The true nature of Jesus’ suffering on the cross was the spiritual separation from the Father. This spiritual torture was far greater than the physical torture that Christ experienced, and is what led to Him initially quoting this Psalm: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” However, perhaps a brief look at some of the physical torture that our Lord experienced will open our eyes to the sheer depth of His suffering on the cross. We will do this by looking phrase-by-phrase at Psalm 22:14-17.
Please read Psalm 22:14-15 now.
The first physical pain that we see is Jesus being “poured out like water.” This is an allusion to His utter lack of strength. Jesus is completely exhausted on the cross—like water that has been poured out and absorbed into the ground. It is completely gone; there is nothing left.
Our Lord then declares “all my bones are out of joint.” This would not have been a typical part of crucifixion. We know for a fact that none of Jesus’ bones were broken, and a crucified person’s bones were not typically broken unless there was some need to speed up the execution (as in the case of the two thieves who hung on either side of Jesus and needed to have their legs broken so the bodies would not be hung on the cross during the Sabbath). However, it is not inconceivable, and some even consider it highly possible that, when Jesus was nailed to the cross or when the cross was dropped into the hole in the ground with a jolt, His bones were dislocated from the force. It may be hyperbole to say that “all my bones are out of joint,” but it is certainly not impossible.
Jesus then describes His heart melting “like wax… within my breast.” This is probably not a physical description of what was happening, but a spiritual one. God’s wrath was being poured out on His Son with such ferocity that it was melting His heart. As one scholar notes, “If the heart of Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, melted, what heart can endure, what hands can be strong, when God deals in His wrath?” The wrath of God is fierce indeed, strong enough to melt the hearts of men.
“My strength is dried up like a potsherd” is yet another reference to the utter exhaustion our Savior experienced on the cross, similar to “poured out like water.” Jesus was completely spent. He likens Himself to a broken piece of earthenware that has been baked in the sun for so long that the last molecule of moisture is evaporated. He has given His all, and there is nothing left to give.
This extended metaphor of the water being all gone is probably used because of our Lord’s utter thirst. He has had nothing to drink for a day and is quite dehydrated. So much so that “my tongue sticks to my jaws.” Even the thought of death is considered to be “dust.” When you have no water and thirst so desperately, everything is viewed through that lens.
The suffering of our Savior is described even further in the next few verses, but I think that is enough to reflect on for today. Praise Jesus that He was willing to endure such torture for my sake!
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