Meditations on the Psalm of the Cross

Psalm 22 Meditation 3: verses 6-8

I have recently taken up a study of Psalm 22 and this is the third in a series of meditations on this wonderful Messianic Psalm. This is a Psalm we are very familiar with. For instance, just look back at the first verse, My God, My God, why have your forsaken me? These are some of the words Jesus spoke while suffering upon the cross to save us from the wrath of God.

Those words are just one of the reasons many are familiar with this Psalm. As we break down just a small portion of this Psalm, what we are going to find is that when Jesus spoke those words upon the cross, it is very likely He had the entire Psalm in mind as He applied it to that redemptive moment.

As we step into these three verses, what we are going to see is David reveals the mockery His Son the Messiah will receive. This is David prophetically seeing what will happen to His Son Jesus Christ while He suffers for us. We do not know the moment in David’s life that led to such an inspired Psalm, but we do know that when David speaks in this Psalm, He is speaking with the voice of Christ.

First, in verse 6, we see Jesus was despised by the people.
Secondly, in verse 7, we see Jesus was ridiculed by the people.
Finally, in verse 8, Jesus was scorned by the people.
1. Despised by the People—v. 6
As David considers this Messianic mockery, he first illustrates what it felt like to be mocked and despised by the people. Then, we will consider the way the world views Christ. Look again at verse 6.
1.1.A Worm
6 But I am a worm, and no man;
These words will make so much sense the moment we work through the rest of the passage. Imagine yourself constantly being ridiculed by your peers, even though you are correct on an issue. Your peers persuade others that you are wrong. Maybe you simply strive to live a quiet and simple life, but you are attacked because of who you are in Christ. This is what we see in the gospels with respect to Jesus’ life and ministry.
As David peers through the corridor of time to see his greatest Son live, what comes out of his mouth is descriptive of how his Son was treated. He was not treated like a human being, but like a worm. So that we do not get too distracted with respect to the illustration, we must understand worms are only good for two things, helping soil and bird and fish food. That is it. The worm is literally lower than dirt. This is the illustration we see of Jesus. Humanity considered Jesus lower than dirt, lower than worms. This is simply humiliating. This illustration takes on reality when we consider the rest of verse 6.
1.2.Rejected and Despised
A reproach of men, and despised by the people.
While the first part of verse 6 gives to us the illustration of what is happening, we turn our attention to what happened. David first sees the reproach of men placed upon the Messiah. This reproach is the same as what Isaiah saw in Isaiah 52 and 53, commonly called the Song of the Suffering Servant. This reproach means the Messiah, from David’s point of view, will be abused and scorned.
Each word brings with it a level of meaning or a different nuance to the concept of reproach. First, reproach could be understood as abuse laid upon an individual. Recently in our culture, the concept of abuse has taken center stage, and many people are finally being heard. While there may be some people like Potiphar’s wife who are the guilty party playing or acting as the victim, here we see the Messiah, the only sinless man, is actually abused by those who are guilty of sin. The mockery of a trial, the beatings, and ultimately the cross is the highest form of reproach. Then, there is the scorn which could be seen as mockery or simple disdain. This is the turning aside and not actually giving someone justice when they deserve justice. This is what happened to Jesus which is why David uses the illustration of the worm.
Second, David directs our attention to clarify the people’s despising of his Son Jesus Christ. We see Isaiah’s words, 3He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (Isa. 53:3 NKJ) This is the point of this passage. Jesus was rejected by mankind. Man, both Jews and Gentiles, at the end of the day wanted nothing to do with Christ. This is what David sees. For anyone to turn to Christ for salvation, they must undergo a heart change. Until that redeeming moment brought to us by the Holy Spirit, we want nothing to do with Christ. But you say, “I have never known a moment where I have not loved the Lord Jesus Christ.” That is great, but do you still sin? If you still sin, then every sin is despising Jesus Christ. Every sin is choosing sin over Christ. Therefore, we can all agree that in those sinful moments of our lives, we do not love the Lord Jesus Christ and we need the Holy Spirit to work grace, faith, and repentance in our lives each day.
2. Ridiculed by the People—v. 7
As we see, verse 7 leads us into verse 8, but we are going to break down what David says here in this verse first, then we will see what they said in derision. First, notice those who saw Him ridiculed him.
2.1.Those who saw Him
7All those who see Me ridicule Me;
This is a huge statement. First, we must recognize, much like in the first verse, and again in verse 6, David is speaking with the prophetic voice of Christ. David is saying this of himself and as a Prophet, Christ is saying this of Himself too.
Think first of David. When people looked upon him, they ridiculed him. This type of mockery is seen with David’s first father-in-law and his first wife. They both mocked him. This mockery is seen with Michal mocking David’s excitement of the tabernacle’s presence. Absolom mocked his father by sleeping with his concubines. Before all of this, his brothers mocked him just before Goliath mocked him on the field of battle. David faced mockery his entire life and even during his reign as king. But David did not face the type of mockery Jesus Christ faced in His ministry. The type of mockery Jesus faced was so that we may be set free; so that we may be saved. This form of mockery is seen clearly with verbal persecution. We see this in the rest of verse 7.
2.2.Vile Mockery
They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
Here we must recognize the ridicule, this verbal and physical mockery. As Jesus was upon the cross, people continued to insult Him saying, “He saved others, why doesn’t he save himself?” “Wait it sounds like he is crying for Elijah to come and save him or some angel.” Most of all was the mockery hailing Him as the King of the Jews. These insults started before He was on the cross though. They insulted Christ throughout His life and ministry, but it intensified while upon the cross. In fact, for them to find Him guilty, they had to bring false witnesses to lie about what Christ had claimed. They could not find a single fault with Him except their own false accusations. Then, we read that they shook their heads back and forth which points to the fact that they just did not like what they saw. This verbal assault turns physical as they walk by and shake their heads in disgust. It is exactly as Isaiah said it, “We esteemed Him not, stricken by God. We hid ourselves from him.”
3. Scorned by the People—v. 8
3.1.See what they Said
8 “He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him;
Remember they mocked Him by saying, “He saved others, why does he not save himself?” This is straight venom in their lips and tone. Jesus’ entire life trusted in the wisdom of God the Father. He trusted in the eternal covenant the Trinity had agreed to, namely for the Father to send the Son, for the Son to come and die for our sins, and for the Spirit to apply these saving benefits to the elect alone. Christ trusted in our covenant keeping God to keep His word. This is trust.
Now, notice their mockery. “He trusted in God, let God rescue Him.” Recognize who they are really mocking- God. They are saying this, “God, he trusted in You, and look at where that got him. The cross!” This is the weakness Paul talks about; this is the foolishness the Jews and Greeks saw of the gospel message. But there is more. Consider how this prophecy is fulfilled further in Christ.
3.2.Prophecy Fulfilled
Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”
Once again, we see this vile mockery. “He saved others, why does he not save himself? Bring yourself down off that cross.” Notice again they are mocking God. Let’s see if God delights in Christ?! What venom from wicked man. As we come to a close, consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 5, 10Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12“Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5:10-12 NKJ)
Recognize Jesus is saying this of you too. They believe God is sovereign, mighty, all knowing, and everywhere present, but look at them. “They have cancer, where was their God? Mass shootings in elementary schools, where was their God? Why did God not stop this?!”
This is the same mockery they leveled to Christ. Why won’t His God save Him? Where is God when things seem to be going wrong for His church? The answer is He is where He has always been, waiting patiently for us to turn to Him. He was there with Christ while upon the cross saving us from our sins and from His eternal wrath. He is with those suffering with cancer, with grief for the death of loved ones, and He is here now helping us through such challenging matters of life and death and eternal life.

Rev. J.P. Mosley, Jr.
Professor of Biblical Studies and Systematic Theology
Heidelberg Theological Seminary
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

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