Jesus’ disciples cannot help but think of Him when they read Psalm 22. aside from the fact that He quoted from it on the cross (Matt. 27:46; see Ps. 22:1), there are many images of desertion in the psalm that became literal reality when our Lord was crucified. David complained of mockers who made fun of his belief that God would rescue him (Ps. 22:7–8), and many who viewed the crucifixion did the same for Jesus (Matt. 27:41–43). We find in Psalm 22:16 the image of David’s foes piercing his hands and feet. While we do not read in the Old Testament of this actually happening to David, Christ had nails driven through His extremities (John 20:25). David endured such poverty during his suffering that he felt as if he were on the verge of surrendering even his clothing (Ps. 22:18), yet Jesus gave up His garments to gambling soldiers (Matt. 27:35). Psalm 22:14–15 features David’s complaints about being on the run and existing so far from life that his mouth was drying out. Some of Christ’s last words from the cross revealed a literal dryness: “I thirst” (John 19:28).
Such literal fulfillments of this psalm in Jesus’ death help confirm the point we made in our study of Psalm 22:1–15 that there is a sense in which Jesus could pray this prayer with His whole heart in a way that David never could. The specific sufferings described in the psalm were not mere metaphors in the case of Christ but literal trials He faced during His crucifixion. This was true of even the worst suffering of all—His forsakenness under the curse of the Father against sin. In the midst of all this pain and judgment, every one of us would have come to the point of doubting God’s goodness, of sinning against the Lord in accusing Him of acting unfairly or unjustly. What is most incredible is that Christ never did any of this. Even as He expressed great woe at His forsakenness, He “continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). His last words on the cross were not “woe is me, for I am forsaken,” but “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46).
This is not surprising, for if Jesus could pray Psalm 22 with His whole heart, this includes the prayer of victory found in vv. 16–31 of the psalm. God’s forsakenness of Christ as the representative of sinners on the cross was only temporary. Jesus knew that His Father would not hide His face from His Son forever but would finally answer His cry for help (v. 24). Christ was confident that He would be able to proclaim the goodness of God once again among His brothers (vv. 22–23). In His resurrection, all these were fulfilled.