Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen


Title: The Suffering Messiah


Text: (Psalm 22)






Of all the psalms dealing with the Lord’s great desire to save lost men and women, this is undoubtedly the best. 


It’s identified as a Messianic psalm (a psalm written about Jesus, the messiah) because Jesus used its opening words at the end of His agony on the cross, when He cried out, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me…”


Because he was a prophet, David was able to write about the Messiah centuries before He came.


Did you know that crucifixion was not a Jewish form of capital punishment, yet David described it accurately?


As you read this psalm, you see Jesus at Calvary: His cry to the Father; the period of darkness; the ridicule of the people; His thirst and pain; His pierced hands and feet; and the gambling for His clothes.


Remember, He endured all of these things for you.


The psalm can be divided into two easily identifiable parts.


The first part, verses 1-21, speaks of being forsaken by God, and the second part, verses 22-31, is about being delivered by God. 


Forsaken By God.


Verse 1 contains a pitiful cry for help.


“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me…”


These words are unmistakably similar to the startling cry of Calvary: Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani? (Mt 27:46).


When Jesus cried out, “Why hast thou forsaken me,” His complaint did not arise out of His need to know the deep-seated reasons for God’s absence.


Rather, it arose out of the incomprehensibility of it all.


Certainly, God had forsaken the Lord Jesus in those moments on the cross, but the reason was that He had made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us.


That’s what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”


God turned His back on the sin He hated, not the Son He loved.


Although people may have such horrible experiences that they feel God has forsaken them, still no one has experienced what Jesus did, because no one has had the close relationship with the Father that Jesus had. 


After the despair expressed in verse 1, there comes hope expressed in verses 3-5.


“But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.  Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.  They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.”


Once again, why was Jesus forsaken by God?


Because, on the cross in those last three hours, in the impenetrable darkness, He was made sin. 


He was forsaken for a brief moment. 


The irony is that at that very moment God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. 


The Father was with Him when He was in prison, the Father was with Him when He was being beaten, and The Father was with Him when they nailed Him to the cross, but in those last three hours He made His soul an offering for sin, and it pleased the Father to bruise Him according to Isaiah 53:10. 




Friends, you do not know what that is; and I don’t know what it is to be forsaken by God. 


The vilest man on earth today is not forsaken by God. 


Because of who He is, God could never abandon anyone who trusts in Him.


Anyone can turn to Him. 


But when Jesus took my sin upon Himself He was forsaken by God.


In verses 6-8, David tells about the disrespectful treatment at the hands of the enemy.


“But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.  All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.”


The figure of a “worm” is a reference to total helplessness and defenselessness. 


Ridicule from others produces a particular kind of hurt in a person, and I believe we have all experienced it. 


In verse 7 we see a picture of Calvary. 


The laughing taunts were flung at Jesus first by the priests and leaders and then by those passing by. 


Verse 8 is clearly reminiscent of the taunts our Lord’s crucifiers heaped on Him.


What does it mean when he says, But I am a worm, and no man?”   


The worm is a symbol of extreme weakness and helplessness, something that is crushed, unnoticed, and despised.


It’s disgusting, and repulsive to people.


Jesus had reached the very lowest point.


He had become so despised that the very people who once would have crowned Him now expressed their desire to have a murderer released instead of Him.


They shoot out their lip, and they shake their head.


These gestures of contempt are fulfilled in Matthew 27:39 where it says, “And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads.”  


I think this is the lowest thing that has ever been said of religion. 


They sat down to watch Him die and made fun of Him while He suffered on the cross. 


You have to be low to do that. 


In fact, you can’t get any lower than that.


“Then Jesus said, Father forgive them: for they know not what they do…” (Luke 23:34). 


They were forgiven for this great sin and as a result some were saved. 


We know the centurion in charge of the execution was saved.


And a whole bunch of Pharisees were saved, including Saul of Tarsus, who probably was in the crowd. 


Next, a plea for help to the God who has always been a helper is the essence of verses 9-11.

“But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts.  I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly.  Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.”


Now, the pendulum swings from the pit of despair back to hope.


Here is an indirect reference to the virgin birth and to God’s protective care of Jesus while He was a baby.


It could be a specific reference to the flight to Egypt that saved Him from death at the hands of Herod’s soldiers.


The phrase “I was cast upon thee from the womb,” in certain respects could be said of every person, however, it is more appropriate for Jesus to say it.


God the Son had never been separated from God the Father until that moment at Calvary.


It’s there, where the sins of mankind were placed on Him that God turned away and couldn’t look at His Son.


 That’s why Jesus cried out, “Be not far from me … for there is none to help.”


This obviously cannot apply to David, for he had never been in such awful position.


But, when the Lord Jesus suffered on the cross, there was only one disciple and a few women to stand beside him, and none of them could help.


In verse 12, the enemies of our Lord are compared to strong bulls from the grassy plains of Bashan, ready to smash this poor victim whom they have encircled.


It says, “Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.”


Escape for him seemed impossible. 


He says the soldiers who are crucifying him are like the bulls of Bashan, but he doesn’t stop there.


In verse 13 the figure of speech moves from “bulls’ to ravenous wild beasts that are anxious to devour him—that’s what his tormentors had become.


Verses 14-18 give us a realistic picture of our Lord on the cross.


“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.  My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.  For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.  I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.  They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.”


This accurate description of crucifixion is remarkable when you consider that crucifixion was unknown when this psalm was written. 


The Roman Empire was not even in existence, and it was Rome that instituted crucifixion. 


Yet here is a picture of a man dying by crucifixion! 


His heart was broken by the rejection of His people. 


He experienced excruciating physical thirst, and His hands and feet were pierced. 


He says, “I am poured out like water.” 


That describes the great perspiration of a dying man out in the sun.


Then he says, “All my bones are out of joint.” 


The horrible thing about crucifixion is that when a man began to lose blood, his strength flowed away from him, and all his bones slipped out of joint.


That is an awful thing. 


It was terrible, terrible suffering.


Then he says something that is very strange, “My heart is like wax.” 


He died of a broken heart. 


Many doctors have said that a ruptured heart would have produced what John carefully recorded. 


He wrote, “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water” (John 19:34). 


Let me paraphrase that. 


“I saw that Roman soldier put that spear in His side and there came out blood and water—not just blood, but blood and water.” 


John took note of that and recorded it. 


I want to say to you again, Jesus died of a broken heart.


What's more, verses 17-18 give a picture of the brutal beating at Pilate’s court and the casting of lots for His garments.


The last desperate cry for help comes in verses 19-21.


“But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.  Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.  Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.” 


Even though people have totally rejected Christ, God will not be far off.


The word darling is better translated “my only one.” 


The reference is to Jesus. 


When Jesus was baptized, God said, “This is my beloved Son…” 


Verse 20 says, Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.”


Jesus is saying, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit…” (Luke 23:46).


Verse 21 makes one of the most remarkable statements, “Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.”


I recently uncovered some information about unicorns that was new to me, and I want to share it with you. 


I read this in a Bible commentary, written by my favorite Bible teacher. 


“For many years it was thought that the unicorn was a mythical animal, but recent investigation has revealed that it was an animal a size smaller than the elephant, very much like the rhinoceros, sometimes called a wild bull.  Vicious and brutal, every one of them was a killer.  And the thing that identified them was the fact that they had one horn. 


The verse said, “Thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns”—uni means one—one horn. 


To me, that is truly remarkable. 


Unicorns are mentioned nine times in the Old Testament.


So far we have seen a picture of Jesus forsaken by God, but now I want you to see Him—


Delivered by God


Notice the difference between the two halves of this Psalm.


In the first half, the statements are short, like the gasps of a person in agony. 


But now they are longer, since the speaker is free and delivered from pain. 


All that is described in this part are the expressions of praise from God the Son to God the Father, and the praise of men for the Savior.


Verses 22-25 express praise to God from the Lord Jesus for His deliverance.


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 apparent passivity of God during the ordeal of the cross was only that, seeming passivity.


He allowed Christ Jesus to bear the sins of mankind alone, but He never allowed Him to be alone.


Picture this with your mind’s eye.


Now that the task of crucifixion and atonement is complete, the Lord Jesus bursts into a song of praise.


He vows that He will declare the name of God to His brethren, who are those who believe.


The Savior is no longer on the cross, but is alive and in the midst of His people, leading them in praise for the mighty victory God has won.


Along with Him, and the seed of Israel, we who are part of the great congregation of believers, praise the Lord.


The first day of the week is the memorial to His resurrection, and we follow His example by meeting with God’s people and praising the Lord on Sunday.


Resurrection day is victory day!


The next thing to see is-


The various classes and kinds of people sharing in the blessings referred to in verses 26-31.


There is where it says, “The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.  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.  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.  A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.  They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.”


The “meek,” who will eat and be satisfied, are those who will most conscientiously respond to the blessings that come as a result of what has happened in the psalm. 


It is the meek, and those who earnestly seek the Lord, who are commended. 


Then, in verse 27, the scope of the psalm widens to include “all the families of the nations.”


The invitation to come and drink of the water of life is made to “whosoever will.” 


This is the missionary influence of the psalm, which continues through verse 31.


The verse mentions you and me, when it says, “To a people that shall be born.” 


They shall declare His righteousness, not your righteousness or mine, for God says our righteousness is like filthy rags in His sight.


How then, will they declare His righteousness? 


The psalm gives the answer; “That He hath done this.” 


Some translate it, “It is finished;” the last words He spoke from the cross.


And when He said it, it was only one word, “Tetelestai!” 




Your redemption is a complete package and He presents it to you all wrapped up with everything in it. 


He doesn’t want you to bring your do-it-yourself kit along. 


He doesn’t need that. 


When He died on the cross, He provided a righteousness that would satisfy a holy God. 


All He asks of you is that you receive this package, this gift from God, which is eternal life in Christ Jesus.


If you reject it, God must treat you like He treated His Son when He cried, “…My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken Me?” 


I am not here to argue about what hell is like, but it will be hell for anyone who is forsaken by God. 


The good news for you and I is that Jesus Christ went through hell so that you will never have to utter that cry.




Though God turned away from Jesus momentarily while He was on the cross, the hiding of His face was only temporary. 


Jesus’ cry was heard, and He was comforted. 


Likewise, God’s ear is attuned to hear the cry of His people in their times of distress, and He never fails to respond.


Psalm 22 reveals the heart of our Savior as He was made a sin offering on our behalf. 


He completed the transaction in triumph. 


What He offers to us today is a finished redemption. 


We will never be worthy of it; we can’t earn it; we can’t buy it—we must receive it as a free gift. 


Over 2000 years ago the Lord Jesus Christ did all that was needed to save us.


It is done. 






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