As Holy Week comes, we can listen to the soul of Jesus as he silently sings the Psalms. Jesus quoted the Psalms more than any other Old Testament book:
He offered the true bread as better than the God-given manna of Psalm 78:24 (John 6:31).
He interpreted the children’s hosannas as an echo of Psalm 8:2 (Matthew 21:16).
He announced with Psalm 118:26 that the day would come when all Israel would see him in final triumph and say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:39).
He saw in himself the marvel of a rejected stone becoming the head of the corner from Psalm 118:22–23 (Matthew 21:42).
He absorbed the hatred of his enemies with the words of Psalm 35:19 (John 15:25).
He embraced the tragic role of Judas with Psalm 41:9 (John 13:18).
He deflected the charge of blasphemy with Psalm 82:6 (John 10:34).
He stunned the high priest by claiming a seat at God’s right hand from Psalm 110:1 (Matthew 26:64).
His cry of forsakenness on the cross burst from Psalm 22:1 (Matthew 27:46).
With his last breath, he commended his spirit to God with Psalm 31:5 (Luke 23:46).
When Jesus quoted the Psalms, he was never looking down at a manuscript. You can’t hold a manuscript when your hands are bound in court, or nailed to a cross. He knew them. Many of them, no doubt, by heart.
In other words, Jesus not only fulfilled the Psalms; he was full of the Psalms. He not only said, “Everything written about me in . . . the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44); he also said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). The Psalms were his food. And he was their fulfillment.
His Script and Strength
For Jesus, the Psalms were the very word of God. He said that David wrote his psalms “in the Holy Spirit” (Mark 12:36). This is why they “must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). This is why, after quoting Psalm 82:6, he said, “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). This is why they were his food, and he was their fulfillment.
All of Scripture — but especially the Psalms — was the script and the strength of Jesus’s life. Jesus was truly God and truly man. As true God, he was omnipotent and needed nothing. As true man, he was frail and needed strength. He needed the food of Scripture to have the strength to fulfill Scripture. In this way, he became for us an example of living by faith.
Christ . . . suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:21–23)
In his perfect manhood, Jesus was not self-sufficient. He looked to his Father for all that he needed in order to do the Father’s will. He knew that he must die. And he knew that without the sustaining power of his Father, the weakness of his human flesh would fail in the hour of trial. So, he prayed.
Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. (Hebrews 5:7)
Not that he was saved from the event of death, but he was saved from the faith-destroying curse of death. Death came, but it did not defeat.
Hear What His Soul Sings
The strength to conquer unbelief, as Jesus died, came through the sure word of God — especially the Psalms. He did not get his power from bread. He got it from “every word that comes from the mouth of God.” He trusted his Father’s promises. And followed his Father’s plan.
The plan was scripted in the Psalms. And the strength was given through the Psalms. They were his faith-sustaining food so that he could be their Father-obeying fulfillment. So, the example he left us was how to live by faith in future grace — the future grace promised to him in the Psalms. Not because he needed grace, but because he needed the help which for us is all grace.
Jesus had no sin (1 Peter 2:22). When his Father heard his prayers, he was worthy to be heard. Jesus did not plead the blood of Jesus in order to be heard. But he did pray for help. And he did trust his Father’s promises, and provision, and power. This is how he becomes our example in suffering.
The sustaining food of the Psalms and the infallible script of the Psalms brought Jesus to Holy Week — and to the cross. So, I invite you again: Come, listen to the soul of Jesus as he silently sings the Psalms in his final days. Tune your heart to the Psalms with the sound of Jesus’s faith.