Peter describes the resurrection of Jesus in verse 24: ‘God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.’ His words indicate that Jesus died a real death, but they also point out that God raised him from the death because he could not be held by it. What were the reasons that made it impossible for death to retain a hold on Jesus Christ?
As well as his own comments on the life and on the death of the Saviour, Peter uses verses from Psalm 16 to explain the resurrection of Jesus. He notes that it was obvious that David could not have been describing his own experience in Psalm 16 because his body was still in the grave. Therefore he was referring to Someone else who would die, but who would not be affected by death. This Someone would be the One who would fulfil the Davidic covenant, in which God promised David that he was the first of an endless royal line. David was not describing the rule of a king who would succumb to death’s power, but rather he was describing a King whom death would not be able to affect.
As has often been pointed out, in the Psalms we have more than a description of an event because in addition to such detail we are also given the feelings and aspirations of the person who is in view. Psalm 16 gives us insight into how Jesus regarded his resurrection. In verses 25 and 26, Peter describes the joy of Jesus as he anticipated his resurrection; in verse 27, Peter verbalises the confidence that Jesus had in the heavenly Father as he thought of his death; and in verse 28, Peter pictures the rejoicing Christ in his resurrected state.
Verse 25 describes the dedication of Jesus (‘I saw the Lord always before me’) and the divine help that he continually received (for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken). His whole life was dedicated to fulfilling the will of his Father. Throughout his life, he was always conscious of his Father’s protection. Is this not clearly seen in Matthew 26:53: ‘Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?’
The outcome of this intensity of devotion and sense of his Father’s presence was a sense of great joy in the experience of Jesus. Sometimes the question is asked, ‘Was Jesus a Man of Joy in addition to being the Man of Sorrows?’ The answer to such a question is ‘Yes’. This verse from Psalm 16 makes clear that he was full of joy.
The focus of the next three lines concerns the dead body of Jesus. His death would be like a rest, and we can see this was the case when we consider the agony and distress that he experienced on the cross. He knew that his human soul would not be lost in the realms of the dead, nor would his body see the smallest amount of corruption. Does this not explain the serenity with which he died when he said, ‘Lord, into your hands I commend by spirit.’ He died full of confidence in the faithfulness of the Father.
In verse 28, we have a change of perspective in the Speaker. Instead of looking forward to a future event, he is describing a present experience. In the eye of his faith, David describes the experience of the Messiah as he was raised from the dead. Jesus turned to his heavenly Father and declared, ‘You have made known to me the paths of life.’ Jesus strode out of the dark domain on a road prepared for him by his Father. He depicts the Father as his Guide on the road into the new world. This was the secret shared by the Father and the Son as he emerged out of the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.
The paths of life involved his ascension to the heavenly city, and no doubt we can imagine many of the paths that can be found within it. This path will eventually lead to the time when Jesus will return and raise his people from the dead; it will also lead to the Great White Throne, and then to the new heavens and new earth.
On each inch of the paths of life, Jesus is full of gladness caused by the Father’s presence. Stephen Charnock summarised the joy of Christ in these words. ‘His soul hath joys without mixture, pleasures without number, a fullness without want, a constancy without interruption, and a perpetuity without end.’ It is good for us to think about it.