Questions From Readers
Why did Jesus just before his death quote David’s words found at Psalm 22:1?
Among the last words Jesus spoke before his death were those recorded at Matthew 27:46: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” By saying this, Jesus fulfilled the words of the psalmist David recorded at Psalm 22:1. (Mark 15:34) It would be wrong to conclude that Jesus quoted these words because he was disappointed or because he had a momentary lack of faith. Jesus fully understood the reason why he needed to die, and he was willing to do so. (Matt. 16:21; 20:28) He also knew that at the time of his death, Jehovah would need to remove any “protective hedge” from around him. (Job 1:10) Jehovah thus allowed Jesus to prove beyond any doubt that he would remain faithful no matter what the circumstances of his death.—Mark 14:35, 36.
So why did Jesus utter the words of this psalm? Although we cannot be dogmatic, let us consider some possibilities.a
By uttering these words, was Jesus emphasizing that Jehovah would not intervene in his death? Jesus needed to pay the ransom without Jehovah’s help. He was fully human and needed to die so as to “taste death for everyone.”—Heb. 2:9.
By quoting a few words from that psalm, was Jesus drawing attention to the whole psalm? It was common in those days for Jewish people to commit many of the psalms to memory. By being reminded of one verse of a psalm, they would naturally be prompted to think about the entire psalm. If this is what Jesus had in mind, then he would have helped his Jewish followers to remember the many prophecies contained in this psalm about the events surrounding his death. (Ps. 22:7, 8, 15, 16, 18, 24) Also, toward the end of the psalm, the triumph of Jehovah’s kingship is described as extending to the ends of the earth.—Ps. 22:27-31.
By quoting these words of David, was Jesus highlighting his own innocence? Prior to his death, Jesus had to endure an illegal trial that found him guilty of blasphemy. (Matt. 26:65, 66) That trial was hastily convened late at night and was completely out of harmony with accepted legal standards. (Matt. 26:59; Mark 14:56-59) By quoting these words as a rhetorical question, Jesus may have been drawing attention to the fact that he had done nothing that deserved this type of punishment.
Was Jesus also reminding others that even though David, the writer of this psalm, was allowed to suffer, this did not mean that David had lost Jehovah’s approval? David’s question did not reveal a lack of faith. After raising the question, he went on to express confidence in Jehovah’s saving power, and Jehovah continued to bless him. (Ps. 22:23, 24, 27) Similarly, even though Jesus, “the Son of David,” was suffering on the torture stake, this did not mean that Jehovah no longer approved of Jesus.—Matt. 21:9.
Was Jesus expressing his intense grief over the fact that Jehovah had to withdraw His protection from him so that he could fully prove his integrity? Jehovah did not originally purpose for his Son to suffer and die. That became necessary only after the first rebellion. Jesus had done nothing wrong, but he needed to suffer and die in order to answer the issues that Satan had raised and to provide the ransom price necessary to buy back what man had lost. (Mark 8:31; 1 Pet. 2:21-24) This could be accomplished only if Jehovah momentarily removed his protection from Jesus for the first time in his life.
Was Jesus trying to help his followers to focus on the reason why Jehovah allowed him to die in this manner?b Jesus knew that this type of death as a criminal on a torture stake would stumble many. (1 Cor. 1:23) If his followers focused on the real reason for his death, they would understand its true significance. (Gal. 3:13, 14) They would then view him as a Savior and not as a criminal.
No matter what reason Jesus had for quoting these words, he realized that what he was experiencing was part of Jehovah’s will for him. Shortly after quoting this psalm, Jesus said: “It has been accomplished!” (John 19:30; Luke 22:37) Yes, the momentary withdrawal of Jehovah’s protection allowed Jesus to accomplish fully all that he was sent to earth to do. It also allowed him to fulfill all the things written about him “in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and Psalms.”—Luke 24:44.
a See also paragraphs 9 and 10 in the article “Learning From Jesus’ Final Words” in this issue.
b During his ministry, Jesus at times made comments or raised questions that did not necessarily reflect his own feelings. He did this to stimulate discussion among his followers.—Mark 7:24-27; John 6:1-5; see The Watchtower, October 15, 2010, pp. 4-5.