Holy Week 2013 – day 3

27 Mar

Psalm 22:12-18
Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.

David paints quite a picture here, as he describes his situation. The bulls of Bashan no longer exist, but their nearest equivalents are the Gaur bulls of Asia, that can grow to over 7 feet high at the shoulder. Not your average bull that you might find in Britain, which you wouldn’t want to cross, but some kind of mega-bull. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, lions too! Clearly David is using animals to describe how his enemies appear to him in their characteristics, and is indeed a worrying situation for him.
John Trapp explains the next comment, about being poured out like water, like this:
I am almost past all recovery, as water spilt upon the ground.
You can’t pick up spilt water. David clearly believes he is close to the end. Either his body is suffering or he is in imminent danger.
He is thirsty, his strength has left him, his body is at breaking point and his heart and resolve is melting away. And still his enemies attack him, taking his possessions and betting for them.

I don’t know if what David wrote was to be taken literally at any point or whether it is a use of imagery for a situation he was in, but reading those verses reminds me of some of the times when everything seems to be going wrong and the whole world seemed to be against me. You start to feel like your body is even against you as you can start to feel ill, lose your appetite, have no strength or desire to get out of bed. People’s comments towards you can seem to be laced with knowing intent as all you can do is worry yourself silly about what might happen, which becomes what will probably happen before ending up being what you are convinced is going to happen! When life gets hard, everything can feel impossible.

Thankfully, we have a God who knows what it is all about, because He has been there. As Jesus hung on the cross, He was surrounded by those who wanted to kill Him. The lions and bulls were the Pharisees and members of the Sanhedrin who had forced Pilate’s hand and put Jesus on the cross. As Jesus hung from the nails that were driven through His hands/wrists His elbow and shoulder joints would have started to give. His spine, hanging from his shoulders, would have been stretched beyond what it was used to. His hips and knees would have been contorted so as to enable the nail to pass between the Achilles’ tendons and the bones in His legs, then had pressure put through in this unnatural direction every time Jesus needed to raise Himself up to take a breath. His joints in His legs would have also been close to breaking.
“I thirst” was Jesus’ cry, for hanging there during the midday sun would have been very hot and His tongue would been sticking to the roof of His mouth. And so He hangs there, hands and feet skewered by nails that quite likely would have been roughly chiseled stakes, rather than the neat metal nails we normally think of, complete with splinters and rough edges. And in all that pain He looks down and sees that the clothes He had been wearing as He made His way to Golgotha are now in the hands of the soldiers. And as He hangs there, fighting for each breath, the soldiers gamble to see who gets them, completely disregarding the innocent man suffering above them.

Jesus suffered far more in 24 hours than mist of us will suffer in a lifetime. But in His suffering we see God knowing our pain. He knew it already but now we know He knows it, we have seen it! God suffered so we could relate to Him, that we would realise that He really does know what we are going through. It’s all very well us saying that God knows everything and thus knows how we feel. It might be true, but we can often think “How can he understand?” Because He is clearly not going through what we are experiencing. But when we remember Christ on the cross we realise that He more than knows our pain. And what’s more, He went through it all just so we could have relationship with Him!

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Archbishop Cranmer

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