When Jesus came into the world, He did so to convey to us the truth that God not only cares for our life–He is actively involved in seeking to change it for the better.
Jesus allowed evil men to humiliate, torture, and abuse Him–so that we might know that we have a Savior who understands our suffering. David describes the Messiah in His suffering on the cross–with the added torture of a congregation of “dogs” surrounding Him, who mocked and ridiculed Him while He was suffering for them.
Psalms 22:16a “For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.”
Jesus used this term “dogs” Himself in the New Testament, as He was seeking to build the faith of a woman whom the world had no use for.
The term “dogs” is a Hebrew reference to the Gentiles. Jesus echoed this in His conversation with the woman from Canaan.
Matthew 15:22, 26 And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed. 26 But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”
If we are not careful here, we might assume that Jesus was disparaging this woman who came to Him for help. The Lord was not calling this woman a little dog, He was telling her that the Jews thought of her as a dog. Jesus wants to increase the faith of this dear woman, so he puts her off on her first approach for help. She will not be dissuaded, and she continues to humbly request the Lord’s mercy. Though she comes from the hated people of Canaan, her faith in seeking the Lord, compels Jesus to grant her request. God is not concerned what people might think about us. He is concerned what we think about Him. Anyone can come to Jesus and find forgiveness for their sins, and gain eternal life.
Matthew 15:27-28 And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
This dear woman tells Jesus, “I might be a little dog, but I still believe that you can help me.” Now that is what faith is all about. Nothing was going to stop this woman from seeking help from the Lord, because she believed that He was the Messiah.
We learn here that the common thought amongst the Jews of this time period was that the Gentiles who were in Jerusalem, particularly the Romans, were “dogs”.
When David writes that “dogs have surrounded me”, he is referring to the Gentiles who were near Jesus cross mocking Him and ridiculing Him for believing that He was the Messiah.
Luke 23:35-36 “And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.” The soldiers also mocked Him…”
Can any of us imagine what it would be like to be hanging naked before the world—our hands and feet are nailed to a filthy, splintered, old cross that countless other men have already died upon? While we are in agony, people standing near to watch us suffer, begin to spit upon us, laugh and scorn us to further shame. How horrendous this must have been for Jesus—who had committed no sin, nor had He done anything wrong. Why then was He on the cross—if He was innocent? Jesus was suffering because of our sins, not His own. He took all of our transgressions and hung on this cross to pay for the wrongs that we have done.
The people who were laughing and mocking Jesus, were experiencing the forgiveness of the very sins they were committing, while, Jesus was dying for them.
Those who watched Jesus die, had no idea of what He was accomplishing. They could not fathom the heights of His love, nor the depths of sorrow that He was willing to plunge into, in order to make the forgiveness of their sins possible.
What emotions did the Father feel when He watched His Son suffer so greatly, while the “dogs” who stood nearby were laughing at Him? It is no wonder that the New Testament records the response that God will have later for those who have rejected Jesus sacrifice for their sins.
Hebrews 10:29-31 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
For the present time we can all thank the Lord that He has thus far withheld the vengeance that Paul described in Hebrews chapter 10. We all still have the opportunity to turn to Jesus in humility and repentance and be saved. The day is fast approaching when no one will have this opportunity again.
Those who “enclosed” Jesus at His cross (Psalm 222:16a), had misunderstood the purpose for His being there. They had not taken the time to really listen to His words, and consider that God was amongst them.
One of the most painful things in life is to be misunderstood by the people that you care the most about. Years ago, due to a misunderstanding and the continuance of false accusations by gossip, many of my close friends abandoned me and no longer called me their friend. They did not really know what had happened, and never gave me a chance to explain the truth to them. They had made conclusions, based on gossip that others had told them, without any real knowledge of the truth. These dearest and closest friends, never came to me and gave me a chance to tell them my side of the story. In years that followed, when I saw them on the street or in other public places, they avoided me or would not speak to me at all.
The pain of that misunderstanding and the loss of fellowship with my friends—is to the present day, a great source of suffering for me. In all that happened during that experience, I was able to identify with the suffering that Jesus experienced when everything that He had done was misunderstood and no real chance was given for Him to tell those concerned, what was really happening.
We must continue to love the ones who bring us the most pain, even though they will not receive us again. We do not have the right to hold bitterness or resentment for the suffering that others have caused us. If we will call ourselves amongst those who follow Jesus, then we must do as He has done. We must love those who hate and despise us. Though they continue to berate and insinuate, we must appreciate that God views them as His beloved.