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A Cry from the Cross

A Lent Reflection for Good Friday March 29 by Rev. Christina Burrows

Selected passage for reflection: Psalm 22


Psalm 22 NIV

For the director of music. To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.” A psalm of David.

(Listen to this musical rendition of the beginning of Psalm 22 by Fernando Ortega.)

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me,

so far from my cries of anguish?

2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,

by night, but I find no rest.[b]

3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;

you are the one Israel praises.[c]

4 In you our ancestors put their trust;

they trusted and you delivered them.

5 To you they cried out and were saved;

in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

6 But I am a worm and not a man,

scorned by everyone, despised by the people.

7 All who see me mock me;

they hurl insults, shaking their heads.

8 “He trusts in the Lord,” they say,

“let the Lord rescue him.

Let him deliver him,

since he delights in him.”

9 Yet you brought me out of the womb;

you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.

10 From birth I was cast on you;

from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

11 Do not be far from me,

for trouble is near

and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls surround me;

strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

13 Roaring lions that tear their prey

open their mouths wide against me.

14 I am poured out like water,

and all my bones are out of joint.

My heart has turned to wax;

it has melted within me.

15 My mouth[d] is dried up like a potsherd,

and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;

you lay me in the dust of death.

16 Dogs surround me,

a pack of villains encircles me;

they pierce[e] my hands and my feet.

17 All my bones are on display;

people stare and gloat over me.

18 They divide my clothes among them

and cast lots for my garment.

19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me.

You are my strength; come quickly to help me.

20 Deliver me from the sword,

my precious life from the power of the dogs.

21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;

save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

22 I will declare your name to my people;

in the assembly I will praise you.

23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!

All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!

Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!

24 For he has not despised or scorned

the suffering of the afflicted one;

he has not hidden his face from him

but has listened to his cry for help.

25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;

before those who fear you[f] I will fulfill my vows.

26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;

those who seek the Lord will praise him—

may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth

will remember and turn to the Lord,

and all the families of the nations

will bow down before him,

28 for dominion belongs to the Lord

and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;

all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—

those who cannot keep themselves alive.

30 Posterity will serve him;

future generations will be told about the Lord.

31 They will proclaim his righteousness,

declaring to a people yet unborn:

He has done it!


Have you ever felt that God has forsaken you? The first two verses of Psalm 22 are a cry of utter despair, expressing this very feeling. And yet, the psalmist still reaches out to God. Of course, this is the verse that Jesus quotes when he is on the cross. When Jesus said those words, the whole of this messianic Psalm would almost certainly have come to mind for the Jews standing around the cross. The Psalm in its entirety is an apt expression of Jesus’ own experience at that moment. 


As the Psalm opens, the psalmist is wrestling between faith and experience, but progressively moves from despair to praise. God has, he believes, forsaken him. His suffering is dehumanizing. When have you or those around you felt dehumanized in your suffering? 


Yet in vv.3-5, in the midst of his suffering, the Psalmist turns to express trust in God the King, who has been Israel’s Savior in times past. But in vv. 6-8 the Psalmist thinks of himself as a worm, degraded. He feels alienated from God, and dislocated from his community, who mock him, taunt him. Yet in vv. 9-11 he reaches out again to God. You brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you. You have been my God. Be my Savior!


His struggles are again with those around him, in vv. 12-14. Enemies in the Psalter are often described as animals. Either we fulfill our destiny to become like God, or we become beast-like. Have you ever considered the fact that when people build physical idols, they are often in the form of animals? We become what we behold.


The psalmist continues to pour out his lament with brutal honesty before God. In v.14 – “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.” In vv. 15-18 – “you lay me in the dust of death” like ashes. v.18 – “they divide my garments among them” even while he is still living. It’s a desperate set of circumstances, and of course, one that so strikingly describes Jesus on the cross. When we’re suffering, do we cry out to God like this? What holds us back?


In vv. 19-21 he turns again to a request and a declaration of trust. But you, Lord, are my strength. Come and help me! In v. 26 he declares - God provides, praise him! In v. 27 he echoes God’s promise to Abraham that all peoples on earth would be blessed, moving his vision from himself as an individual to the community. “All the families of the nations will bow down before him.” It was always God’s plan to bring the Gentiles in. The Psalmist proclaims in v. 28, “The Lord Reigns!” He’s the king, in the whole community of nations!


In v.29 even the sphere of the dead is not outside the sphere of worship. And in v.30, future generations will be told of God’s righteousness. He ends in v.31 with a cry of victory and jubilation echoed by Jesus on the cross – He has done it! It is finished! The lament has become a song of praise that transcends the experience of the Psalmist, transcends history, life, and death, and is eschatological, looking to those yet unborn.

Hope, Even in Darkness by Julie Jane Capel, 2021


On this Good Friday, let’s spend some time reflecting on the suffering of Jesus on the cross. As we consider our own sufferings, may we find comfort in the fact that Jesus can empathize with even our deepest pain. Let’s learn, with the Psalmist, to call out to God and to express our pain with brutal honesty. Let’s also learn to declare his praise in the midst of our pain, because we know that one day, because of the cross of Christ, there will be no more pain and that God will make all things new. How else is God inviting you to respond today?


Heavenly Father, thank you that you loved the world so much that you sent your only begotten Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish, but will have eternal life. Amen.

Choose a song to listen to from this Good Friday playlist.

About the Author 

Rev. Christina Burrows is a Korean-British pastor, spiritual director, adjunct seminary faculty, and co-founder of Jigsaw Coaching, an organization that helps people thrive in intercultural spaces. She loves anything to do with global cultures, the arts, and nature. She lives in Sacramento, CA with her pastor husband and two teen girls.

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