Suffering Leads to Glory (Psalm 22:22-31)

empty tomb

Big Idea: The resurrection means that Jesus is vindicated, you are included, and that God’s church will keep growing.

If you were here last week, you know that the first part of Psalm 22 is anything but happy. Psalm 22 is the cry of a righteous person who is suffering for no fault of their own. It is intense. The psalmist feels abandoned and ignored by God, and taunted and despised by people. It’s a heartbreaking cry for God to listen. After describing his anguish, the psalmist cries out:

But you, O LORD, do not be far off!
you my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dog!
Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!
(Psalm 22:19–21)

Why is this psalm in the Bible? For one reason, because this is our experience sometimes. Sometimes we will suffer innocently. Sometimes we will feel abandoned and ignored by God, and taunted and despised by people. Sometimes we’ll cry out to God to pay attention to our cries. This psalm gives language to how you may feel at some point in your life. “Lament is the honest cry of a hurting heart wrestling with the paradox of pain and the promise of God’s goodness” (Mark Vroegop). It’s given because you may one day need the words of this psalmist.

But there’s another reason Psalm 22 is in the Bible. It’s in the Bible because it so accurately describes the suffering of Jesus, the ultimate innocent sufferer. It describes his anguish on the cross, so much so that as he hung on the cross he quoted, verbatim, the words of this psalm (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). Not only that, but other details in this psalm show up on the day that Jesus was crucified. Close your eyes and read verses 16 to 18, and you would think the psalmist is describing the crucifixion of Jesus:

For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.

As one scholar says of this psalm, “More than any other passage of Scripture it penetrates into the actual suffering of our crucified Lord” (Alec Motyer).

But here’s the other reason why I think this psalm is in the Bible. It’s in the Bible because it helps us understand not just the crucifixion of Jesus but the resurrection of Jesus. Written a thousand years before Easter Sunday, this psalm helps us understand what happened on that first Easter when Jesus rose from the dead. We’re not guessing when we say this. Hebrews 2:11-12 applies this second part of this psalm to Jesus.

In other words, if you want to understand all the events surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus and what it means for us today, you couldn’t do any better than to look at this psalm. It’s a portrait of the death and triumph of our Savior.

In verse 21, something happens:

Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

In verse 21, the innocent sufferer is rescued from God. The rest of this psalm describes what happened.

It tells us that the resurrection means three things:

First, the resurrection means that Jesus is vindicated (22:22-24)

Read verses 22 to 24. The psalmist says:

I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.

On the cross, Jesus bore God’s wrath against the sins we committed. He willingly offered his life to make full payment for our sins. How do we know that the payment was sufficient, that God was satisfied with Jesus’ work? Because, as verse 24 says, God didn’t despise or abhor the affliction of Jesus. He hasn’t hidden his face from Jesus. He heard Jesus’ prayer and vindicated him by raising him from the dead.

Jesus’ resurrection is a sign that God heard Jesus’ prayers on the cross and rescued him, that he didn’t despise or abhor what Jesus did on the cross. 1 Timothy 3:16 speaks of his resurrection this way: “He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit…” As one theologian writes:

…Christ’s resurrection says something. It is the announcement of his justification. He was vindicated of all the unjust verdicts against him, and he was vindicated with reference to his death, as he said, for sinners. He said he would give his life a ransom for many. He said he would give his life for the sheep. He said that by his death he would effect their forgiveness and bring them into fellowship with God. He said that in his death he would accomplish salvation for his people. And now in his resurrection God publicly announces that it is so. (Fred Zaspel)

To put it differently, Jesus wrote a cheque with his death, and on Easter Sunday that cheque cleared the bank. You can know that God accepted Jesus’ work at the cross because he raised Jesus from the dead.

Do you ever doubt if Jesus’ death was sufficient to atone for your sins? God doesn’t, so you don’t have to either. The resurrection is proof that Jesus did the work that he set out to accomplish at the cross, and that work is sufficient for your need and mine, that God was satisfied with what Jesus accomplished at the cross. God heard Jesus’ cries at the cross and vindicated him, just as he will vindicate everyone who trusts in him.

The resurrection resulted in vindication for Jesus. But that’s not all:

Second, the resurrection means that you’re included (2:25-26)

I love verses 25-26:

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the LORD!
May your hearts live forever!

As the righteous sufferer is vindicated, he comes to worship God because he knows that God has delivered him. He brings a thank-offering that he’d vowed when he was in trouble. Here’s the way a thank-offering worked, according to Leviticus. A third was given to God. A third was given to the priests. And a third was used for a thanksgiving feast for you, your family, and your friends. The idea was to promote generosity and hospitality as a way of rejoicing in God’s goodness and strengthening yourself and others as you marked God’s grace in answering your prayer.

And so the psalmist does this. He takes part of his sacrifice of thanks and invites others to join him. And who does he invite? Verse 26 tells us: the afflicted, and those who seek the Lord. As he gives thanks to Yahweh for delivering him, he throws a celebration, and who does he invite? Widows, poor, and the orphans in the community. It’s not just the righteous sufferer who gets to benefit from God delivering him; the afflicted benefit too.

This is good news for anyone who feels poor and afflicted. Hebrews 2:11 takes verse 22 of this Psalm and says that we are part of the congregation that gets to celebrate the victory of Jesus over sin and death. Jesus’ vindication is good news for you and for me. Hebrews 2:11 says in relation to this psalm that Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brothers.

Do you know what this means? Jesus’ victory means that we — even those of us who are struggling — we get included in Jesus’ victory over death. We have a place in the party. The benefits of Jesus’ victory aren’t just for the deserving and those who have everything together. The blessings of Easter are for everyone, especially for those who need good news.

“What God has done for his suffering Servant will become a blessing to rich and poor, powerful and helpless” (Michael Wilcox). You’re included! You’re invited, even if you’re afflicted.

As Spurgeon says, ”None are excluded from the sweep of this precious promise, provided they are really seekers.” Again, “The spiritually poor find a feast in Jesus, they feed upon him to the satisfaction of their hearts; they were famished until he gave himself for them, but now they are filled with royal dainties.”

Easter means that Jesus is vindicated. It also means that you’re included. Anyone is who wants in. All the benefits of Jesus’ resurrection are available to you.

Easter means one more thing.

Finally, Easter means that God’s church will keep growing (22:27-31)

How many people followed Jesus when he died? Not many. His disciples all abandoned him. A few women remained faithful. A few men buried him. If Jesus had stayed dead, I doubt many would be following him today.

But what happened then? 1 Corinthians 15 tells us:

…he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:5-8)

Slowly, at first, people encountered the resurrected Jesus and believed. And then, after Jesus ascended to heaven, the number kept growing. One scholar writes:

…improbably, the movement was growing. In number, size, and geographical spread, churches were expanding without any of the probable prerequisites for church growth. The early Christians noted this with wonder and attributed it to the patient work of God … God used not influential or powerful people but obscure fishers and hunters to achieve a huge end … was uncoordinated, it was unpredictable, and it seemed unstoppable. (Alan Kreider)

And it continues today. Today, the good news of Jesus has spread throughout the whole world. You are one of hundreds of millions of believers around the world who are part of those Jesus has redeemed. And the number keeps growing, especially in places like Africa and Asia, even in places like Iran where you’ll be persecuted if you become a Christian.

God is growing his church. And it’s just what this psalm predicted.

All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.
For kingship belongs to the LORD,
and he rules over the nations.
All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
even the one who could not keep himself alive.
Posterity shall serve him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that he has done it.
(Psalm 22:27–31)

God is saving a people for himself. Psalm 22 predicts the expanding proclamation of the gospel, and the growing and triumphant Christian church from a few to a great assembly to people who are yet to be born — untold generations to the end of time.

You and I — all those who have trusted Christ and are part of his church — are included in that number. You are part of an ever-expanding congregation of saints who stand in worship before our King today and will worship him forever. And he’s not done yet.

The resurrection means that Jesus is vindicated, you are included, and that God’s church will keep growing. What is left for us to do? Trust him. Come to the resurrected Jesus. He will receive you. Join the growing congregation of people who will worship before him and tell to coming generations about the goodness of our Lord.

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada