Reflections on Psalm 22: The Messianic Psalm of the Cross

Dear Roger,

I decided to read through the Bible from beginning to end. I just came to Psalm 22 and was struck by how closely this Psalm paralleled Jesus’ experience on the cross. Could you please expand on this Psalm with thoughts from your point of view?
Sincerely, Ricky

Dear Ricky,

Psalm 22 is known as the Psalm of the Cross. It is perhaps the most amazing of all the Psalms. It accurately predicts what Jesus saw as he hung on the cross some 950 years before the crucifixion occurred.

Psalm 22 begins with the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 22 concludes with the words, “It is finished.” In this Psalm we find the photograph of Christ’s final hours, the record of his dying words.

Ricky, I want to answer your request in the form of an interactive meditation.

Reflect on each verse with quiet reverence. We are standing on holy ground.


Psalm 22:1

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

The tragedy is what Christ didn’t see!

He looked around and couldn’t find his father. We can imagine Judas and Peter deserting him – but surely not his own father.

What compels a father to desert a son in his hour of greatest need? Habakkuk 1:3: “God is too holy as to look upon sin.”

Take a moment now and thank God that he will never forsake you, no matter what you do or what happens. Picture yourself secure in the palm of his right hand. 
By the way, you might consider that it was our sin that put him there. Think about that.

(Fulfilled in Matthew 27:46: “About the ninth hour Jesus cried in a loud voice, “Eloi,Eloi,lama sabachthani” – which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).


Psalm 22:7-8:

All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. “He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “Let the Lord rescue him.”

Meditate for a moment and consider the shameful mocking! 
You know that Jesus was hurting as people ridiculed him. Have you ever talked about someone behind his/her back? Has your mocking hurt someone? Does that bother you? The crowds around Jesus weren’t bothered at all. Take time to confess your sin. After all, our mocking others helped put him on the cross.

Notice that the greatest mocking of all was their mocking of His deity! Satan tempted Him with the same tools in the wilderness: “If you are the Son of God, jump off this ledge of the temple and have your angels catch you before you hit the ground.”

Consider how well you are handling temptation. When’s the last time you failed? Did Satan tempt you; or did you just bring it on yourself If you failed take a moment to confess to God you were wrong. When we confess our sins he can forgive them and restore us to intimacy and relationship with him. (1 John 1:9).

(Fulfilled in Matthew 27:41-42: “In the same way the chief priests and teachers of the law mocked him. “He saved others, but he can’t save himself! Let him come down from the cross and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, “’I am the son of God’”).

(Fulfilled also in Matthew 27:27-30: “Then the soldiers took Jesus into the praetorian and gather the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him and twisted it into a crown of thorns.”)


Psalm 22:12 and Psalm 22:16:

Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths against me…Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men encircles me.

The priests, elders, scribes, Pharisees, rulers and captains close in on him. They stamp and foam around the innocent one as he imagines them goring him to death. They look like wild tigers, mouths open, leaping at his feet.

I think that Jesus was afraid. After all, he was 100% human (as well as 100% man). He endured these pains from the physical point of view. He suffered as only God could suffer.

The term “dogs” was utilized in the first century to as a euphemism for an Roman soldiers. David prophesied Christ’s crucifixion by His Roman captors 950 years before it finally occurred.

Have you encountered a situation where you felt trapped? It felt like the wolves were nipping at your feet. Remember that event. Think of how God got you through those awful moments. Then give him thanks.

(Fulfilled in Matthew 27:39-40: “Those who pass by hurled insults at him shaking their heads and saying come down from the cross if you are the son of God.”)

Broken and bleeding

Psalm 22:14:

I am poured out like water. My heart has turned to wax, it has melted away within me.

John tells us that it was blood mixed with water that emerged. Obviously, the pericardial sac around his heart filled rapidly. The soldier’s sword pierced into that sac and the fluid came out with the blood.

It’s fair to say that Jesus died of a broken heart.

Has anyone ever broken your heart? Take that feeling and multiply it 1,000 times and get a sense of the hurting heart of our Savior.

(Fulfilled in John 19:34: One of the soldiers pierced Jesus side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.)


Psalm 22:15:

My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. (A potsherd is a piece of broken pottery). It’s dry as dust.

“I thirst.”

Presently, a gracious man offered him a sponge of anesthetic vinegar to help ease some of the pain.

Even thirst was a form of torture. After a day or so with no water the tongue begins to turn black, crack and swell. Three days without water means death.

What’s the most you’ve ever been thirsty? For me it was right after open heart surgery when I was thirteen. I was so thirsty. During surgery a substance is induced into the body to dry up the tissues to make it easier for the surgeons to work. Post-surgery oxygen was administered in a plastic tent with boiling water by my ear which delivered the scalding oxygen. It was hot as hell. I was so thirsty. I begged for an ice chip and they said, “No.” The thirst was incredible.

What’s the thirstiest you’ve ever been? What finally quenched your thirst? Why don’t you take a moment and think about our spiritual thirst being quenched by the living water of Jesus Christ.

(Fulfilled in Matthew 27:48: Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink.)

Rejected and pierced

Psalm 22:16:

They pierce my hands and my feet.

“He was in the world, and though the world was made by Him, the world did not recognize him. He came to his own, and his own received him not. Yet to all who receive him, who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:10-12).

These were His men. He made them. But they didn’t recognize Him. The Creator held still as the ones that He created drove spikes into his flesh.

Take a long moment and think on this: It was not the nails, but His love, that held Him in place on the cross.

(Fulfilled in John 19:18: “Here they crucified him, and with him two others.”)


Psalm 22:17-18:

All my bones are on display, people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.

This may well be the worst humiliation Christ ever endured.

When a person was crucified, the crucifiers usually confiscated his clothes and sold them or used them for rags. Nothing is thrown away in a culture that has so little. Sometimes, they left a loincloth. Other times they did not.

This reminds us of Hebrews 12:2: “…He endured the cross, despising the shame…”

Have you ever been humiliated? Of course you have! Consider your embarrassment. Then think about the humiliation and embarrassment that Christ was enduring.

(Fulfilled in John 19:23-24: When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. Let’s not tear it, they said to one to another, let’s decide by lot who will get it).

Before we finish this thought, let’s consider how Mary felt as she read the Psalms to Jesus when he was a child? Imagine her tears as she read to Him Psalm 22. Can you imagine the tears in her eyes? She told Him, “This is all about you.” It’s no wonder she cried.


Psalm 22:31:

“They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn – for it is finished.”

How fitting that Psalm 22, which begins with the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” ends with the words, “it is finished.”

Jesus aptly culminated his work with these words, “It is finished.”

The gospel of salvation is now complete. There is no other name on earth by which we can be saved.

imagine yourself standing 50 feet away from the cross. What are your impressions? What do you see? Now, imagine yourself walking towards Jesus and stopping five feet away. How do you feel as you look up into his face?

Don’t you wish you could put your arms around Him and somehow comfort Him in his pain? You can’t do that now. But you still can comfort Him. Jesus said, “as you’ve done it to the least of my brethren, you did it to me.”

(Fulfilled in John 19:30: When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “it is finished.”)

Well, Ricky, I know it’s not been easy; nevertheless, meditating on Psalm 22 is well worth it.

Sincerely, Roger

Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese.His latest work isGot Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answerfrom Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.