The Case for Jesus the Messiah – Incredible Prophecies that Prove God Exists/Part 8

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©{{{copyright}}}
Psalm 22—Who is the One Crucified?

Editor’s Note: This material was first published in book form in 1989 by the John Ankerberg Evangelistic Association (now known as the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute).

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The Biblical Text

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?… All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: “He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”… I am poured out like water, and all of 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 (Ps. 22:1, 7-8, 14-18, NIV).

The Context of the Passage

Psalm 22 is both a cry of anguish and a song of praise to God. The NIV Bible properly identifies the context of this passage as “the anguished prayer of David as a godly sufferer victimized by the vicious and prolonged attacks of enemies whom he has not provoked and from whom the Lord has not (yet) delivered him.”[1]

The Hebrew scholar Charles Briggs states in his book, Messianic Prophecy:

Psalm 22 describes a sufferer with stretched body, feverish frame and pierced hands and feet. He is surrounded by cruel enemies, who mock him for his trust in God, and divide his garments as their spoil. He is abandoned by God for a season, until he is brought to the dust of death. He is then delivered, and praises his deliverer with sacrifices.[2]

The Explanation of the Text

In this passage that describes the feelings and circumstances of David, we find astonishing parallels that fit the future experience of Jesus Christ on the cross. The question is: Are these parallels fiction, found only in the minds of Christians, or words that David wrote a thousand years before Christ which perfectly fit the person of Jesus Christ?

As David Baron has observed: “Are Christians right in interpreting this Psalm as a prediction of Christ?… It is the only interpretation which accords with common sense.”[3] The following is an explanation of the actual words in the Psalm and a look at the incredibly accurate picture they paint of Jesus Christ during His crucifixion one thousand years later.

1. David said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps. 22:1).

Jesus said these exact words while dying on the cross (Mt. 27:46). They accurately expressed His grief as He bore our sins (1 Pet. 2:24). Having the sins of all humanity placed to His account resulted in His separation from God, His Father (Gal. 3:13-14).

2. David said, “All who see me mock me. They hurl insults, shaking their heads” (Ps. 22:7). The meaning of the word “shake” is “to shake or wag the head in mockery.”[4] It is also a gesture of scorn and includes the fact that the adversaries were not only giving assent and approval to the victim’s suffering, but also enjoyed seeing his adversities and calamities.[5]

Jesus was literally scorned, despised and mocked by the crowds surrounding Him on the cross. The words David used, “They hurl insults, shaking their heads,” perfectly fit: 1) the religious rulers who stood watching (“The rulers even sneered at Him”—Lk. 23:35); 2) the soldiers (“The soldiers also came up and mocked Him”—Lk. 23:36-38); and 3) one of the two criminals crucified next to Him (“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ [Messiah]?’”—Lk. 23:39). Herod and his soldiers (leading up to His crucifixion) also mocked Him (“Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him”—Lk. 23:11). At His trials the chief priests and the teachers of the law did the same (“The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him”—Lk. 23:10). Finally, Matthew records (about the crowd), “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying…. ‘Come down from the cross if you are the Son of God!’”—Mt. 27:39, 40).

3. David reveals that his enemies mocked and insulted Him by saying, “He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him” (Ps 22:8).

Jesus’ enemies used the words David wrote one thousand years earlier to hurl their insults at Christ on the cross. They said, “He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him” (Mt. 27:43).

4. David said, “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…” (Ps. 22:14,15).

Like water, Jesus’ blood on the cross “poured out” of His body. Also, it is a fact that crucifixion pulls the bones and the body out of joint. This is what happened to Jesus.

When “blood and water” came forth from Jesus’ pierced side (Jn. 19:34), this was medical proof that His heart had literally burst, fulfilling David’s words, “My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me” (Ps 22:14).[6]

Finally, Jesus’ strength dried up. He thirsted and then He died (Ps. 22:15; Jn. 19:28-30).

5. David said, “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet” (Ps. 22:16).

Jesus was encircled by people who hated Him, mocked Him and were glad to watch Him suffer and die. They pierced His hands and His feet when they nailed Him to the cross just as David said (Jn. 19:15-18).

6. David said, “I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing” (Ps. 22:17, 18).

Jesus, while dying on the cross, looked down on the soldiers who had crucified Him and watched them gamble for His garments. For those who state that Jesus and the Gospel writers planned and acted out the prophecies of David, they must answer how Jesus motivated and arranged for the soldiers to gamble for His garments.

Also, how did He keep the soldiers from breaking His bones, a common Roman practice? Amazingly, Jesus was the only one of the three who were crucified whose legs were not broken (see Ps. 34:20). He was also the only one who suffered an unusual spear thrust into His side (fulfilling Zech. 12:10) that also did not break a bone (Jn. 19:31-37).

The Apostle John watched the entire crucifixion. Afterwards, as he thought back on what he had seen and thought about what was said in the Psalms, Isaiah and Zechariah, he realized all of them had specifically said the Messiah would be pierced. As we shall see, Zechariah even prophesies, “They will look on me [Jehovah God] the One they have pierced” (Zech. 12:10). (See also Isaiah 53:5 and John 19:34).

Was Psalm 22 Recognized by the Jews as Messianic?

Few rabbis have accepted this passage as Messianic because of the dislike for a suffering and crucified Messiah. But the rabbinical writing called the Pesikta Rabbat (Piska 36:1-2), compiled in the ninth century A.D. at the latest, although from much earlier material, refers to part of this passage as having reference to certain persons’ sins that will weight Messiah down under a yoke of iron. Thus, it says, “The Messiah’s body is bent low” with great suffering.[7]

In addition, the great Hebrew scholar Edersheim observes that a remarkable comment appears in Yalkut[8] on Isaiah 60 which applies this passage in Psalm 22 to the Messiah, and uses almost the same words as the Gospel evangelists who describe the mocking behavior of the crowds surrounding the cross.[9]

As the late professor Charles Briggs of Union Theological Seminary, the man whose name appears on the official Hebrew Lexicon of the Hebrew Scriptures,[10] stated:

These sufferings [of Ps. 22] transcend those of any historical sufferer, with the single exception of Jesus Christ. They find their exact counterpart in the sufferings of the cross…. This ideal is a Messianic ideal, and finds its only historical realization in Jesus Christ.[11]

But most Jewish people have rejected the idea of a suffering Messiah, in spite of this passage and Isaiah 53 (See #10). For example, David Baron, who had a strict rabbinical education, dismissed as completely absurd the idea that the Messiah would suffer. But the Hebrew Scriptures taught him the absolute need for forgiveness of sins[12] and brought him to the conclusion that the Scriptures did predict the Messiah would suffer for our sins This led him to accept Jesus as the Messiah because “Jesus of Nazareth is the only individual in the [entire] history of the Jewish nation in whom all these [prophetic] characteristics are to be found.”[13]

Clues to Identify the Messiah

Whoever the Messiah is, He must fit the following descriptions:

Clue #1—He, a male child (the Hebrew text specifically uses a 3rd person, singular, masculine pronoun—”he”), will be born of the seed of the woman.

Clue #2—He will come from the race of the Jews, and specifically from the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Clue #3—He will be a great prophet, with the authority to teach like Moses.

Clue #4—He will be mocked, and people will cast lots for His garments while He suffers.

Read Part 9


  1. Kenneth Barker (gen. ed.), The NIV Study Bible (New International Version) (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1985, seventh printing), p. 805.
  2. Charles Briggs, Messianic Prophecy (New York: Schribners, 1889), p. 323.
  3. David Baron, Rays of Messiah’s Glory: Christ in the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1886), p. 263.
  4. Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (London: Oxford University Press, 1968), p. 631.
  5. Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies, pp. 385, 386.
  6. Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Historical Evidences for the Christian Faith (San Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ/Here’s Life Publishers, rev. 1979), p. 199; Pierre Barbet, A Doctor at Calvary: The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ as Described by a Surgeon (Garden City, NY: Doubleday/Image, 1963), pp. 129-147; cf. C. Truman David, M.D., “The Crucifixion of Jesus,” New Wine, August 1971.
  7. Moishe Rosen, Y’shua: The Jewish Way to Say Jesus (Chicago: Moody Press, 1982), p. 74.
  8. Yalkut is the name given to the well-known collection of many older, accredited explanations and interpretations of the Hebrew testament.
  9. Edersheim, Life and Times, Vol. 2, p. 718.
  10. Brown, Driver, Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament.
  11. Briggs, Messianic Prophecy, pp. 326, 327.
  12. Jacob Gartenhaus, Famous Hebrew Christians (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979), pp. 38-39.
  13. Baron, Rays, p. 265.

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