Theme: Jesus and His Brothers
In this week’s lessons we learn how the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ described in the first part of Psalm 22 turn into a statement of great victory.
Scripture: Psalm 22:22-31
But it is not only by a process of reasoning that we must identify Psalm 22 as a prophecy of Jesus’ death and resurrection. As we study the New Testament, we also find that this is its explicit teaching.
Hebrews 2:12 quotes Psalm 22:22, referring the verse to Jesus. In this important chapter of Hebrews, the author is teaching the superiority of Jesus to the angels, a theme begun in chapter 1. Jesus is superior because he is God’s Son and not merely a servant as an angel is. He is superior because he has been appointed ruler of an everlasting kingdom. All things have been subjected to him. Now, however, having stressed his superiority to all other created beings in those ways, the author shows that Jesus has also become the Savior of his people by becoming like them and making them members of his own family. This is the point at which the author of Hebrews quotes Psalm 22:22: “Both the One who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, ‘I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises’” (vv. 11, 12).
This quotation tells us how to interpret the psalm. It tells us that Jesus is the speaker, not just in this verse but throughout. And it tells us that the “brothers” (and sisters) of the psalm’s second half are those for whom he died and rose again.
At the beginning of the last study I pointed out how during the early phases of the crucifixion the attention of the Lord was on other people: the women who had followed him to Golgotha weeping, the soldiers who nailed him to the cross, the believing thief who was crucified with him, his mother Mary who was present at the cross, and John, the beloved disciple. I showed how this changed as the three hours of darkness, in which Jesus was made sin for us and was punished for our sin, settled over the land. These were private hours in which Jesus agonized over his abandonment by his Father and cried out to be heard.
But Jesus was heard. The very last phrase of verse 21 declares it: “you have heard (or answered).”2 This verse therefore marks a great turning point in the psalm, a turning point which must be associated with the passing of the period of darkness. In the context of the crucifixion, Jesus has not yet died. That comes after the final sentence of the psalm, where Jesus said, “It is finished,” which is what verse 31 means. At that point: 1) the curtain of the temple that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place was torn in two from top to bottom, signifying that full atonement for sin had been made; 2) Jesus cried out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46); and 3) Jesus died. But before this Jesus was already assured that his Father had heard him, that his atonement was accepted and that untold generations of people would be saved and would become his brothers and sisters because of what he suffered.
How can we know that Psalm 22 is a prophecy of Christ’s death and resurrection?
How is verse 21 a turning point in the psalm in terms of the events and meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion?
Reflection: Because God the Father heard Jesus’ cries, what are the implications of this for our own prayers?
2For some reason the New International Version does not reflect this abrupt declaration, though it is clear in the Hebrew text, where the verb (translated “save” by the NIV) comes last. See the previous study for a more extensive discussion.