A Devotion for Holy Week, 31 March 2021 Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord), the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” (Psalm 22:1; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
The twenty-second Psalm is one of the most profound Messianic Psalms of the whole of that Book. It expresses, in the spirit of the prophets, the pains and anguish our Lord suffered on the cross in its first twenty-one verses. In verses 22-31, the Psalm speaks of the resurrection glory our Lord felt at His moment of triumph over death and Hell.
“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” This phrase is among the seven last ‘words’ (exclamations) from the cross. They reveal an amazing endurance of our Lord for physical pain in His human manliness. The pain of the cross is so intense that it cannot be imagined – only experienced. It is a severe pain that is unrelenting. In fact, it even increases as it continues. It might be designated as an excruciating pain. Such pain is beyond the common endurance of the human body, yet Jesus retained His mental faculties throughout the process of crucifixion. It is interesting to note that the word, excruciating, comes from the Latin (ex: from, and cruci: cross) meaning pain as from the cross.
Partially blinded by the blood streaming down His face from the crown of thorns, Jesus looked through the haze at the multitudes of jeering hecklers for whom He was presently suffering. He could bear, somehow, the intense physical pain of the cross, but what of that of His immeasurable and unrequited Love with which He loved the very ones who had crucified Him mercilessly. It was a sacrifice that HAD to be made. It was decided in the Counsel of Heaven in Eternity Past, and our Lord entered into our scale of time to endure that sacrifice of redemption for those whom He would receive.
Amazing how prophets of old often uttered prophecies of which they had no understanding but, yet, were led by the Holy Ghost to record the words. One such blazing example in given by King David in the 22nd Psalm (known as one of many Messianic Psalms). This Psalm describes in great detail the suffering of Christ on the cross – how his tongue clave to the roof of His mouth for thirst, His blood coagulated in this thoracic cavity due to pooling, and His arms being jolted out of socket due to the abrupt drop of the cross into its appointed pit. He describes those who ridicule Him – His nakedness and shame. He also uses a term that seems out of place to describe Himself there on the cross: “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. (Psalms 22:6)
This verse addresses an obscure and little known Type of Christ given in the 22nd Psalm – a Messianic Psalm. A Messianic Psalm is one that relates to Jesus Christ. And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. (Luke 24:44) This Psalm is of particular note for it quotes the very words of Christ from the Cross in its first verse: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1) The specific reference of the Type to which I refer is that of the Crimson Worm. I first wrote of this in a devotion in the late 90’s. It is an amazing Type whose image is near perfect with that of Christ on the Cross.
Before advancing further, let us examine the word used in Psalm 22:6 for ‘worm.’ In the Hebrew language, this word is ‘tola’ ath’ which means crimson, or scarlet, worm. How could Jesus possibly be compared to a Scarlet, or Crimson, Worm? Well, in many points as we shall see. While living in Iran (old Persia), I happened to observe, often, large bloody spots on the white oak trees lining the boulevards of Esfahan. On inquiry, I was told that these red blood spots were caused by the crimson worm. This particular species, coccus ilicis, has an interesting life cycle that commends itself to comparison to Christ on the cross. The dye from these worms was used to color garments red in Jesus’ day. Of course, red was the color favored by the wealthy and was very expensive to produce. The color of red, or scarlet, is used in the Bible to describe how revealing are our sins: Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
The female of this species will seek out a certain kind of tree when she is ready to produce young. She climbs the tree, just as Christ mounted the Cross, at her own volition. If the Crimson Worm does not climb the tree, her young family cannot be realized. If Christ had not, at His own volition, allowed Himself to be crucified, His family – the Church – would not have been possible. When her young are hatched, they feed on her living body. When able to subsist without the mother, she begins to die. She emits a red dye that covers her young – a color which they remain for the rest of their lives. If the believer is under the blood of Christ, he will remain so forever, and we feed upon the living body of Christ – our Bread of Life.
The entire section (1 to 21 verses) are a description of Christ’s suffering on the cross – exact in every detail. But now, let us examine the last ten verses which describe His resurrection victory. The entire tone of the Psalm abruptly changes from sorrow and despondency to joyous celebration:
“I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard. My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him. The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.” (Psalms 22:22-26)
Your HEART will live forever because your Lord has risen from the grave and His Mighty HEART – pierced for you – will live forever. The Heart is the Temple of God. Such Temple exists in the Heart of every believer.
“All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the LORD’s: and he is the governor among the nations.” (Psalms 22:27-28)
His once-and-for-all sacrifice and victory has fulfilled the prophecies of the ancients of the Old Testament. He is the same Lord of the Old as of the New. All power has been granted Him as Lord of Lords and King of Kings. All nations do, indeed, remember Him whether they wish to do so or not. The calendars of the world recognize the time of His Coming by the calculation of years BEFORE and After that important Crux of Time.
“All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.” vv29
It is a certainty that none can keep alive his own soul for that breath of life is sustained moment-by-moment by the Lord Jesus Christ. After we sleep in Christ, we awaken with a life eternal. But all, even the unrepentant sinners, shall bow the knee before Him ere they descend to their final reward.
“A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.” vv30
That Seed that shall serve Him are those who have believed the promise of that Seed made to Abraham from His day until now and into the future – one generation accounted for the Lord. The Old Testament Church of Abraham’s seed looked forward in faith to the coming of the Redeemer Lord just as the New Testament Church looks back on the accomplished historical fact. But all is maintained by the certainty of faith.
“They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this. vv 31 That same generation will declare the faith to succeeding members of the generation of the righteous foal l of faith are accounted sons and daughters of Abraham. “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham……Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ….. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:7, 16, 29)
We have every reason to rejoice at the resurrection of our Lord, though in His suffering, He bore our sins. He rejoiced at the conclusion of His victory – why shouldn’t we, His followers?