In his Christological interpretation of Psalm 22, German Lutheran theologian Tilemann Hesshus (1527-1588) follows a well-established path, as throughout most of the history of the church, this text has been seen as a literal prophesy of Christ. In this selection from his commentary on the Psalms, Hesshus locates Christ within God’s unfolding plan for salvation, emphasizing the uniqueness of his role compared to that of the patriarchs. He argues that while the patriarchs were often tested, they were ultimately rescued and consoled by God. Christ, on the other hand, God’s own son, took on the entirety of the wretchedness of humankind, and through his crucifixion at the command of Pontius Pilate, suffered the fullness of the judgment that humanity’s sin entailed.


God tested the patriarchs by various distresses and dangers, but the fullness of his wrath he did not pour out on them, nor did he forsake them; instead he always consoled them in every need. He confirmed them through the Holy Spirit and in the end snatched them out of every distress. But Christ was the most wretched of all human beings; on him God poured out the fullness of his wrath. Satan and the world spewed out all their venom and hatred into him. “But I am a worm,” that is, “I am experiencing such horrible distress that I am not even like a human being.” “He is despised,” Isaiah says, “and the most hated of men.” And Pilate, loathing Christ’s squalor, said, “Behold the man!” As if he were to say, “Indeed he is not at all like a human being.” Now here let us consider the immeasurable love of the Son of God who suffered; for the sake of our salvation he was despised in this way. “The reproach of human beings and despised by the masses,” that is, “the world judges me to be katharma peripsēma [“scum and filth”], the plague and defect of the human race. People fear that even my shadow might harm them.” So they cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him! Crucify him!” Thus, the most savage condemnation followed the greatest calamity.

Psalms 1-72, ed. Herman J. Selderhuis, Reformation Commentary on Scripture, OT vol. 7, p. 172-73.