Psalm 22 is an amazing prophecy of David, as the Lord allowed him to intertwine his own sufferings with those of our Lord a thousand years later. Of course, not everything in the Psalm related to David – that much is very evident, but nevertheless, this is often how the Prophets of old time received word from the Lord. In this way the Prophet and the Prophecy became united in life experiences.
On the cross Jesus said in a loud voice “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani”, the Aramaic for the first verse of Psalm 22. This was about the ninth hour, in other words about 3 pm. There had been darkness over the land for the last three hours. Rather than concentrate solely on the anguish of our Lord being forsaken by His Father, let us consider the cry in respect of Psalm 22. This Psalm was the battle cry of Jewish warriors in the centuries prior to the birth of Christ. Being encircled by the enemy, with little chance of salvation, they proclaimed this Psalm, which begins with desperation, but gradually changes into praise and thanksgiving. Finally, the Lord brings victory, as the last verse indicates – “He has done it!” “It has been accomplished!”. Was our Lord thinking of the Psalm in this manner?
John tells us that our Lord’s final cry was “It is finished!” But the Greek word is in the Perfect Passive, and should be translated “It has been completed!” In other words He was repeating the last verse of Psalm 22, declaring that His Father had completed all that the Prophets had written of Him, and His task had now been fulfilled – the salvation of mankind had been effected, utterly and completely. “He has done it!”. Praise God.
For three hours the darkness had been a visible sign of desolation, a forsaking, but now the sun has returned to the sky, and the end has come. Jesus therefore takes the whole of Psalm 22 and we must accept that He was declaring every verse, but unable to do so because of His terrible thirst. He had experienced the “Bulls” and the “Lion”, representing the Jews and the Romans; He had endured the mocking laughter of the people, wondering whether Elijah would come to His assistance; His strength was dried up like a potsherd, His tongue cleaving to his jaws; His hands and His feet had been pierced, His bones were out of joint; His garments had been the subject of the casting of lots; His sudden death meant that the soldiers had no need to break His legs. Yes, all these things were written within that Psalm, and our Lord was aware of each fulfilment until, as John said, “After this, and knowing that all had been completed He said, ‘I thirst’, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” John’s commentary must be understood here. Everything had been fulfilled from Psalm 22, but there was a verse in Psalm 69:21 requiring fulfilment – “In my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink”. Having slaked His thirst with some of the wine-vinegar, He was now able to cry out with a loud voice, “It has been completed!” (The Greek word is exactly the same as that in italics above.) That final cry of victory ruptured His heart, and His death was immediate.
To sum up, there is far more to our Lord’s words “Eloi, Eloi, . . .” than just an agonising cry of being “forsaken”. Even within Psalm 22 we find the words “He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the Humbled One, neither has He hidden His face from Him, but when He cried unto Him, He heard.” (Verse 24) Even though the darkness was such that our Lord felt desolation, yet in fact His Father and the Holy Spirit were very near to Him all the time. There was an intertwining within the Godhead whereby, as Paul put it in later days, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself”. (2 Cor.5:19)
The intensity of suffering which began in Gethsemane was now finalised in His cry of victory, “It has been completed!” All that the Scriptures had prophesied about Him had been fulfilled, and because of that, salvation was at last possible for the human race. Oh, how much we need to enter in to the “fellowship of His sufferings”, and ponder prayerfully all that Psalm 22 says. How great a price was paid for our salvation. “Oh, dearly dearly has He loved! And we must love Him too, and trust in His redeeming blood, and try His works to do.” (Mrs C.F.Alexander, from her hymn “There is a green hill far away”.)