A diary, if shared, can open up for us the private thoughts and world of the author. Readers can feel as if they know the person and his or her time when they read a diary. Think of how much has not only been learned but felt regarding the impact of the events of World War II through the diary of Anne Frank. On a lighter note, knowing President Harry Truman had an appointment with a farmer’s association representative on a certain day is blasé. But reading in his diary entry that Truman called the man “an old baloney peddler” adds color. Diaries add depth and personalize for the reader the life and events of historical characters.
Though it will never happen, for a moment think of the widespread media blitz that would occur if an archaeological society announced one day they had discovered the lost diary of Jesus Christ. If you believed the story had any credibility, would you not want to purchase a printed copy as soon as it became available? What would knowing the private thoughts of the Lord reveal to you?
Now what if I told you, in a manner of speaking, there is such a diary already available to you? That in a sense it has been lost to the church’s awareness, but you can rediscover it right now?
This diary is found in the Psalms of the Bible. I want to show you briefly how these songs open up to us the inner mind of Christ. However, before I do that, a disclaimer or two. Yes, I do belong to an ecclesiastical tradition that sings the Psalms in private and public worship. Yes, I admit that some of my brethren, including myself, seemingly violate another of our practices – a capella singing – by continually “harping” to others about how much the church needs to return to psalm singing. And yes, worse yet, I know that if one is not careful psalm singing can lead to the very thing it strikes against – pride (I’ve confessed to this here). Yet please do not let my admitted bias cause you to miss this discovery. The Psalms in a sense go beyond what we learn in the Gospels about the events and teachings of Jesus Christ by also telling us what our Lord was thinking at key moments in His life.
Reflect on these three examples:
At His Transfiguration - When Jesus was on the mount, being identified by Moses and Elijah’s appearance as the Christ that the Law and the Prophets had promised, He shone with heavenly effulgence as His Father declared, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5) Clearly we see by Peter’s response the disciples did not know what to think. Yet what was Jesus thinking at this time? As Moses and Elijah were talking to Him about His impending appointment with the cross (see Luke 9:31), certainly the Father’s comforting declaration would have taken His mind to Psalm 2. For in this psalm the Son, by the Spirit of God prophesying through David, states “He said to Me, ‘You are My Son’” (Psalm 2:7). Jesus would have been meditating not only on the suffering for the Christ brought about by the nations predicted in this psalm (verse 2), but also on the Father’s promise to Him following His declaration of His Sonship to raise Him up and give Him the nations as His inheritance (verses 7-9). We can know our Savior went to the cross despising its shame, yes, but also knowing that, according to this psalm, He was confident of the final outcome.
At His Crucifixion - That Psalm 22, written some 900 plus years before, is filled with specific, factual references to Christ’s crucifixion is well-established. Details described in the Gospels, such as His cry of being forsaken (Psalm 22:1); the piercing of His hands and feet (22:16); the taunts of observers (22:7-8); His nakedness (22:17); and the gambling over his clothes (22:18) are themselves amazing in their clarity. What is even more astonishing perhaps is that we can read the very thoughts that Jesus was having as He hung on Calvary’s cross. He felt as if His groaning prayers would not be heard (22:1). Yet He worked to bring to mind God’s faithfulness to Israel in past deliverances (22:4). As He heard the taunts and felt the world’s sin, it made Him feel like a worm and less than a man (22:6). He found comfort in remembering how God had delivered Him as a nursing child in the days of Herod’s death sentence on the newborns in Bethlehem’s vicinity (22:9-10). He describes His suffering, as well as His tormentors, with vivid metaphors that help us feel more deeply the pain He suffered (22:12-16). And, in the midst of all this, Jesus brought to mind that one day He would live and join all those He redeemed as brothers in declaring the praise of God (22:22-25). Meditating on this and other psalms where the Spirit describes Jesus’ thoughts in His suffering, such as Psalm 55 or 69, brings one into closer fellowship with the Savior.
At His Resurrection - The apostles loved to preach from the sixteenth Psalm, as seen at Pentecost. Peter used the tenth verse to bring prophetic authenticity to their claim that Jesus rose from the dead. Yet a careful reading, especially of the verses directly before and following this text, show that we have recorded here Jesus’ thoughts about His resurrection. What emotions does He express? Anger at those who put Him to death? Relief His condescension in now over? Frustration over the unbelief He would encounter? No, no, and no. Rather, the Lord’s heart was filled with exceeding joy!
Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will dwell securely.
For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;
nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
You will make known to me the path of life;
in Your presence is fullness of joy;
in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
Does not knowing this make our own hearts overflow with joy as well? Recently, Dr. Robert Letham addressed the expressions found at the end of Psalm 22 about the resurrected Christ declaring God’s name “to My brethren” (see also Hebrews 2:10-12). He stated that each time the church gathers to worship, the Chief Worshiper of God the Father in the service is Jesus the Son, as He as our head leads us in worship. What a blessed thought!
This is just a small sampling of the dozens and dozens of ways as you meditate on the Psalms that Christ’s voice offers commentary on His life. So as you are encouraged here to consider reading “Jesus’ Diary” for yourself, remember one more unique aspect about it. This diary was in essence “prerecorded.” One of the great purposes of the Psalms was God the Father providing guidance and comfort to God His Son during His earthly ministry. When the Lord left heaven, united a human personhood with His divine nature, and learned obedience through that which He suffered, God knew His Son would need what the Psalms give. Just as in Proverbs King Solomon as a father gathered wisdom sayings to direct his son, so in the Psalms God the Father gave to His Son the comfort and even the right manner of thinking found in the Psalms that would take Him to – and beyond – the cross.
Calvin stated in his preface to his commentary on the Psalms that the Psalter was “an anatomy of all the parts of the soul,” meaning that for the reader of the Psalms that “there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror.” How incredible is it that they not only reflect our own souls to us, but the soul and emotions of our Savior?