holy week, lament, psalms

Blessed Worm

But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. (Psa 22:6)

Small, disgraceful maggot. Chewing on the left-over garbage. Squirming in the mud, beneath the feet of people above. He writhes, they shudder. He drags across the ground, they gag. There is no honor in the disgusting path of a worm.

Yet here he stands, the maggot of a man. Forgotten by other people, depressed by his insignificant life. Hated by the beautiful, condemned by the popular. Broken by those who should have loved. Weary of the constant pain. Ashamed for the things he has done. Tormented by the times he didn’t help. Sickened by his own self. A weak and helpless worm, left to die.

Yes, I know. You want to turn away from this tiny maggot of filth. We would all rather focus our attention on more grand and beautiful things. Maybe you could turn this page to a more hopeful psalm, one that triumphs over the sadness. Words of praise and thanksgiving for the wonderful salvation of God. A psalm that shouts and sings the glories of the Almighty Lord! But not this. Not a slimy dirty worm wallowing in the dust. 

Even he admits this with you, my friend. The worm of a man screams at his God, “You are holy, Oh my God. You have a high and mighty home upon the praises of Israel!” You are wonderful, my God. You are glorious, my Lord.  My fathers trusted you, says the worm, and they were delivered. Your chosen people for generations have called to you, says the maggot, and they were rescued from this shame. You, oh my God, have done grand and beautiful and hopeful things, for those others. But me? Here I am, scraping the ground with my naked belly. I am a pitiful worm, ashamed.

The overwhelming realization of our stature before our holy God leaves you sick. Nothing you have to give makes you worthy of God’s love. Nothing you have done has earned an ounce of praise from our holy Lord. Instead, here you discover that you mindlessly destroy yourself and others in this cycle of sin in which you are imprisoned. It would be the more pleasant devotion to ignore the worm in this psalm. It would be the easier thing to ignore the worm within you.

But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And (Jesus) answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Matthew 15:25-27

She also comes to the Lord, crying, squirming, dirty, and unclean. So far from any worth she can claim for her own. This outcast Samaritan woman crawls up to the wonderous promised Messiah and admits boldly who she is. Yes Lord, I am a dog. I do not deserve your gifts nor your mercy. Yes, my God, I am a worm. Help me.

And Jesus, walking and breathing flesh of man, Word of God begotten of the Father, does exactly that. He helps her. He becomes the dog that she is. Jesus, sinless human, Son of God, does it all. He helps the man in the psalm. He becomes the worm that men despise. Jesus, born of a woman, Savior of the world, does the thing you cannot. He helps you.

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. Matthew 27:46,50

 “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” The worm screams from the cross. For every distant or wicked word you have ever muttered with your tongue or in your heart. “Why are you so far from saving me?” The maggot shrieks as the black chains of your sin suffocate his every breath. For every misdirected thought and desire that ever passed through your mind. But it is here he helps you. He is the dog. He is the worm. He, instead, is the despised and condemned man – the worm who you used to be.

Jesus throws himself perfectly upon the mercy of God. Abandoning every glorious effort of his own, he completely repents for you, completely trusts for you, completely fulfills the penalty of death for you. Wholly God, His payment is acceptable to the Divine Judge. Wholly man, his death is properly substitutionary for this flesh and blood creation. The only begotten worm of a man is raised from the grave to reign at the right hand of God. And it is here he helps even you. His new life is yours.

So don’t ignore the worm. It is by His death and resurrection that you receive life. Boldly we crawl, blessed worms, unafraid of those who threaten from above. We wriggle in the mud, as forgiven maggots, feeding only on His heavenly food from above. Disgusting and rotten among ourselves, but pure and perfect by the blood of Jesus. As worms we daily cry out, “Help us, Lord, my God”. And in Christ, He already has.

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