Note: I preached this sermon on April 5th at our church, and so I have broken it up and edited it for the blog
It seems that Easter sneaks up on me year after year. Not much hype, not much pomp. Sure, there's Lent, which I have not done for years, which can be helpful if done well. But even if we give up chocolate or soft drinks for 40 days, what more do we do to begin to prepare the way for the work of the cross and the miracle of the resurrection?
Well, God has given us one tool in a surprising place, the Psalms. The Psalms were the prayer book for the people of God, leading the people of Israel in regular rhythms of hymns, prayers and praise. As the people traveled to Jerusalem to worship, they would sing the songs of God, and these songs would lead them in the work of remembering. Remembering the faithfulness of God to His people, delivering them from Egypt; remembering the work of God in creating the world; remembering the richness of God's word and the fruit that comes from obedience; remembering who God is, the true King worthy of all worship.
As a good Jewish boy, Jesus Christ would have learned to pray using the Psalms. As a rabbinical student, he would have memorized the entire Psalter (as well as the Pentateuch), and as He prayed the Psalms, they would have worked their way into His heart and soul as more than just rote verses, but as a way to worship. The Psalms would have served as a Scriptural anchor for His soul.
And so when we read the account of Christ's crucifixion in Matthew, we hear Jesus praying by that soul anchor, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me," Psalm 22:1, and in John, Jesus prays, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit," Psalm 31:5. The Psalms had prepared Jesus for how to continue to seek God in the midst of brutal and lonely suffering, had made a way for Him to pray when everything in Him was struggling to see God and trust the plan of His Father. Like Christ, when we feel overwhelmed by suffering, we are to persist in prayer, anchored in truth, trusting God to answer and bring glory to His name.