What Do The Psalms Teach Us About Good Friday?

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The Psalms – the song book and the prayer book of the Bible – have much to say by way of prophecy concerning Christ. Many of the Psalms were written by David, the shepherd boy who became king of Israel. In 2 Samuel 7, we read the incredible words the LORD spoke to David where He promises that his “throne shall be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:16). This would happen because the LORD said to him in 2 Samuel 7:12, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.” We understand from this that the Christ (Heb. Messiah, meaning Anointed One) would be of the lineage of David (cf. Ps. 89:4; 132:11).

Not only is Jesus a fulfilment of the Messianic expectation of the Old Testament, but His full humanity is also on display through the suffering of the Cross.

Was Jesus The Christ? 
The New Testament writers, who were Jewish themselves, clearly believed and understood that to be the case. Peter, in Acts 2:25 – 28, quoted David (see Ps. 16:8-11) who prophesied concerning the Christ. He then says in Acts 2:30 – 32 “Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” Then applying David’s words in Psalm 110:1 to Jesus, Peter says in Acts 2:36, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

This is important because it helps us understand that Jesus is the fulfilment of the Psalms that point forward to the sufferings of the Christ. David who wrote the following Psalms – 8:4-6; 16:8-10; 22; 27:12; 31:5; 34:20; 40:6-8; 41:9; 69 – was a type of Christ and foreshadowed the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Each of these Psalms is cited or alluded to in the New Testament in regard to the cross of Christ. Not only is Jesus a fulfilment of the Messianic expectation of the Old Testament, but His full humanity is also on display through the suffering of the Cross.

What do the Psalms teach us about the sufferings of Christ on Good Friday?

He Was Betrayed And Abandoned
In Psalm 41:9 David says, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (cited in Jn. 13:18). We see the fulfilment of this when Jesus sits with His disciples at the final Passover in John 13. Judas Iscariot ate the Passover with Jesus and then for thirty pieces of silver betrayed him to the powerful religious establishment (Matt. 26:14 – 16). Jesus says these stunning words to His disciples in Luke 22:22, “For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” He understood His betrayal as a fulfilment of God’s purpose in His life.

Even His own disciples abandoned Him as His hour of need, something that David experienced and foretold when he wrote in Psalm 69:8, I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother’s sons.”

Jesus understood His betrayal as a fulfilment of God’s purpose in His life.

He Was Falsely Accused
Later that night, after Jesus was arrested from the Garden of Gethsemane, He was brought before Caiaphas the High Priest. They were seeking a false testimony against Jesus so that they could put Him to death. Two people came forward and brought false allegations against Him in fulfilment of Psalm 27:12 (cf. Ps. 35:11) where David prayed, “Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence.” Psalm 69:4 says, “More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies…” 

Unlike David, the Lord Jesus was silent before His accusers and “opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7) which Pilate could not understand (Matthew 27:13, 14). Jesus had come prepared to sacrifice Himself for His people, “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep before its shearers is silent” (Isaiah 53:7)

He Suffered Emotionally
At Pilate’s seat of judgment, Jesus was handed over to be crucified. He endured horrific torture and humiliation in the governor’s headquarters before being led off to be crucified. At the cross those who passed by scorned and mocked Jesus, something that David himself wrote about in Psalm 22:6 – 8 saying, “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” (cf. Ps. 69:19; Matt. 27:39 – 43; Mk. 15:29 – 32; Lk. 23:35 – 36). In His zeal for God, the Lord Jesus was willing to bear the reproaches and insults to reconcile a rebellious people to God (Rom. 15:3; cf. Ps. 69:9). 

He Suffered Physically
His crucifixion was a fulfilment of Psalm 22:16–18 which says, “For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots” (cf. Matt. 27:35; Jn. 19:37). 

In John 19:28, the apostle John writes, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’” This was a fulfilment of what David wrote in Psalm 69:21.

Miraculously, and in fulfilment of scripture, not one of the Lord Jesus’ bones were broken even though He was battered, bruised, and hung on the cross. Psalm 34:20 says, “He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.” (cf. Jn. 19:36).

He Was Forsaken
The words of a song we sing at church go like this – “I’m forgiven because You were forsaken; I’m accepted, You were condemned; I’m alive and well, Your spirit is within me;

Because You died and rose again.”  The idea of this song comes from the words of Christ on the cross, when he cried out at the ninth hour saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46; Mk. 15:34). Christ experienced these hours of utter loneliness so that we might never have to experience a life without God. 

Theologians believe that Jesus may have been meditating on all of Psalm 22 on the cross. We cannot know for sure, but if He was, then Jesus was praying a Psalm that moves from despair to hope and confidence in God (cf. 1 Pet. 2:23). 

He Gave Up His Spirit
In Psalm 31:5 we see the trust that David has in God when He says, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” Jesus utters the same words in fulfilment of prophecy as He takes a final breath on the cross. At the ninth hour, the Lord Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Lk. 23:46). We ought to be reminded of the words of Jesus in John 10:17, 18 when He speaks of the authority the Father gave Him to lay down His life and to take it up again.

In His zeal for God, the Lord Jesus was willing to bear the reproaches and insults to reconcile a rebellious people to God

He Forgave His Enemies
David endured great suffering at the hands of his enemies and poured out his despair to God which we read in the Psalms.  In a few of the Psalms, he called out imprecations or curses on his enemies (Ps. 35, 69). Christ, on the other hand, spoke some of the most powerful words as he hung on the cross, setting himself apart from David. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). One of the crucial differences between David and the Lord Jesus is that Christ came to save His enemies (Rom. 5:10).

The Saviour King
Pilate had a sign placed above the head of Jesus that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” much to the dismay of the religious leaders (Jn. 19:19 – 21). Mark records for us that “the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him” (Mk. 15:31–32; cf. Ps. 22:7, 8). Little did they understand that He was in fact “Christ, the King of Israel,” and that it was precisely to save others that He gave His life on the cross.


Polycarp
If the authorities prohibit the proclamation of the Gospel, what would be a biblically wise way to respond?