The Cross, the Crook and the Crown
by Pr Alex Currie
The Cross, the Crook and the Crown
Pastor Alex Currie is taking us through a series on the Psalms. Here we introduce a trilogy of Psalms which have as a theme - Christ the Good Shepherd. In Psalm 22 we see the Good Shepherd who died for His sheep. Psalm 23 is the Psalm of the Shepherd's Crook which is probably one of the most familiar and favoured Psalms around the world. In Psalm 24 we see Christ the Good Shepherd crowned as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. So enjoy looking at Christ of the Cross , the Crook, and the Crown.
Psalm 22 - The Cross
Psalm 22, this is an amazing portrait, a portrait of Jesus, that takes us right to the very scene of the Cross - the very moment when just before He died, He cried out "My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?"
What is amazing about this portrait painted in the Psalms is that it was written so many hundreds of years before Christ went to the Cross. It was painted so far in advance yet with so many explicit details. Let us note a couple of those; turn to Psalm 22 and look at some of these details together. Verses 1 to 2 "My God, My God why hast thou forsaken me?" these are the very words that Jesus spoke when He was dying on the cross. It seemed to Him at that moment, with the blackness of sin upon Him, as if He was totally cut off from God, and this is what caused Christ to cry out these words of anguish.
When Jesus cried out those words, in reality He was pointing his listeners back to this Psalm to make sure we understood that this was a prophecy of what was to happen to him. Christ felt at that moment as if God was not listening to Him. "Why are you so far from helping me" the Psalm says, "And from the words of my crying". In verses 6 to 8 we see further detail. Jesus was reproached, He felt He was below the status of a human being. He was being degraded so much. The Psalm refers to it here as a worm, feeling that He was a worm not a man. This was the anguish that we as human beings put Christ through. He was the reproach of man and despised of the people, and worse than that they then scorned Him for who He claimed to be. "All those that see me, laugh me to scorn, they shoot out the lip and shake the heads saying 'He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver Him, let Him deliver Him now seeing that He delighted in Him'". I find it amazing to see here in the Psalms the very words of scorn that people used when Christ was on the cross, and the people who used these words were the so called religious leaders, but I am sure that they did not realize when they were using that scorn that here they were fulfilling this prophecy. Down a little further in verses 12, 13 and 16 we see Jesus surrounded by His enemies. Figuratively speaking here the Psalmist was referring to the bulls and the lions and the dogs encompassing. Giving the picture of ravenous animals surrounding an innocent and helpless lamb about to be torn to shreds. This is just as it was for Jesus with his enemies who surrounded him.
Further, in verse 15, speaking of Jesus needing something to drink on the cross, John records that Jesus said, "I thirst". So here we see another evidence of this prophecy being fulfilled, Verse 16 - "and they pierce my hands and my feet." The very method of death that was to be used was here foretold where Christ was crucified. In verses 17 and 18 "They look and stare upon me", and Christ was stripped of his raiment. And in verse 18 "Men parted his garments and cast lots for His vesture" Every little detail here was foretold hundreds of years before and was fulfilled in Christ's actual death.
So in Psalm 22 we see a portrait of Jesus, a portrait of the Suffering King painted so far in advance with all these details. We have clear evidence of fulfillment of this prophecy in the life of Christ.
But what relevance has this for us today, what does it mean for us in today's world. Let us just reflect on that for a moment. Have you ever felt forsaken by God; have you ever felt as if God is not listening. Have you ever felt like 'nobody' - Like all people ever do is criticize you and blame you. Have you ever felt like that? I have, and so did David obviously, the great King David, 'A man after God's own heart'. He felt like that, for he wrote this Psalm. Friends, if you have ever felt like that take courage, Jesus Christ himself felt like that on the Cross because he uttered those words, "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?" So friends, whenever you feel discouraged, as if there is no help left, take courage. Jesus understands, He empathizes, He knows what it is like and He has promised in Hebrews 13:5 "I will never leave you nor forsake you".
Psalm 23 - The Crook
This is the Psalm of the Shepherd with the Crook. The Great Shepherd protects, cares and lives for His flock.
When Leslie F Brandt paraphrased this Psalm into language his non-shepherd people would understand, he wrote:
The Lord is my constant companion,
There is no need that he cannot fulfil
Whether his course for me points
To the mountains of glorious ecstasy
Or to the valleys of human suffering
He is by my side
He is ever present with me
He is close beside me
When I tread the dark streets of danger
And even when I flirt with death itself, He will not leave me
When the pain is severe - He is near to comfort
When the burden is heavy - He is there to lean upon
When depression darkens my soul -He touches me with eternal joy
When I feel empty and alone - He fills the aching vacuum with his Power
My security is in His promise to be near me always
And in the knowledge that he will never let me go
This Psalm tells us firstly that God provides - green pastures & appetites are fully satisfied with running fresh water to drink : The result equals refreshment & restoration. How has God provided for your needs?
Second: God leads - how has God led you?
And finally: God protects - have you experienced God's protective hand in your life?
This testimony is what Psalms 23 means to me. This is my favourite Psalm.
Psalm 24 - The Crown
The word crown raises so many words because it has such broad meanings. The crown has significance - status - symbolism - kingdom - domain -territory - power - allegiance - subjects - dominion - sovereignty.
I love the way that passage speaks so personally about a person throwing open the door and receiving the invitation of God to come in. "Come in and I will crown you the king of Glory".
So we know that God uses this word as a symbol because I do not picture God in heaven with a literal crown on his head. He does not need that. His bearing alone, his presence, who he is, is enough to tell you and me, not only the world but the universe that he is the King of Glory.
And as I think about this, my mind goes back to who it was who created the world. And that is, that it was Jesus himself, the king of glory, who was the creator.
So when we consider the position that Jesus, as God, held in heaven with his father, his kingdom, his subjects, his Divine connection, it is absolutely staggering to think that this man, even before sin came into the world would even think to offer, let alone to offer laying all that aside and risking that to save the people who he made if they blew it. That is staggering. I struggle to let some of the things that are precious to me get out of my hand. So Jesus laid aside His own needs & desires & risked His crown for Himself and for us. We know from scripture that when the Bible talks (particularly in the Old Testament) about God's crown he is talking about his Crown of Glory. Not only the brightness and magnificence of God but the gloriousness of his saving grace and mercy and attitude to sinners, which includes all of us.
It was said earlier in the comments that Satan came to kill, steal and destroy. What a tremendous contrast, and that was the battle in heaven, Satan wanted to be higher than God he had an evil tendency which has been passed on to all of us. He wanted to destroy particularly our relationship with God, our relationship with ourselves, so that we had inner discontent instead of inner content and he certainly wanted to destroy the way we relate to one other. Hasn't he done a good job of that - because we allow him?
For most of us home is a place where we belong and we feel safe and comfortable. But some of us choose to walk away from that place called home out of rebellion and self-seeking. This causes us separation, solitude and loneliness. That is what went wrong, and why it was Jesus had such a heart to put aside and lay aside his position, his power, to come and be like us, only without sin, and to die for us and to solve this problem of separation, solitude and loneliness.
But it reminds us of the human condition because when Adam and Eve lost contact with God as human beings they became naked and aware of their own humanity. The amazing thing about that is that God recognised their condition straight away, he recognised that their relationship was broken, something changed and they had lost their innocence, they had lost intimacy with God, they had lost connection with God. But this is the amazing thing - it really shows the king of Glory - God himself who was so used to meeting them morning and evening personally, in personal interaction (what a privilege, we struggle enough to have prayer). But God ministered to them, came to them and saw them in the best they could do, which was to pull a few fig leaves to protect their innocence which they had lost. But God went and killed a lamb (I am using a little poetic license here because the Bible simply said that he took animal skins and made garments for them) and went and covered them personally. Now that is amazing. I love that picture. God personally clothed both Adam and Eve.
So in our condition each step we take away from our family, or God or God's family brings wider separation, deeper solitude and greater loneliness , God is waiting with eagerness and patience to welcome us home and to put a garment of grace around us.
Jesus chose to walk away from His heavenly home putting aside his position and status because He wasn't willing to lose His precious children. Mankind on the other hand, when Jesus arrived and revealed himself greeted Jesus with scorn, ridicule, mockery and contempt; instead of a crown of glory they thrust a crown of thorns on his head.
And if you notice what actually happened to Jesus for you and me, he bled from the head, he bled from the heart, he bled from the side, he bled from the hands and he bled from the feet. His whole body bled for you and for me.
I am so glad that God has given us the privilege and the right and the invitation to join his kingdom again, his kingdom of glory. And so what God promises in this passage and other passages throughout scripture is that when we come to Jesus after acknowledging our need and what he has done for us in responding to the simple invitation that if you come to me, "I will wipe your slate clean, and I will give you a garment of righteousness". Now that is amazing. How can God treat you and treat me as though we have never sinned? We do not deserve that, but it is His crown of glory and His garment of righteousness.
"Therefore there is laid up for me and for you a crown of righteousness" and not for me and you only but for every single person who says "God I am unworthy, save me". He allows us to be a subject under the crown of glory, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
And then in Isaiah 66:10 he says that He even crowns the year with his goodness. It is everywhere, we can't avoid it, can't miss it. And I thank the Lord this morning for his garment of righteousness which he offers freely - let us receive it today.
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