Chapter 5 – The suffering Savior: Psalm 22

This is the Holy Ghost’s picture of the suffering Savior. It is the Ecce Homo of the Psalms. The Gospels have given us the outward picture; this is the inner one, the Holy of Holies of the Redeemer’s anguish when He trod the winepress alone.

Well does it precede the twenty-third Psalm. That is the picture of the Shepherd in the fold, but this is the Shepherd in the night, in the desert, in the wilderness, among the wolves, with bleeding feet and broken heart, seeking for the sheep that went astray. May the Holy Spirit engrave the picture upon our hearts!


1. The first element in it is the Father’s desertion. The opening verse is the wail of Calvary: “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”

Have you ever felt a sense of God’s displeasure or desertion? Do you remember your first conviction of sin and your cry for pardon? Then you know something of the suffering of Christ when He stood in the place of a sinner under the judgment of God and suffered the penalty our sin deserved.

For the first time in His existence He felt the withdrawal of the Father’s love. Never had the Father’s face been clouded before. But now it is turned away. Nay, it is turned against Him. “It pleased the Lord to bruise him. You have made him sick in smiting him.” We can scarcely understand it. But it was strangely, awfully true. For one day God dealt with Jesus as He will deal with sinful, rebellious men. All other agonies could not compare with this. This was the dregs of the cup of woe, the desertion, the wrath of God.

“The Father lifted up His rod.
O Christ, it fell on Thee!
Thou wast sore smitten of Thy God;
Thy bruising healeth me.”

2. The second ingredient in the bitter cup was the cruelty of man. How vividly is it all portrayed! The mockery around the cross: “All that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted in the Lord that he would deliver him, seeing that he delighted in him.” The cruel crucifixion: “They pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.” The weakness and agony: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax: it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like potsherd.” The awful thirst: “My tongue cleaves to my jaws.” The approaching dissolution: “You have brought me into the dust of death.”

It was the most painful and shameful form of public execution. Then, added to the torture of the cross were the insults of the men who mocked Him. How easily could He have silenced them! How easily could He have sprung from that cross and made them fall at His feet in terror! How easily could He have shown the power they doubted! But that would have forfeited our salvation. It was true, “He saved others; himself he could not save.”

Thomas Carlyle tells of a Scotchman who once, when ascending a coal shaft of a mine in the bucket, found the strands of the rope giving way. One had already snapped, and the other was breaking. There was another man in the basket, but the rope would not hold both. In a moment his purpose was formed. He was not afraid to die. He turned to his companion and quickly said: “Good-bye! You are not ready, and I am; meet me in heaven!” and he dropped from the basket to the bottom of the shaft. He saved another; himself he could not save. There was room only for one life. So the Master “died to save us all,” and bore the jeers and taunts of men that they who mocked Him might not die, but be saved by His very sacrifice.

3. The third element in the Savior’s cup of suffering was Satanic hate and demon rage and cruelty. Around Him there gathered in that dark hour, not only the cruelty and hate of men, but all the wrath of hell. “They gaped upon me with their mouths” is the strong language of the inspired picture. “Save me from the lion’s mouth.” “Deliver . . . from the power of the dog.” Like wild beasts they seemed to Him in their ferocity and hideousness. And so indeed they have often seemed to many of God’s dear saints in the dark hour of spiritual conflict.

Some of us have passed through the valley of the shadow of death. Amid the host of hell we have spent nights and days that seemed to be infested with dragon forms and fiendish shapes. Our very cheeks could feel the fire, and our ears could almost hear the hissing of the serpent ; and even the smell of the pit was in our nostrils as we passed along, or stood in the evil day in desperate conflict with the powers of darkness. In such an hour Martin Luther actually believed he saw the devil, and threw his ink bottle at him in reality of the conflict. The dying and unsaved soul has often been known to realize the vision of that dark and evil world, even as the departing saint has seen the opening of the gates of glory and the angel forms that wait.

Oh, if we have ever known the anguish of spiritual conflict and the awful pressure of Satan’s power upon our spirits, we can have some conception of what our Master suffered on that day on Calvary. There is no pain so keen, except the wrath of God, as that which comes from the fiery touch of Satan. But all the fury of the pit was concentrated upon the Savior in that day, in that hour. Man had determined to take His life, but Satan was determined to have His soul. Oh, if Satan only could have seized the precious spirit of the Son of God, and trampled beneath his feet the deeper life of the Sinless One, hell indeed would have triumphed and heaven have been lost forever.