What was Jesus’ physical suffering like while He was dying on the cross?
Dr. Reagan: Did you know that one of the most remarkable prophecies in the Bible describes the death of Jesus in detail? What makes it particularly remarkable is that it was written more than one thousand years before Jesus was born and more than 700 years before the Romans perfected crucifixion as a method of execution. You can find that prophecy in Psalm 22.
Psalm 22:12-13 — Messiah’s Spiritual Suffering Continues
Nathan Jones: At verse 12 of Psalm 22 the focus shifts back to the Messiah’s spiritual suffering. The psalmist resorts to symbolic language to describe a spiritual attack the Messiah will experience during His passion.
Verses 12-13 reads, “Many bulls have surrounded me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me. They open wide their mouths at me, as a ravening and a roaring lion.” I believe this is a prophecy that the Messiah in His passion would be surrounded by demonic hordes gloating over his approaching death, for in the New Testament in 1 Peter 5:8, Peter describes Satan as “a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.”
Dr. Reagan: Although there is no recorded fulfillment of this prophecy in the New Testament, I have no doubt that it happened. The people who were witnesses of the crucifixion could not see the demons with their physical eyes, but Jesus with His spiritual eyes could undoubtedly see them as they danced around the cross and gloated over their “victory” in orchestrating the murder of God’s Son.
Psalm 22:14-18 — Messiah’s Physical Suffering
Nathan Jones: At verse 14 of Psalm 22 the psalmist begins to describe the Messiah’s physical suffering in gory detail. He writes: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; And You lay me in the dust of death.” His bones are out of joint. He’s suffering from extreme thirst. His heart is stressed to the point of bursting. And, death hovers about Him.
In fulfillment, here’s how the Gospel of Mark describes the suffering of Jesus in verses 15-19, “After having Jesus scourged, he [Pilate] delivered Him to be crucified. And the soldiers took Him away. They dressed Him up in purple, and after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on Him. And they kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting on Him.”
Dr. Reagan: John in his gospel adds that Jesus suffered extreme thirst while he was hanging on the cross, and when He cried out, “I am thirsty,” the soldiers taunted Him by putting a sponge to His mouth that was full of sour wine.
Nathan Jones: When we come to verse 16 of Psalm 22, we encounter one of the most remarkable prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures. Verse 16 reads, “For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and feet.” Now, keep in mind, these words were written 1,000 years before the birth of Jesus. That means they were also written 700 years before the Romans refined crucifixion as a method of execution. And yet, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David prophesied that the Messiah would die by having His hands and feet pierced!
Dr. Reagan: The Jewish method of execution at the time David wrote the psalm was by stoning. This was still true a thousand years later when Jesus lived. But, the Jews had lost the power of implementing capital punishment under Roman rule, so they turned Jesus over to the Roman authorities when they decided He should be executed.
All four of the gospel stories record the execution of Jesus by crucifixion. The Gospel of Mark describes it succinctly in Mark 15 beginning with verse 22, “Then they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull… And they crucified Him…”
Nathan Jones: The prophet concludes his observations about the suffering of the Messiah in verses 17 and 18 of Psalm 22. “I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; oh they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”
All the Messiah’s rib bones are laid bare as He gasps for air while hanging on the execution stake. And, the emotional suffering continues as no one shows any compassion. Instead, while His life ebbs away, those carrying out his cruelty pass the time by gambling for His clothes. Matthew 27:35 describes the fulfillment of this prophecy in this manner: “And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots.”
Psalm 22:19-21 — Messiah’s Final Prayer
Dr. Reagan: In Psalm 22:19-21, the psalmist records a final prayer uttered by the Messiah. It’s a plea for deliverance from Satan. Verse 19 reads, “But You, O Lord, be not far off; O You, my help, hasten to my assistance. Deliver my soul from the sword, my only life from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth; from the horns of the wild oxen You answer me.”
None of the Gospels record Jesus uttering such a prayer on the cross, but undoubtedly He must have done so, perhaps silently or in a whisper. In the prayer, the Messiah affirms that God the Father is near to Him, although He seems distant because the Father cannot countenance the sin that the Messiah must bear. He ends the prayer by asking for deliverance from Satan (the lion) and his demonic hordes (the wild oxen).
In the last teaching segment on the Passion of Jesus in prophecy, we’ll conclude our study of Psalm 22, looking at the Messiah’s triumphant victory over death and sin.