Sermon Commentary for Sunday, April 28, 2024

Psalm 22:25-31 Commentary

No, it’s not your imagination: the Year B Revised Common Lectionary has put Psalm 22 in front of us now three times in calendar year 2024.  Almost this exact same lection was the reading for the Second Sunday in Lent and the entire Psalm was assigned for Good Friday.  Now here it is again as we proceed through Eastertide.

Of course, as Psalm 22 begins it could not be a less likely candidate for the joyful Season of Easter.  The first part of this psalm is that famous cry of dereliction echoed by Jesus from his cross and it proceeds from there with a series of searing descriptions of desolation, abuse, torture, and other unhappiness.  That this same poem concludes with the upbeat, joyful verses before us this week is something of a wonder.

There is no clear “turning point” in Psalm 22.  Instead starting at verse 22 the psalmist shifts to promises to praise God and declare God’s goodness to anyone who will listen but it appears that these promises of future praise are a part of the psalmist’s prayerful parlay with God.   “If you save me from the vicious dogs who are after me, then I promise to repay you with praise.”  That is the tone through verse 25.

But rather suddenly in verse 26 and then on through to the end of the psalm, the psalmist gets far more expansive.  The focus stops being “I will fulfill my vows to you if you come through for me” and the psalm becomes almost global in its sweep.  Now it’s whole classes of people who are said to rise up in praise of God:

  • All the poor will eat and be satisfied.
  • The ends of the earth will turn to the Lord.
  • All the families of the nations will bow before the Lord.
  • All the rich will feast and praise God.
  • All those who die and go down to the dust will even so find ways to praise God.
  • All posterity and all future generations will be in on the worship of God.

Where did such a sweeping vision come from?  Is even this somehow still part of the parlay with God in the hopes of wooing God to deliver him?  Possibly.  It may be a way of trying to say to God that once God becomes known for hearing the cries of all the needy and suffering of the world, well, the good worship momentum this will generate will go on and on and redound to God’s praise.  And it will redound not just a little but in ways that will be sustained quite possibly forever and ever.

And just maybe this view on Psalm 22 explains why it’s a good Eastertide text despite its very non-Easter opening tone.  Because in Christ Jesus the risen Savior and Lord, God has shown that he has listened to all the cries of all those who have been in distress in this broken world throughout history.  The sheer volume of such pleas for deliverance and mercy in history is staggering of course.  In fact, at any given moment on any given day one can but be stunned by the voices of the hurting that are crying out to God for help.   Victims in war zones.  The grieving.  Mothers who cannot find enough food for their children.  The terrorized and those being discriminated against for a variety of racial, sexual, and socio-economic reasons.  The sick and the dying.  The lonely and the destitute.  The mentally ill and those wrestling with depression.

All these cries and more beyond our very imagining rise to God without ceasing.  No wonder in the Book of Revelation that among the things John of Patmos sees in his visions are these large golden bowls being held by the twenty-four elders and each bowl was filled with incense “which are the prayers of God’s people” (Revelation 5:8).  Those bowls this side of the full in-breaking of God’s kingdom will never run low on that prayer-fueled incense and they surely will never empty out.

But in God’s decisive act of salvation through his Son, God found a way in essence to answer all those cries, to deliver the whole sad, fractured planet.  And as in Psalm 22, so we can say today that the praise that is due to God for so great a salvation is truly global.  It involves all people and all creatures.  It involves the ends of the earth and beyond.  It is finally cosmic in scope.

So yes, in Psalm 22 and after verse 25, it could be considered vaguely startling that a song that began in abject dereliction concludes with a global and historic and capacious vision of all creation praising God and God’s goodness.  But in the grand scheme of things as we can now see it from the other side of Easter, that move was fitting.  It was just right.   And if for now we still live between the times in a world that has been saved but is still so riven with suffering, we know that this is indeed the situation only for now.  Because the Lord was raised to newness of Easter Life, hope abounds into all eternity!  And for that we will never come to the end of the need to praise God!

Illustration Idea


In one of the Superman movies some years ago, there is a moment when the Man of Steel has flown far above the earth and is basically hovering at the edge of space.  With his super powered hearing, however, he can hear cries for help from around the world.  But even a superhero such as he could only intervene or help with a small fraction of those situations.  Imagine how this is magnified for an omnipotent God.  No cry for help escapes God.  Were he not God, how could such a thing do anything but crush him?


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