From despair to hope
While Jesus hung on the cross for six hours, whether He felt like time passed quickly or agonizingly slow…there’s no indication in the Biblical text. What we do know is that the Romans were experts in torture and the administration of pain. Death on a cross didn’t come from having your hands and feet nailed to wood. Instead, a person died slowly as their body weight pulled against the nails, making it difficult for the victim to breathe. Over the next few hours, they would fight to keep upright in order to continue breathing, but as their strength failed, they would slowly suffocate. Additionally, any trauma or blood loss both before and during crucifixion would lead to cardiac collapse as the heart muscle was no longer supplied with oxygen-rich blood. This type of death sentence was so horrific, the Latin word for “cross” eventually became the root word for word “excruciating” in an attempt identify the level of pain one would endure while being crucified.
As the sins of humanity were placed upon Jesus, He experienced the worst of everything He had endured. As great as the physical torture was, we can only guess at the magnitude of His spiritual torment.
Matthew 27:45-46 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land. At about three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
As the end of His life neared, Jesus’ cry to the Father, His prayer at the moment was the beginning of Psalm 22. The first half of that prophetic psalm tells us so much about how Jesus felt while He endured the horrifically painful events of the cross. However, the text also transitions from the agony of the moment to a complete reliance on God the Father.
What began as a cry of anguish has ended in a shout of praise.
Psalm 22:25-31 I will give praise
in the great congregation because of You;
I will fulfill my vows before those who fear You.
The humble will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise Him.
May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord.
All the families of the nations will bow down before You,
for kingship belongs to the Lord; He rules over the nations.
All who prosper on earth will eat and bow down;
all those who go down to the dust will kneel before Him –
even the one who cannot preserve his life.
Descendants will serve Him; the next generation will be told about the Lord.
They will come and tell a people yet to be born about His righteousness –
what He has done.
Jesus was absolutely focused on His purpose. His death didn’t just happen to Him, rather He chose to take the punishment for humanity’s sinful betrayals.
As Psalm 22 transitions from despair to hope, it ends with the assurance of what Jesus’ mission would accomplish. He most certainly was thinking about the future generations, of those He prayed for in the garden – the ones who would eventually believe the apostles’ message.
We are among those who were yet to be born and have now been told about the Lord. Keeping Jesus’ purposeful sacrifice in mind, let’s continue the mission and tell the next generation what He has done!