The Psalms Show Us Christ’s Distress - Lent Midweek Service
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Psalms 88:1-18
March 10, 2021

We have been pursuing a theme these Wednesday evenings of how the Psalms can show us who Christ is and His suffering, death, and resurrection for us. This evening we look at how Psalm 88 shows us Christ’s distress.

Jesus’s last supper with His disciples is concluded. It is the night on which He was betrayed. The devil has entered Judas, the betrayer. He has gone out to get the band of soldiers from the chief priests to lead them to Jesus. It is night. Jesus has gone out of the City, Jerusalem, to the Mount of Olives.

We now see Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. The full weight of the reality of what He came to accomplish is coming upon Him. He feels it quite deeply. He begins to be troubled and exceedingly sorrowful. He is deeply distressed (Matthew 26:37; Mark 14: ). It is the deepest sorrow of spiritual darkness.

So He takes Peter, James, and John with Him to a secluded place where Jesus will pray. He says to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death” (Matthew 26:38). He tells them also to pray for protection from temptation. He is in agony. Luke tells us that His sweat has become like great drops of blood (Luke 22:44).

Why is He in such distress? He speaks in the words of Psalm 88: “I suffer Your terrors” (Psalm 88:15). And again, “Your dreadful assaults destroy me” (Psalm 88:16). He is speaking of the Lord’s terrors and dreadful assaults. The deep darkness of God’s wrath comes upon Him. “Your wrath lies heavy upon me; and you overwhelm me with your waves” (Psalm 88:7). “Your fierce wrath has swept over me” (Psalm 88:16).

How do we know that Jesus feels the deep darkness of God’s wrath? He prays in the garden: “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39 NKJV). He feels God’s wrath in the garden because the cup of which He speaks is the cup of wrath. Isaiah says, “Awake, awake! Stand up, O Jerusalem, You who have drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of His fury” (Isaiah 51:17). It is as the Psalmist says in another place: “For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup. Surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth drain and drink down” (Psalm 75:8). There is no neutrality with God toward sin. He must destroy it.

But why should Jesus be drinking this cup? He is the innocent One. Isaiah tells us: “He is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53, 3, 4, 6). He is sorrowful because He is taking into Himself the sorrowful result of all sin. He is in distress because He is taking upon Himself God’s fierce wrath against all sin, not His own sin, but your sin and my sin. This is what He came to do: the Servant (Isaiah 52:13). This is what the Son, came to do. His unquenchable love for mankind compels Him.

And so He experiences the deep darkness of the Lord turning His face away from Him: “My God, My God why have you forsaken me” (Psalm 22:1). The forsakenness of the sinner, every sinner, has come upon Him.

In accomplishing His mission, bearing the sin of every sinner, He bows His head and dies: “Into Your hand I commit my spirit” (Psalm 31:5). He says, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

Let us then honor His sorrow by sorrow over our own sin. Let us also honor His sorrow by trusting in the forgiveness of sin He won in His sorrow. It pleases God to trust in reverent joy in the forgiveness of sins Christ won because this honors the distress Christ came to endure to obtain such forgiveness.

But even in the midst of His sorrow, what does He do? He prays. He seeks the Father’s face. He teaches us to pray. “O Lord, God of my salvation. Let my prayer come before You; incline your ear to my cry!” He reminds the Lord of salvation: “Do you work wonders for the dead? Is your steadfast love declared in the grave. Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?” (Psalm 88:10-12 ESV).

In the midst of carrying our sorrows, bearing the fierceness of God’s wrath against the sinner, Jesus remembers salvation. He hopes in the salvation that He is sure the Father will bring. As Mark tells us, Jesus prayed in the garden, even in the midst of His destress: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You” (Mark 14:36 ESV).

And then, He comes through the deep darkness of God’s wrath to the light of the dawn on the third day. He experiences there the Lord’s answer to His prayer: Yes, God does work wonders for the dead. Yes, God’s steadfast love swallows up the grave. Yes, God’s wonders are known in the light. Yes, God’s righteousness is known in the land of never again being forgotten; in the land of being known by God as belonging to Him in indestructible life forever. He bursts the bonds of death. He rises again in life on the third day. Because He has come through the darkness to this light, we too come through the darkness in Him.

We started our journey these Wednesdays in Psalm 2 about God’s Son. At the end of that Psalm it says: “Blessed are all those who take refuge in Him” (Psalm 2:12).

 Do you sometimes feel forsaken by God? The Son has entered into this forsakenness with You. Do you sometimes feel overcome by deep darkness? The Son has entered into the depth of this darkness with You. Do you sometimes feel like God is angry with You? The Son has stepped in between You and God to take upon Himself the wrath of God. God turns toward you with a smiling face, with His grace and peace. And so Jesus is your strength to cry out to God: “O Lord, God of my salvation. Let my prayer come before You; incline Your ear to my cry” (Psalm 88:1-2).

In the dark times we wonder where the ground is under our feet. Well, there is a rock under our feet. His name is Jesus. He is this rock because He has walked the road of darkness and come through to the light, as He is the light. He is walking the road of darkness with us, carrying us on to the light, and the light will overcome, as He overcame. This is true for all who take refuge in Him. Let us commend ourselves to Him. He will see us through in the light everlasting. Amen. 


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