HOLY WEEK CONVENTION 2021
The Presbyterian Church in Singapore
Wed, 31 March, 8PM
The Cross of Suffering & Scorn
Thu, 01 April, 8PM
The Cross of Pain & Praise
Fri, 02 April, 10AM
The Cross of Fear & Faith
Online Children’s Programme only available for those at home.
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BISHOP DR GORDON WONG
31 March: The Cross of Suffering & Scorn (Psalm 22:1-21)
Holy Week, or Passion Week, reminds Christians particularly of the passion i.e. suffering of Jesus the Christ that culminated in his death by crucifixion on (what we now call) Good Friday. Whilst hanging on the Cross, Jesus is recorded as crying out in anguish “My God, why have you forsaken me?” This “cry of dereliction” echoes the cry in Psalm 22:1. Since Jesus on the Cross identified with the sufferer in Psalm 22, it may be instructive for us to meditate on the experience of suffering & scorn described in verses 1-21 of the psalm.
01 April: The Cross of Pain & Praise (Psalm 22:22-31)
But Jesus on the Cross also cries out “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” And the final third of Psalm 22 also portrays a strong tone of Praise in the midst of the Pain.
02 April: The Cross of Fear & Faith (Psalm 23:1-6)
Q&A for 31 Mar
1) At what stage of his life that David wrote Ps 22, what were his specific circumstances?
2) If Jesus knew God's salvation plan, why then did he still feel forsaken?
3) I understand that v16 is read traditionally to be a prophecy which Christ fulfilled. However, it is not quoted in the NT at all for the purpose of Jesus fulfilling the OT. Can we still with confidence use it for that purpose?
Your question is specific to verse 16 rather than to Psalm 22 as a whole.
On the Psalm as a whole (or at least the many parts of the psalm that are cited in the NT), I think we can do what the NT writers do in seeing how Jesus “ful-fills” the psalm in the sense of experiencing what the psalmist felt. (Note: the way that the NT cites Psalm 22 to refer to Jesus is very different from the way some Christians understand the meaning of “fulfilment of prophecy”. Psalm 22 speaks of a man who feels forsaken by God. Jesus experiences what Psalm 22 describes. Psalm 22 is not a “prophecy” in the sense of being a “prediction”.
As for your question on verse 16, I assume you are referring to the last line: They pierced my hands and feet. Short answer: No, we should not use Psa 22:16 confidently as an example of an explicit “fulfilment” in Jesus’ experience on the Cross.
a) The NT does not – as far as I know – cite Psa 22:16c – as pointing to Jesus.
b) The translation of Psa 22:16 “they pierced my hands and feet” is very uncertain. The word “pierced” is not found in the text, and represents a guess as to what the phrase means or intended to mean. Literally, the Hebrew reads: “like a lion are my hands and feet” which is difficult to understand in the verse.
c) Fortunately, even though we may not know what verse 16c actually says, there is no doubt that Psalm 22 as a whole describes a faithful servant of God suffering terribly and feeling forsaken by God and his so-called friends.
4) Do you feel that Christian leaders who only focus on positive testimonies are (intentionally or unintentionally) "selling" an inaccurate depiction of the gospel?
5) How can I be a witness to others, especially non-Christians, if I am suffering like the psalmist?
A witness tells the truth of what he/she knows or has experienced. So you will be a great witness if:
a) You tell the truth about the pain you feel
b) You tell your friends that you believe that Jesus also suffered like me, and it helps to know that Jesus understands how I feel (I do not suffer alone)
c) In your pain, you try to love your friends / neighbours by thanking them for their best wishes and help etc. (The best witness is to love God by loving our neighbours, Christian and non-Christian.)
I think MANY people are inspired to consider believing in Christ when they hear testimonies of people who suffer terribly, but who still retain hope and show love and consideration to the doctors, nurses, enemies … even though their suffering did not disappear.
6) In the sermon, you mentioned testimonies that glorify God, yet they can bring pain to others. What should we do? To go ahead and glorify God and let Him deal with the pain that others are experiencing? Or should we hold back our testimonies?
b) As individuals, we should learn “to hold back” our enthusiasm to promise people that your experience will be the same experience, as long as you do what I do. Instead, we learn to say, “This is what happened to me. Maybe it might happen for you too. But whether or not it does, I hope we will find hope and strength in believing that God loves us and is with us through our darkest valleys.
c) Testimonies that truly glorify God tell the truth about God. It may be true that God saved you from unemployment and bankruptcy. It is NOT true that God saves every believer from the same.
Q&A for 1 Apr
1) How do we practically suffer together with those whom we cannot fully empathize with?
a) Sit quietly and grieve with them in prayer
b) Help them with practical chores e.g. fetching the kids from school, bringing a home-cooked meal etc.
c) Send them a card to assure them of your tears, and offering to visit or help
2) How do we encourage others in their pain when the reality of their pain makes them feel that God is far away/not there? How do we pray for them, knowing that God may not come through and deliver as we desire?
a) See some suggestions above under Q1 for being encouraging
b) Pray using words patterned along the lines of Romans 8:35-39, Psalm 23:4, even reading out Psalm 22:1-2 and 22:19-21.
3) Should worship leaders hide their pain or share it when they are on duty?
4) In Psalm 22, the writer turned from painful cries to praise. If there was no change of his external circumstances, what had caused this change of attitude? How can we shift from lament to praise?
a) God has chosen not to describe for us what caused the change for the Psalmist in Psalm 22. So we don’t focus on any method to bring about change. We focus instead on the Man of Suffering, Jesus, and pray that God’s Spirit will soothe and strengthen our discouraged spirits.
b) We can do our part by turning to Jesus, expressing honestly our grief, or just crying silently without words.
5) How does your sermon tie in with the fact that King David wrote the Psalm and it foreshadowed the Messianic King? Reading v22-31, I thought the more relevant and appropriate reading of this section would be to recognise that God saved Jesus from the pit of death because Jesus submitted to the will of the Lord, and our response as the church would be to remember and turn to the Lord and worship Jesus, who is the Lord of all, having been raised by God above all (v27-31).
a) It is not obvious to me that Psalm 22 “foreshadows the Messianic King” (there is no mention of the word for king or messiah / anointed).
b) The Gospel writers clearly describe the suffering of Jesus’ crucifixion in terms of the suffering described in Psalm 22. So if one did assume that Psalm 22 is about the messianic King, then the learning point would be that even a messianic king may feel forsaken and far away from God (as did Jesus).
c) It is certainly plausible to assume that a change in circumstances has occurred for the Psalmist between verses 21 and 23, and if the reader is convinced of this, then it makes sense to suggest that the dramatic unrecorded change corresponds to the dramatic change between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.
d) However, it is also to take the view that there has been no change in outward circumstances in Psalm 22, and if so, then it makes sense to understand the change in Psalm 22 as corresponding to the change from Jesus’ cry of dereliction (My God, why?) to his cry of commitment (Father, into Thy hands) whilst still on the cross. His outward circumstances of suffering on the Cross have not yet changed. Resurrection Sunday hasn’t arrived. This is how I understand Psalm 22, and my sermon adopts this interpretational framework.
6) Jesus cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?” Was there an actual separation of Jesus from the Father? Can the Trinity be broken?
a) I think Jesus cried because he actually felt forsaken. But, was there “an actual separation”? Personally, I don’t think there was an “actual separation”. Jesus, in John 16:32, seems to be talking about his crucifixion when his disciples desert him, but Jesus believed that “my Father will be with me.”
b) Can the Trinity be broken? No.
Good Friday Children’s Programme
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Adam Road Presbyterian Church
Adam Road Presbyterian Church
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