24He did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.
(I have also written about this verse at Jacob Limping, a site named for the one who was wounded by his encounter with God and entered the promised land limping.)
Psalm 22 is the Good Friday psalm, the one found on the lips of Jesus as he hung from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It contains those pregnant and prophetic words “All who see me mock at me” and “they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.”
But here, at the end of the psalm, we have only the last hints of the poet’s suffering. Here we have moved on to the poet’s joy that his prayer has been answered. God has not turned away from him. God has heard his cry. And in the poet’s joy and thanksgiving we hear echoes of resurrection and Christ proclaimed to the nations:
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD;
and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.
28 For dominion belongs to the LORD,
and he rules over the nations.
His healing will become legendary, proclaims the poet. God’s deliverance will be told to all.
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.
The psalm is rooted in one man’s prayer, a man lost in the ages. But his prayer endures. It endures because the words are universal. They can be spoken by people in every generation who endure trial and affliction. There have been moments for all of us when we would cry “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And there are moments when we each would cry out in praise that our lives have turned away from death’s door and into the light of day.
31Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
It is common for us to refer to these words of Jesus in this Sunday’s gospel as a passion prediction. And we should not miss that shocking element of the narrative. It is what causes Peter to rebuke Jesus. But it is not just a passion prediction; it is a resurrection prediction. Jesus will be rejected and killed – but God will vindicate him.
No doubt Peter hears only that Jesus will one day rise at the resurrection of the just, but God’s work is more stunning than this. The resurrection to come is dawning already on the third day. The day of the earth’s redemption, when all things are gathered under God’s reign – the first fruits of that day are already at hand. They are at hand in the words and deeds of Jesus. They are at hand where the powers that oppress are cast out. They are at hand where the sick are healed. They are at hand where the human community is reconciled. They are at hand where bread is shared, where compassion and faithfulness flourish. The first fruits of the kingdom are at hand, for God has not turned away from the suffering of the afflicted: God comes in mercy and grace. As the poet was raised, Jesus will be raised – and all creation will hear. They may count all his bones and cast lots for his clothing, but “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.”