Meditations on the Psalms
how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul,there is no salvation for him in God. (Psalm 3:1-2 ESV)
Even when surrounded by His enemies, Jesus never complains but looks to God for His deliverance. Foes means narrow and tight, an adversary, enemy or oppressor who is in close quarters. His enemies are rising or standing against Him with murderous hostility. Many is two different words. First, many means to increase, as in a mob of people that grows the longer it exists. Secondly, many means abounding, numerous, strong and great. Both words convey the thought everyone is against the One who is praying. Peoples and nations thunder in anger against the Lord, led and taught to do so by the kings and rulers of nations. “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed” (Psalm 2:1-2).
Just as there is a tri-level, parallel statement describing the ungodly in Psalm 1, so there is a tri-level, parallel statement of those who seek to kill the Lord’s Anointed in this Psalm. Jesus’ first exclamation is to identify those who are seeking to murder Him, His many foes, followed by the truth of their rising up against Him followed by their mocking and ridiculing Him.
Jesus faced these three worldly reactions to His divine presence while nailed to a cross. Great crowds of people, including the religious leaders who condemned Him, came to watch the spectacle of a crucifixion. Plus, the place where the Romans crucified their victims was on a major road into Jerusalem. Travel wasn’t convenient at that time. This was the road many people had to use to enter and leave their capital city for commerce or religious reason.
While hanging helplessly on the cross, Jesus endured verbal abuse from the religion leaders instrumental in having Him murdered by the Romans. They mocked Him throughout His ministry and during His trial before the High Priest. They brought false testimony against Him to justify their actions. They knew His words and works and still mocked Him as He hung, tortured and dying, on the cross. “And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!’” (Luke 23:35 ESV; see Matthew 27:28-43, Mark 15:29-32).
There was a second group of mockers at the foot of the cross. Pilate wrote and placed a placard and instructed the guards to hang it over Jesus’ head while on the cross. “This is the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38 ESV; see Matthew 27:37, Mark 15:26, John 19:19-22). Pilate specifically asked if Jesus thought He was the king of the Jews during His part of the kangaroo trial. The placard was an insult to the Jewish people. It suggested a crazy man was hanging below it on the cross. In addition, those directed by Pilate to crucify people had no political acumen or understanding of what they were doing. Trained to view people as objects, the soldiers heaped abuse on the Man. “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” (Luke 23:37 ESV).
Jesus hung on a cross between two men found guilty of crimes against the people and empire of Rome. We do not know their crimes. “Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left” (Luke 23:32-33 ESV; see Matthew 27:38, Mark 15: 27-28, John 19:18). One of the condemned criminals took up the chant of the religious leaders and Roman soldiers, chiding and mocking Jesus as He died with them. “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39 ESV).
What is the taunt hurled at Jesus while on the Cross. It is what He prayed as revealed in the Psalm. “Many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God.”
The other criminal did not taunt Jesus but saw Him as innocent and undeserving of torture and death. “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:40-41 ESV). He then spoke to Jesus, believing the Man dying on a cross next to him, dying as he would die, was the King of kings. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42 ESV).
Jesus did not come to save Himself from the cross but to save everyone from the wrath of God and eternal separation from the absolute source of life. Jesus promised the man dying next to Him “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43 ESV). Only God can deliver on such a promise.