Only the Son of God
Now there was only one being who could fulfil these conditions, and that was the Son of God Himself.The Mode of Death
Firstly we need to return to a brief resume of the nature of the Godhead: He was one with the Father in the Godhead. The prophecy that predicted accurately where He would be born declared at the same time that His "goings forth are from old, from everlasting" (Mic 5:2). In Psalm 90 this is predicted of God, and could be predicted of no other: "From everlasting to everlasting Thou art God" (v2). He Himself said, "I and the Father are One" (John 10:30). Before His Incarnation He was "in the form of God" (Phil. 2:7). Again, to the Son the Father saith, "Thy Throne, O God, is forever and ever" (Heb. 1:8). Therefore, being possessed of Deity, He knew absolutely the attributes, character, and claims of God.
Secondly, He put Himself into relationship with man who had sinned. Thus He became Incarnate. He partook of flesh and blood. He became real man, possessed of body, soul, and spirit: "When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law" (Galatians 4:4).
Thirdly, He was tested and found to be sinless. He was "in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). His sinlessness was vindicated in every possible manner. Some of His most ardent critics and His bitterest enemies have acknowledged it.
Fourthly, the great object for which He thus put Himself into connection with man by means of His Incarnation, was that He might die and thereby "might redeem" men (Galatians 4:4). He, and He alone, was born in order to die. He partook of flesh and blood "that through death He might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:14). He did not come merely to teach men how to live, to set us an example, though this He did. The object of His Incarnation was that in His death He might become a curse for us, and endure the penalty due to our guilt.
Fifthly, in going to the Cross, He submitted Himself to be dealt with as God must deal with sin. This mode of His death, by the shedding of His blood, was necessary for atonement for the following reason. Sin had brought death. Death came through sin (Romans 5:12-14):
12Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned - 13for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.
Sin thus involved the forfeiting of the life. Now we learn from the Old Testament that "the life of the flesh is in the blood" (Leviticus 17:11). If, then, there was to be an impartation of life to the sinner, it must be by a death caused by the shedding of that element which is the life of the flesh. Again the mode of execution must be by hanging on a tree, for God had declared (Galatians 3:13):
13Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
Thus Christ would become a curse for us. Accordingly He submitted Himself to the nightmarish form of execution that was used by the Romans. National events had been overruled so that His death would be accomplished in this way as God had predicted these events hundreds of years earlier in the Messianic Psalms (e.g., 2, 8, 16, 22, 31, 40, 45, 69, 72, 89, 102, 109-110) in a description so graphic that none could mistake the way in which He would die:
Obviously the full meanings of these passages in the Psalms were not evident to Old Testament believers and therefore the psalmist's descriptions of his own suffering or triumph is couched in phrases that may have seemed to others extravagant compared to the psalmist's actual experiences. Many Messianic Psalms were written by David, who certainly experienced a huge variation of experiences, both in suffering and in triumph, between 1010 and 970 B.C., a thousand years before our Lord's crucifixion and resurrection. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight we can say with Delitzsch:
'For as God the Father molds the history of Jesus Christ in accordance with His own counsel, so His Spirit molds even the utterances of David concerning himself, the type of the Future One, with a view to that history.'
There are three types of Messianic Psalms. The first can be identified as a Typical Messianic Psalm, in which there is some feature in the life of the psalmist that is intended by the Holy Spirit to be a picture or type of the coming Messiah. Some particular feature or aspect of his life, or some characteristic of the individual, or something he accomplishes or experiences, makes him a 'type of Messiah.' In the Typical Messianic Psalm, we do not say that all the psalmist=s life, activities, or circumstances mentioned, are Messianic. Otherwise, in many instances, we would end up with heresy. So only some particular feature of the psalm is the type.
Psalm 69, a lament, or reminder psalm is an ideal example. Verse 5 demonstrates that the entire psalm is not Messianic: 'O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee'. We know this cannot refer to the Messiah because He was sinless. But then in verse 7 we read, 'Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face,' and we can be confident that David's experience becomes a type of the Messiah. He continues the synonymous parallelism in verse 8: 'I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children'. Again, David's experience made him a type of Christ, who in His lifetime became a stranger and an alien because His relatives believed He was insane. Continuing in Psalm 69, verse 9 informs us: 'For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.' We know David was a theocentric individual dedicated to the worship of the one true God, and therefore spent hours and days in worship at the Ark in Jerusalem and at the tabernacle and brazen altar in Gibeon. A thousand years later, when the Apostle John saw the Lord Jesus in His zeal for the temple, he recorded in John 2:17, 'And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up'. In that respect, they immediately likened the Lord Jesus to His ancestor David and linked Him with this psalm. Again, in verse 12, David's experience is a type of Christ: They that sit in the gate speak against me; and I was the song of the drunkards.' Likewise verses 19 and 20: 'Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour: mine adversaries are all before thee. Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none' show us a clear picture of the Lord Jesus Christ dying on the cross a thousand years later, looking out at the mocking faces staring up at Him. Psalm 22, verse 7-8, is also clear: 'All they that see Me laugh Me to scorn; they shoot out their lip, they shake their head, saying, 'He trusted in the LORD that He would deliver him; let Him deliver him, seeing He delighted in him!' In the New Testament (Matthew 27:40; Matthew 27:42; and Mark 15:30) we read that those who were passing by were shooting out the lip, wagging their heads, mocking Him and saying: 'Thou Son of God come down from the cross and save Thyself.' As the psalmist had written, He found no pity in these mockers who had come to enjoy His humiliating death, and even the thieves crucified with him joined in with the same insults (Matthew 27:40-43):
'Thou that destroyest the temple and buildest it in three days, save thyself! If thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross!' 41 Likewise also the chief priests mocking Him, with the scribes and elders said, 42 'He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. 43 He trusted in God; let Him deliver him now, if He will have him. For he said, `I am the Son of God.'' 44 The thieves also, who were crucified with Him, cast the same in His teeth.'
Finally, in Psalm 69, verse 21, the psalmist writes: 'They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.' We have no evidence that this was ever a literal experience of David, therefore, when he uses this kind of vocabulary, he steps beyond the category of a Typical Messianic Psalm, and moves into the category of a Typical-Prophetic Messianic Psalm. Up to this point the psalm would certainly reflect David's historical experiences, for he knew the rebuke of his friends when he fled from Saul and was abused by Shimei when he fled from Absalom. Also, at the time he was forced to flee across the Jordan after Absalom had invaded Jerusalem and later, during the rebellion of Sheba, he would have experienced the mocking songs of drunkards and so, in those portions of the psalm, David was experiencing in his own life those things that the Lord Jesus would later experience. But we have no experiences of David to call upon with regard to the offering of the gall and the vinegar and therefore these verses are considered to be prophetic in this Typical-Prophetic Messianic Psalm, where history is not the only force in play.
So, in the Typical-Prophetic Messianic Psalm, the psalmist's vocabulary goes beyond his personal experiences and he begins to express ideas and occurrences which he never encountered or experienced himself. The psalmist wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and may have believed these verses were figurative language, but the experiences he described and the descriptions he used that may sometimes have even appeared to be hyperbole, were literally fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus we arrive at a definition for a Typical-Prophetic Messianic Psalm as history plus inspired foresight in a vocabulary in which the psalmist describes details which are beyond his own experiences.
Much of the centre of thought in the Messianic Psalms has to do with the prophetic sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ and these Psalms express the hopes and the truths of the Christian faith in a most memorable way, not only as they point to Christ but also as they reflect the struggles of the faithful. Although the orthodox view of the second kind of psalm - typified by Psalm 22 - is that it is prophetic, a view which has been universally accepted for many years, a few scholars have tried to interpret it personally, indicating that the author David lived through these experiences and is describing them in the psalm. Others, like Hengstenberg (Hengstenberg, Ernst Wilhelm. A Commentary on the Psalms. Trans. by P. Fairbairn. 3 Vols. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1876), believed that the interpretation allowed for these experiences not to have been known by only one man, but to be the combined experiences of an ideal and entirely righteous person. It is extremely difficult to reconcile this view to the Scriptural record. Others have assumed this psalm referred to the national experience of the nation Israel, especially in the Exile. But the orthodox approach, and the only view which perfectly reconciles the New Testament quotations of verses from this psalm with the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ, is that David prophetically wrote a description of Jesus Christ hanging 'between heaven and earth' on the cross of Calvary and that, as Isaiah 53 describes the theological significance of Christ's death, this psalm explicates the historical event itself.
None of us can really know the sufferings of crucifixion, but we do know it was an agony beyond compare. The 'Hollywood film' stereotype of crucifixion depicts a tall cross standing high above the horizon but, in reality, this was not the case. The Roman cross of crucifixion was short and the victim of crucifixion was rarely more than two feet above the ground. This often made his agony all the more intense for, while the victim remained alive, wild beasts would come in from the desert and chew on his legs (ref. Justus Lipsius - 'De Cruce. Libri tres, ad sacram profanamque historiam utiles; 3rd part Tom III. Opera Omnia. Antwerp, 1614)). The torture was designed so that a victim of crucifixion would often live for at least two or three days in agony. During crucifixion, the victim was first placed on the cross, or the single cross beam (patibulum) which made up the cross which was lying on the ground, and heavy, square, wrought-iron nails (about 7 inches long, 1 cm in diameter, and with a large 'head' about 2.5cm across to prevent the nail tearing through the flesh) were driven through the hands at the juncture of the wrist, and then through the feet to secure him in that position.
For many years it has been claimed that nails driven through the palms will strip out between the fingers when made to support the weight of the human body but anatomists, both modern and ancient, have apparently always considered the wrist as part of the hand anyway (Davis, C.T. 'The Crucifixion of Jesus :The Passion of Christ from a Medical Point of View'. Ariz Med 22:183-187, 1965.). However, evidence supplied by French surgeon Pierre Barbet (Pierre Barbet, M.D., Doctor at Calvary: The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ As Described by a Surgeon, Published 1993 by Roman Catholic Books), who nailed amputated arms from fresh cadavers through the palms and attached weights to the other ends, demonstrated that the historical record holds true when the medical knowledge of a crucifixioner is applied. He found that the nails tore through when the weight was increased to 88 pounds and the arms were wrenched hard. By trying to mimic the force a human body in agony would exert, he concluded that nailing through the palm was impractical. After more experiments he established that a nail could be driven readily through an anatomical area known as 'Destot's space', located near where the base of the hand joins the wrist. Because 'Destot's space' is surrounded by the wrist bones, a nail there could easily support the weight of the body. Barbet's hypothesis seemed to get a boost in 1968 when archaeologists in Jerusalem unearthed the first known skeleton of a crucifixion victim. The victim's feet had been nailed to the cross sideways through the heel, rather than the arch as is commonly depicted. There was also a scratch on one of the bones of the right forearm (the radius), as though from a nail. In a 1989 issue of Bible Review, Frederick Zugibe, a medical examiner for Rockland County, New York, claimed that there are at least two other possible nailing locations, one of which is on the palm in the 'thenar furrow,' the deep fold where the base of the thumb joins the hand, which can be seen when you touch your thumb to the tip of your little finger. In the Jerusalem crucifixion victim, the nail didn't go through Destot's space in the wrist bones; it apparently went between the two bones of the forearm. The outcome of the argument appears to be that there are at least three places where a crucifixion victim can be nailed: through the area of the hand, wrist and forearm - or tied to the patibulum with ropes. Clearly the evidence that our Lord was nailed to the cross through the hands (or wrists) remains an attested historical fact.
Equally, there is more than one procedure describing the setting up of the crucifixion. One version describes how the cross was then raised and dropped into a previously dug hole. When it struck the bottom of the hole, the impact would cause the entire body weight to put tremendous strain on the wrists, arms and shoulders, resulting in dislocation of shoulder and elbow joints and ligaments (Metherall, A. 'Christ's Physical Suffering' (Tape) Firefighters for Christ , Westminister, Ca.). Other historians (Edwards, W.D., Gabel, W.J and Hosmer, F.E.'On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ.' JAMA. 255 (11), pp. 1455-1463, 1986) argue that the crucifixion sites would already have the upright posts, called stipes, secured in the ground and standing about 7 feet high. Lipsius' work (q.v.) quotes many of the early church fathers and shows clearly that, while there were several different types of crosses used for crucifixion:
'In the Lord's cross there were four pieces of wood, the upright beam, the crossbar, the piece of wood placed below (called the suppedaneum, for the feet) and the title inscription placed above.'
So, Jesus was most likely crucified on a ^ shaped cross, although other researchers argue that the cross used was a T shaped, or tau, cross (Lumpkin,R..'The Physical Suffering of Christ', J Med Assoc Ala 47: 8-10, 1978.). Both were used by the Romans in the Palestine area. In the centre of the stipes was a crude seat, called a sedile or sedulum, which served as a support for the victim, again, in order to prolong the suffering of the victim. The patibulum was then lifted on to the stipes and the feet were then nailed to the stipes. The left foot was usually pressed backward against the right foot and, with both feet extended, toes down, a nail was driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed so that some movement was possible, not for the comfort of the victim, but to increase the length of the suffering. The titulus reading 'Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews' was nailed in place above our Lord's head.
In this distended position diaphragmatic action was immediately reduced as the arms, being held up and outward, held the rib cage in a fixed end inspiratory position which made it extremely difficult to exhale, and impossible to take a full breath. The victim would only be able to take very shallow breaths and, as the victim sank lower, he began to suffocate. In order to breathe, and to relieve the pain in his hands or wrists, he would push himself back up with his feet. But, this action caused the pain in his feet to be so excruciating, that he would again sag to relieve it. As this agonizing cycle continued, the victim began to take on grotesque zigzag, letter Z position, with the body skewed to one side and the knees pointed out in the opposite direction. As death began to creep slowly on him, a semi rigor mortis set in. Because of the loss of diaphragmatic action, and the fact that the bones were pulled out of joint, the victim began to not only suffocate, but also to become extremely thirsty. Impaled, naked and helpless for all to see, the victim suffered pain, agony, and humiliation beyond compare.
We know from the eyewitness accounts that the Lord Jesus also suffered with a crown of thorns forced onto His head (Matthew 27:29; Mark 15:17; John 19:2) and a mutilated back from the scourging (Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15; John 19:1-5) delivered by the soldiers at Pilate's instruction, as He bore our sins there on Calvary's tree (1 Peter 2:24). The crown of thorns reminds us of the curse in the Garden of Eden, when God said that nature would bring forth thorns as a result of Adam's fall. As our Saviour hung on the cross, suspended between heaven and earth with the blood streaming down His forehead, the thorny diadem had great significance, for He was bearing the curse for all man-kind and all of creation (Galatians 3:10-13), as He performed the act of redemption as our 'near Redeemer' (Job 19:25; Psalm 19:14; Psalm 78:35; Proverbs 23:11; Isaiah 44:6; 49:7) to buy back the world, mankind, and the creation of God from the market place of sin. The Scripture is very plain when it says, 'It pleased the Lord to bruise him' (Isaiah 53:10-12), because He was the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. In anticipation of His agony to be endured for our sakes, Christ opened His heart to the psalmist causing him to write, in Psalm 22:1,'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me?' This is the unmistakably similar and startling cry of Calvary: Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? (Matthew 27:46). This complaint did not arise out of Christ's need to know the deep-seated reasons for God's absence. Rather, it arose out of the agony of bearing the weight of sin of all creation through all history. Certainly, God had forsaken the Lord Jesus in those moments on the cross, but this was because He had made 'Him who knew no sin to be sin for us' (2 Corinthians 5:21). God turned His back on the sin He hated, not the Son He loved.
Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? (v1) cries 'The Man of Sorrows' who had prayed in the Garden to the point that (Luke 22:44): 'being in agony, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground.' He had already suffered such agonies that He was nearly speechless on the cross. His utterings, because of severe pain and heartache, have been reduced to 'words of roaring' from a diaphragm sagging in pain and a heart filled with sorrow. Christ cried out of His solitude on the cross (v2-5): 'O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not, rather, thou answerest not.' God does not refrain from delivering the Messiah because He lacks the power to deliver Him and, whether the Mighty One chooses to deliver Christ or not, the Lord Jesus concluded: 'But thou art holy.' The continuing message of Christianity is that unanswered prayer cannot be traced to the unfaithfulness of God and the psalmist declares: 'Our fathers trusted in thee and thou didst deliver them; they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.' The cry from our Lord on the cross did not go unheard but, in the loving plan of God, it went unheeded.
Muslim apologist, Ahmed Deedat, made much of v6-8, 'But I am a worm, and no man' (cf. Job 25:6; Isaiah 41:14), claiming that Christ could not be God if He was described as 'a worm' (Josh McDowell and John Gilchrist vs. Ahmed Deedat, The Islam Debate, Campus Crusade, Here's Life Publishers, Inc., 1983). Deedat, and many other sceptics, deliberately misunderstand Scripture that lays emphasis on the humanity of the Son of Man, just as they also despise those that prove His deity. In this psalm, the worm is a symbol of extreme weakness and helplessness, something to be trodden down, unnoticed, and despised (v6): 'A reproach of men, and despised of the people.' Jesus had become a byword and a proverb to the scorners, so despised by the very people who once would have crowned Him that they now expressed their desire to have a murderer released instead of the Lord of Glory (Acts 3:14; cf. Isaiah 49:7; 53:3; Matthew 27:39). 'All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head' (v7) reveals the cruel mocking that was fulfilled in Luke 23:35. David was in desperate trouble of a vastly different nature when he penned these words, but the Messiah was dying in agony when He used those words from the cross, suffering the insults of the crowd (Matthew 27:39-41; Mark 15:29), chief priests, and the scribes and elders, for 'shoot out the lip' is an expression of derision and contempt, comparable to sticking out the tongue, and appears in these two Gospel accounts and is alluded to in a third (Luke 23:35).
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