Jesus and the Psalms

This was originally an introduction to Pastor Josh’s series “Jesus and the Psalms” preached at Red Door during the early part of 2024. You can listen to those messages here.

When I was in seminary one of my favorite things about that whole experience was listening to my professors pray. Many of them were pastors and had a very vibrant prayer life. It was always powerful and moving to hear these wonderful men of God pray.

It made me often wonder what it would be like to hear Jesus pray.

A Scottish minister that lived in the early 1800s named Robert Murray Mc’Cheyne once said, “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.”

And not only is Jesus praying for me and for you, we have a front row seat to some of his prayers. No, I’m not talking about the Lord’s Prayer, which we recite every Sunday. I’m talking about the Psalms.

The book of Hebrews in various places, represents the Psalms as the very words of Jesus.

Take Hebrews 2:12 as just one example:

“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

Hebrews 2:12

The writer of Hebrews says these are not only David’s words but the words of Jesus.

Now, in a way this doesn’t surprise us. When you look at Jesus’ own teaching in places like Luke 24, verses 44 and following:

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,

Luke 24:44-46

We know from this passage and others that the whole of the Old Testament was pointing to Christ. And as Jesus says here, that certainly includes the Psalms.

More Than Prophecies

But have you pondered the Psalms not just as prophecies foretelling the coming of the Messiah but as the very prayers of Jesus? Many of the Psalms would have no doubt been sung or read or prayed by the Lord Jesus himself during his life and ministry here with us. Certainly, the well-known Hallel Psalms would have been (Psalms 113-118) sung by the Lord Jesus during the many feasts and festivals of Israel (see Matthew 26:30, Mark 14:26).

But what I am trying to help you to see here is something more. Jesus did not only sing a few biblical Psalms from time to time but I believe in one way or another, every Psalm in our bible relates to Jesus. The Psalms were the prayer and song book of Jesus.

Many scholars have asserted that most likely Jesus would have known virtually all of the Psalms by heart. The Psalms are the book of the bible that Jesus quotes more than any other, and the most quoted book of the whole New Testament. Many well-known Scriptures that you and I have heard many times on the lips of Jesus were actually words from the Psalms.

This knowledge should transform the way we look at the Psalms. In the humanity of Christ, he experienced the full range of human emotion. He rejoices with us and celebrates with us. He weeps and mourns and longs with us. He expresses faith and confidence and hope with us. He worships and exults and praises with us. Jesus so identifies with us in his humanity that in his priestly role as our mediator, he even confesses our sins with us.

Given what we’ve seen above, it is no surprise that the Psalms would be so popular across history. In them not only do we have a model for our own prayers, but we see the Lord Jesus’ prayers.

Mc’Cheyne said, “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room…” To which I retort, “But we can! Just open to the Psalms.” There we see the Lord’s prayers for us and with us and for all of his people.

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