Dietrich Bonhoeffer called the book the Psalms (the psalter) the prayerbook of the Bible.
Jesus’ lingering death on the cross is certainly captured by Psalm 22—some of which Jesus prayed from the cross.
Easter is coming and it will be a wonderful time to recount God’s salvation and deliverance. But in order to get there we need to go by the place where Jesus experienced the exact opposite.
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.
The prayers of a condemned man in the garden of Gethsemane ring in our presence. The prayers of God left to painfully lapse into death are here too. Jesus longs for the cup to pass but it does not. Jesus longs for the cup to pass by us—it does. But our salvation and the sparing of our souls comes at an incalculable cost. In the wounding we are made well. In the forsaking we are drawn into community with God. In the restless prayers of our tormented savior we find a deep, secure and profound rest for our weary souls.
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!”
Sticks and stones may break our bones. Being nailed to a stake evokes deep agony as well—even if none of his bones were broken. Words can certainly hurt profoundly too. Amidst the pain and shame of an exposed and dangling death our Lord endures the scorn and derision of the Romans, the religious leaders, one of the two thieves and whoever else Scripture may not have mentioned. The people mock Jesus with the promise he makes real for us. God delivers us. We are rescued. Because of Jesus we are made delightful to God—and we are delivered and rescued.
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.
Jesus thirsts and the soldiers mock him with sour vinegar on a sponge. Jesus feeds with the bread of life at Passover while he is soon starving to the point of bones being clearly visible. Jesus clothes in the righteousness of God while he is stripped bare for all to see and his wardrobe becomes spoils of a gambling distraction. Jesus is surrounded by boastful, leering and jeering crowds. His mortal life has gone dry and his body is out of kilter. In that death we find the waters of baptism and a body of believers that is being renewed.
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.
Then comes the good news of Easter (so much the richer for having lingered in the hunger) that all who sleep in the dust (read die) shall bow down and live for him. Deliverance is coming to those who were yet unborn (which included us). Future generations (which include us) are being told and being invited to tell others about the Lord. Jesus has indeed done what we cannot. We are being delivered.
Dear God, help us linger at Passover (with communion and footwashing and the Great Commandment), then at the foot of the cross, then at the mouth of the tomb. Make your prayers our prayers. Bring hope, faith and testimony to life in us. All to your glory. And then let us steep in Easter. Amen.