In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus makes only one statement from the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani” (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’)” (Mark 15:34). Many people understand Jesus’ words as a cry of despair. Some critics of Christianity have incorrectly argued that Jesus was distraught and did not really understand what was happening to Him. However, for those with ears to hear, this statement is filled with hope. Jesus was not just praying extemporaneously, He was quoting from the opening line of today’s reading, Psalm 22.
In verses 1–11, David asks God why He seems so far off. He reminds God that in the past, He delivered the people of Israel (v. 4). Couldn’t God show that same salvation now? David was insulted by enemies who treated him as less than human (vv. 6–8). He envisioned himself as being surrounded by dangerous animals who were closing in with jaws gaping open to tear him apart (vv. 12–13). He was distraught, helpless, to the point of death (v. 15). He begged God to act on his behalf, “But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me” (v. 19).
However, the psalm takes a sharp turn in verse 22. David’s prayer has been heard and salvation has come! He resolves to praise the Lord in the sacred assembly (v. 22). He goes beyond simply calling Israel to praise the Lord, but addresses “all the ends of the earth” and “all the families of the nations” (v. 27). David declares the Lord is the ruler of all the nations. Because of this, all the nations owe their allegiance to him. This message of salvation is so significant that it even needs to be declared to those who are not born yet (v. 31).
When Jesus prayed this psalm on the cross, He was not only giving voice to the grief and pain but also proclaiming truth. This psalm proclaims that Jesus is Lord of all. One day, all nations and people will bow to Him. Even today, we are called to proclaim the victory of Jesus to all people and call them to repent and believe in Him.