But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people. (Psalm 22:6)
Early church leaders sometimes called Psalm 22 “the fifth gospel” because it is quoted in the New Testament so many times in reference to Jesus. While the Psalm was written by David and finds its immediate relevance to the events of his life, there’s no denying that many of its passages find their highest prophetic relevance in the events of Christ’s death. Consider the following examples (all references from the N.K.J.V.):
- Psalm 22:1: My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34)
- Psalm 22:7-8: All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, “He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!” (Matthew 27:39-44; Mark 15:29-32; Luke 23:35)
- Psalm 22:16: For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; (John 20:25)
- Psalm 22:17: I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. (John 19:31-36; see also Numbers 9:11-14 in reference to the fact that none of the bones of a Passover lamb were to be broken).
- Psalm 22:18: They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots. (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:24)
Our text verse, Psalm 22:6, provides us with yet another direct tie-in to Christ’s death. Admittedly, the words of the verse are never quoted in the New Testament, but that doesn’t mean they can’t easily be applied to Jesus. For one thing, the lines “A reproach of men,” “despised by the people,” and “All those who see Me ridicule Me” naturally take our minds to Jesus during His arrest, trials, scourging, and crucifixion. For another thing, there is something really fascinating about that line “But I am a worm.”
The Old Testament Hebrew uses two different words for “worm.” One word is rimmah, which refers more or less to a maggot. The other word is tola, which refers to the so-called “crimson (scarlet) worm.” The word used in Psalm 22:6 is tola. Therefore, the teaching is that Jesus, in dying, figuratively became a type of crimson (scarlet) worm. To help us understand the imagery, let me offer the following extended quote from the website discovercreation.org:
The Crimson worm (coccus ilicis) is a very special worm that looks more like a grub than a worm. When it is time for the female or mother Crimson worm to have babies (which she does only one time in her life), she finds the trunk of a tree, a wooden fencepost or a stick. She then attaches her body to that wood and makes a hard crimson shell. She is so strongly and permanently stuck to the wood that the shell can never be removed without tearing her body completely apart and killing her.
The Crimson worm then lays her eggs under her body and the protective shell. When the baby worms (or larvae) hatch, they stay under the shell. Not only does the mother’s body give protection for her babies, but it also provides them with food – the babies feed on the LIVING body of the mother!
After just a few days, when the young worms grow to the point that they are able to take care of themselves, the mother dies. As the mother Crimson worm dies, she oozes a crimson or scarlet red dye which not only stains the wood she is attached to, but also her young children. They are colored scarlet red for the rest of their lives.
After three days, the dead mother Crimson worm’s body loses its crimson color and turns into a white wax which falls to the ground like snow. So what did Jesus mean by saying “I am a worm”? There are a lot of ideas what Jesus might have meant, but nobody really knows for sure. However, it is very interesting that, just like the Crimson worm, Jesus sacrificed or gave up his life on a tree so that his children might be washed with his crimson blood and their sins cleaned white as snow. He died for us, that we might live through him!
In closing, let me say that anything that has to do with the colors crimson or scarlet should immediately remind us of those famous words from Isaiah 1:18. In that verse, God speaks directly to the Jews of Judah and talks about their sins. That is the verse’s contextual application. By broader application, however, since our sins are the same brand as their sins, the words can be claimed by us as well.
God describes the people’s sins as being “like scarlet” and “red like crimson.” But then He offers hope that those sins can become as white “as wool.” How can that happen? According to the teaching of scripture, it happens when an individual places saving belief in Jesus, the ultimate “crimson worm,” who died on a Roman cross in order that we might have the opportunity to have our sins eternally cleansed and made as white as snow. In light of this glorious truth, I can’t think of a better way to end this post than simply to quote that Isaiah 1:18 verse. I trust that it will be as much an encouragement to you as it is to me
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.” (N.K.J.V.)