailed to the cross. He was also twisted and contorted. It also refers to the extreme thirst He felt. He hadhaving lost vast amounts of blood and had had nothing to drink, despite the hot sun.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
Finally, verses 16-18 deal with two of the most well known features of Jesus’ crucifixion. They refer to how His hands and feet were pierced by nails and also how the Roman Soldiers divided His clothes among them and cast lots to decide who should have his robe. Isn’t it astonishing that facts as accurate and specific as these were written about Jesus 1000 years before His crucifixion?
16 Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
17All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
18They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
Now let us also consider psalm 69. This is another ‘Messianic psalm’ in which King David reveals more of the thoughts and experiences that Jesus was going to have on the cross:
Psalm 69 (NIV)
Verses 1-4 refer to Jesus feeling overwhelmed on the cross by the sheer hatred and contempt of those surrounding Him. As we know from Psalm 22, those were both humans and demons.
1Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
2I sink in the miry depths,
where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
the floods engulf me.
3I am worn out calling for help;
my throat is parched.
My eyes fail,
looking for my God.
4Those who hate me without reason
outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause,
those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore
what I did not steal.
Next, in verses 7-9, we get a glimpse at how Jesus felt at enduring scorn for our sake and at His feeling of shame. He was rejected and misunderstood even by His own immediate family. We know from the gospels that even His own brothers did not (at that point) believe in Him or understand Him:
7For I endure scorn for your sake,
and shame covers my face.
8I am a foreigner to my own family,
a stranger to my own mother’s children;
9for zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.
Verses 19-21 reveal more about the scorn, disgrace and shame Jesus experienced, which broke His heart. Finally it even specifies that He would be given vinegar to drink. This detail was literally and exactly fulfilled on the cross. He was handed a sponge soaked in vinegar by those who had heard Him saying “I thirst“:
19You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
all my enemies are before you.
20Scorn has broken my heart
and has left me helpless;
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
for comforters, but I found none.
21They put gall in my food
and gave me vinegar for my thirst.
It is impossible to include all the facts and details of the crucifixion in this book. But it is helpful to look at the prophecies about Jesus from the Old Testament, and to cross reference them with the accounts of the crucifixion in the four gospels. The exactness of the literal fulfilment of each of these prophecies is amazing.