We are two weeks away from Passion for Life and four weeks from Easter. I hope you are looking forward to both. Easter has become, in the minds of most people, the day to give and receive chocolate eggs and look forward to Spring. The link with its Christian origins is increasingly shrouded in mystery, although, after Christmas Day, it is the day people are most likely to attend church if they ever do. People may misunderstand the good news but they are strangely attracted to it. It is our privilege to be ambassadors of Christ. It is our privilege to explain God’s passion for life so that others may come to know and love him too. We enjoyed a lovely Summer holiday last year in the South of France. The scenery was stunning, the climate warm, the food… expensive. When we got home we could not stop talking about it, showing off the photos, planning our next visit. This week Mike showed me how to get TV programmes on my phone. Amazing. I could not stop showing other people what my phone can do. Good news is infectous. That is why I am less and less enamoured with teaching evangelism. Because it is not about technique.
I am more and more convinced that as we contemplate the passion God has for us, our joy and thankfulness will motivate us to share that good news naturally and infectiously with others. That is why I would like us to spend a few moments contemplating Psalm 22. If people know one passage of the Bible, it is most likely Psalm 23. And yet for many believers, Psalm 22 is the most precious of all the Psalms, for it reveals the passion of God which made possible the promises of God contained in Psalm 23.
No one can read Psalm 22 without being vividly confronted with the Crucifixion. It is not only the way the prophecy is so minutely fulfilled, but the humility of the One suffering that stands out. There is no plea for personal vindication against evil doers as is common to other psalms, only his vision of a worldwide ingathering of the Gentiles accomplished by this sacrifice. One translation entitles it, “The Suffering Servant wins the deliverance of the nations.” It cannot be stated more profoundly or accurately. The Cost of the Gospel is here foretold. No incident in the life of David can begin to account for this Psalm. It is not a description of an illness but an execution. Indeed a means of execution unknown in the time of David. In the Old Testament capital punishment was implemented by stoning, or the sword. Hanging from a tree was forbidden, since it was a sign of God’s curse, and polluted the land. Ironically that’s precisely why Christ died in this way. He did not pollute the land, mankind had. His death did not pollute, just the reverse, it cleanses all who stand under it.
The language of this Psalm defies naturalistic explanations. The best way to interpret it is in the way Peter does in Acts 2:30, “David was a prophet and knew that God had promised on oath that He would place one of His descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the Christ.” (Acts 2:30)
The death of the Lord Jesus Christ had been planned before the beginning of time, and in this Psalm written by the greatest of Israel’s kings, 1000 years before the time of Christ, we can focus down on those last six hours of the most important day in history, the day that changed the world. A more exact expression of the Redeemer’s thoughts and feelings during the awful six hours on the cross of Calvary cannot be found in all the Scriptures.
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