Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Christ, the Cross, and the Crimson Worm

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In the midst of the darkness, Jesus cried from the cross and then gave up His spirit. With these words, He was fulfilling the prophecy of Psalm 22, which was written a thousand years before the crucifixion.

The psalm refers to men who mocked and exclaimed that He should save Himself. It tells of His bones being out of joint, His hands and feet being pierced, and His tongue cleaving to the roof of His mouth from thirst. The psalm also tells about the soldiers who cast lots for His garments.

Jesus fulfilled all of this. But in verse 6 of this psalm, He cries out, “But I am a worm, and not a man.” Why did He call Himself a worm? How odd in the midst of this prophecy to say such a thing. Was it because a worm is a lowly creature that could only wiggle and crawl around. Was it to show His total humiliation?

That is probably so, but it is much more. The Hebrew word for this worm is tola, as opposed to rimmah, the word for maggot that is used in most other places in the Bible. A tola worm is the crimson or scarlet worm that lives in the Middle East.

The life cycle of the tola worm sheds even deeper meaning on this psalm. When the female is ready to give birth, she attaches herself to a specific tree so permanently that she can never leave, and she dies as she gives birth. Jesus told His disciples that no one could take His life from Him, but He would lay it down willingly (John 10:18).

This worm secretes a red dye as she deposits her eggs directly beneath her body. The dye covers her, the tree, and the eggs permanently. The young are stained for life. For three days, if the worm and eggs are scraped from the tree, the dye can be harvested and used to color fabrics. On the fourth day, however, the shell of the female has dried and turned white as snow. It falls to the ground as a wax, which can be harvested as a shellac or preservative.

I cannot help but equate this psalm to the torture of Christ on the cross, the mocking of the soldiers, and the three days that Jesus was in the tomb – only to rise as described in Matthew 27. These parallels are striking, but there are more not mentioned here. The study of God’s Word and His plan of salvation is an amazing one, but may we remember that He tells us:

“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” – Isaiah 1:18

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At 11:29 AM, Blogger Leza said...

How interesting--I've never heard about this worm, before, and, wow, how it's so fitting! Lots of things in scripture we're understood and pertinent to the time and culture, some of it in our modern era we don't fully understand or appreciate. Thanks so much for shedding light on why He called Himself a worm. I had always wondered that myself! :-)


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