The cross is the center of the Christian faith. Jesus Christ died on the cross, was buried, and rose again on the third day. He forgave our sins and gave us the gift of salvation. About one thousand years before it happened, King David vividly prophesied in detail in Psalm 22 about this defining moment in history. The Apostle Peter actually calls David a “prophet…[who] foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of Christ” (Acts 2:30-31).
Let’s look at four important truths about the cross that Psalm 22 reveals to us:
1. On the cross, Jesus faced God’s wrath.
In verse 1 David writes, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It is these very words that Jesus cried out in agony while hanging on the cross in Matthew 27:46. At that moment, God the Father turned away from his own Son. Why? How could the Father abandon his own beloved Son at the time he needed him the most?
The reason Jesus went to the cross was to die the death that we should have endured because our sins deserve the penalty of death (Romans 6:23). Carrying our sins upon his shoulders, his Father had to turn away from him, as a holy God cannot be in the presence of sin. Jesus faced God’s justice that we all deserve—wrath and punishment for sin.
Because Jesus endured God’s wrath on the cross, because he was forsaken by his Father, the good news is that we no longer have to. If we trust in what Christ did for us on the cross, instead of deserved wrath we receive undeserved mercy, grace, and forgiveness from God.
2. On the cross, Jesus was despised by man.
David writes in verses 6-7, “But I am a worm and not man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me… they wag their heads.” These verses prophesy the rejection and derision that Jesus faced from people as he was on the cross. Matthew 27:39 says, “And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads.” Jesus was put to death by the hands of sinful men.
The tragedy of the cross was that the very people whom Jesus came to save rejected, reviled, and killed him. John 1:11 pointedly states that “He came to his own and his own did not receive him.” All of us were at one stage Jesus’ enemies, content on living our lives independently of him, not wanting to be associated with him. Yet it was while we were still enemies that Jesus reconciled us to God by his death on the cross (Romans 5:10). We who once despised him have now received this gift of his grace by trusting in his Name.
3. On the cross is the promise of good news.
In verse 21, David exclaims, “Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!” The crucifixion of Jesus was the greatest unjust, evil, and treasonous act ever committed. God in flesh was killed by his own creatures. Yet while Satan and mankind meant it for evil, God turned this heinous act into good. God did not forsake his Son at Calvary. On the third day, by the power of the Holy Spirit, God raised Jesus from the dead. God indeed saved and rescued Jesus from the mouth of the lion!
God raised Jesus from the dead because his sacrifice of himself on the cross was perfect—he was pure and spotless. Because God received his perfect sacrifice on behalf of our sins, we have been completely forgiven from our sins. Forgiven in him, we too now have the assurance that he will raise us up to eternal life with him. That’s good news!
4. On the cross, God’s salvation goes to the nations.
Verse 27 proclaims that “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.” The cross marks a turning point in God’s dealings with men. Prior to the cross, the focus of God’s redemptive work lay with the nation of Israel. But that changed at the cross.
Revelation 5:9 says, “for you [Jesus] were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Jesus’ death on the cross opened up the way for people from all the nations of the earth, not just Israel, to be saved. Jesus died not just for the sins of Israel but for the sins of people from across the whole world (1 John 2:2). It was this truth that the Apostle Paul called the mystery of Christ: “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body” (Ephesians 3:6). Because of the cross, no matter our ethnic background, culture, or nationality, we can receive this great salvation from God in Jesus Christ. We can join with God’s people from all the nations in worship to the King of kings and Lord of lords!
The ascension is the key to the salvation narrative.