The last 2,302 words from the cross (Pss 22:1 to 31:5)

if Jesus was in fact praying the Psalms on the cross, Mark supplies the origin (Ps 22:1) and Luke the terminus (Ps 31:5) of the Lord’s final conscious string of prayer.

According to Mark, Jesus is heard by bystanders to have spoken from the cross words which are found in Psalm 22:1, “My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mk 15:34).  Most commentators will admit (even if they disagree) that an old interpretation of this text claims that Jesus might well have been ‘praying the Psalms’ to himself in Aramaic during that last forsaken hour.

However, Mark further relates that these bystanders believed Jesus was calling Elijah, and offered Jesus a sop of soldier’s wine, waiting to see if Elijah would come for him.  It is not until after this interlude that physical death comes when, as Mark writes, Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last (Mk 15:37).

According to Luke, the addition at Mk 15:37 doesn’t tell the whole story.  Luke has reason to report that the last loud cry which Mark reports on the lips of Jesus just before he breathed his last was in the form of actual words:  “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!”  Unbelieving Jesus scholars won’t like this, but I think Luke’s report of more speech is easier to accept than the idea of Jesus letting rip with one of those hideous screams that actors use when playing the bad guy falling off the cliff – AAAAUUGH!  Seriously?

Luke has given us a beautiful devotional window opening onto the mind of Jesus at the hour of his death.  Because these words reported by Luke are also from the Psalms (31:5).  This means that if Jesus was in fact praying the Psalms on the cross, Mark supplies the origin (Ps 22:1) and Luke the terminus (Ps 31:5) of the Lord’s final conscious string of prayer.

For Lent, then, it might be worth a shot to try ‘praying the Psalms’ with Jesus from the cross (Ps 22:1 – 31:5).  In faith imagine that you are experiencing a bit of what was actually passing through the mind of the Christ in the last few minutes of his material existence.  Put a little cheap wine on your tongue somewhere in the middle of it all.

PS – My word-count 2,302 is based on an English version I found online and copied to word processing for tabulation (minus choir directions and verse numbers).  I don’t know what it is in Aramaic.


4 thoughts on “The last 2,302 words from the cross (Pss 22:1 to 31:5)

  1. It’s a good thought, but I fail to see all of the words spoken from the cross in those Psalms. What about “Father forgive them……”? And “Woman behold your son….”?

    For prayers based on His words from the cross, see my listed site.

  2. James, yes I know the famous ‘last words’ from the cross – that’s why I piggy-backed mine by that name.

    Those two lines you mention contain deep and rich veins of meditation, and there are others.

    My only point is to offer a completely unofficial inspiration for a new devotional idea – what might have been said or thought between the two last ‘words’ from the cross.

    Thanks for commenting.

  3. Last words from the cross are popular in Lenten services. It’s done by amalgamating all of them from all of the gospels without intent to reconcile or explain the different versions. I think they are largely the contrivances of the writers, meant to fit their particular theological bent. But I still love them anyway.

    • I love the meditations based on them that I’ve heard and read too, Sherry.

      But I myself would not choose to say, as you do, that words narrated as spoken by Jesus during his trial and crucifixion might ‘largely’ be contrivances of the writers.

      I perceive that you hold that there were absolutely no sympathetic souls present to hear him and report accurately. This could only mean that in your view the most trustworthy report in the entire Passion are the three words which state that ‘they all fled.’

      A popular meme, but it requires that you interpret those three words as describing not merely a confused departure from the scene of their master’s arrest, but an utter lack of re-grouping and no willingness of anyone (even the least disciple) to get the hell up the hill to stand by him.

      I admit that the kind of absolute loneliness projected by that interpretation makes for a very emotional meditation in itself.

      Even so, I like to imagine that I can tell if the Holy Spirit cares about any scripture at all by noting the quality of meditative depth contained in later ‘contrivances’ which are based on them, in the writings of the faithful (in any generation).

      Thanks for writing.

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