Psalms as Seasons

Author: John D. Barry

I had been in London for one week. I was 17, from the States, and was there to study art and British novels for three months. I planned the entire trip two weeks before I left. I obtained my passport only the afternoon before my flight left the next morning. This was a spontaneous move into a new season of life, akin to when spring arrives after a long, arctic winter.

The afternoon air was brisk, as was my pace. I entered St. Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square. The church was eerie but tranquil. A 30-year-old man said, “Tickets?” I replied, “What for?” In a cockney English accent, he responded, “The Royal Academy Orchestra is playing Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ tomorrow night at 7:00 PM.” I asked, “How much?” “Five Quid,” he said. I gave him five British Pounds.

The next evening, I put on my tie, got on London’s public subway, which they call the Tube, and then ascended three flights of stairs out from the underground. I walked across Trafalgar Square as leaves crackled under my feet, signaling that fall had arrived. As I entered the church, I knew a new season had begun for me as well. The last three months of life had been painful, but this time in London would change me. It would bring joy.

Sitting in the church, Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” reminded me of Jesus’ life. Like Vivaldi’s “Spring,” Jesus’ life was hopeful in the beginning. He proclaimed that the Psalms spoke of Him, all the while indicating that people would be hesitant to accept Him and His message. In Matt 21:39, Jesus quotes a psalm to the chief priest and the elders, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?’ ” (ESV). By quoting Psa 118:22–23, Jesus both proclaims His own vocation as the cornerstone of God’s work and foretells the winter season when He will be rejected (Acts 4:11; 1 Pet 2:7).

On the cross, Jesus again evokes images from the Psalms, when He cries out “ ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ ” (Mark 15:34), a line directly from Psa 22:1. In his last breath, he then utters, “It is finished” (John 19:30), which may be an allusion to the final line of Psa 22:31, “He has done it.” In quoting the first and last line, He signals that the entire psalm is about Him. The lamenter in the psalm unjustly suffered, as did Jesus. In just a few words, Jesus proclaims that He is the ultimate lamenter. Jesus is sinless, and yet He receives a punishment He doesn’t deserve, for us (Rom 5:8).

And as the winter season of Jesus’ life ends, spring begins. Jesus rises again (Matt 28:1–10). And like the last notes in Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” allude to the first notes, reflecting upon the last spring and hinting at the next, Jesus reflects upon His life before instructing His disciples how tto live the rest of theirs. Jesus tells His disciples “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44 ESV; italics added). Then the risen Son of God opens their minds to understand the Scriptures before instructing them what to do for the next week or so, and the rest of their lives (Luke 24:45–47).

The season changed. Jesus ascended to the heavens (Luke 24:51). A new spring had arrived, but it wasn’t like the last one, when He first came on the scene. Now the disciples had to act without their teacher there in person; they were to act by the power “from on high” (Luke 24:49 ESV). They were charged to carry out God’s mission (Acts 2). But they had a model, Jesus, who modeled His life around the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms. And they had a hymnbook, known as the Psalms, which proclaimed that God was in all seasons: lament, thanksgiving and praise.

Bible Study Magazine delivers tools and methods for Bible study, as well as insights from respected Bible teachers, professors, historians, and archaeologists. Take over 30% off the cover price—subscribe now!

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 6