The Scarlet Worm 

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

The more I study the Scriptures, the more I am amazed at the various ways they point to Jesus Christ.

It is, after all, a fact that the Prophets bear witness to Jesus Christ (Acts 10:43).

Yet the incredible ways in which this testimony is manifested are absolutely incredible.

Consider with me one such example.   

The 22nd Psalm is one of the most remarkable passages in all of Holy Writ, containing several prophecies about Jesus Christ. Written nearly a thousand years before Jesus was even born, the Psalmist wrote many detailed descriptions of the Messiah centuries before He was even born, focusing especially on His suffering that He would endure at Calvary.  

That this chapter was considered Messianic before the time of Christ is evident from the writings of Hebrew scholars who wrote their commentaries on the Old Testament long centuries prior to the advent of the Christian age.

Carefully examining these Hebrew commentaries, one scholar has pointed out some of the more interesting comparisons of Psalm 22 with Messianic expectations:

“On Ps. xxii. 7 [All who see me sneer at me; They separate with the lip, they wag the head, [saying]] (v 8 in the Hebrew) a remarkable comment appears in Yalkut on Is. lx., applying this passage to the Messiah (the second, or son of Ephraim), and using almost the same words in which the Evangelists describe the mocking behaviour of the Jews at the Cross. Ps. xxii. 15 [My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And my tongue cleaves to my jaws; And You lay me in the dust of death] (v 16 in the Hebrew). There is a similarly remarkable application to the Messiah of this verse in Yalkut.” (Alfred Edersheim, Messianic Passages in the Old Testament as Cited in Rabbinic Literature, 539-548 (Kindle Edition); Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute

In discussing why this great Psalm was considered Messianic by the ancient Rabbis, Michael Brown has pointed out:

“In fact, Rashi explains verse 26[27] with reference to “the time of our redemption in the days of our Messiah,” then interprets verses 27-29[28-30] with reference to the Gentile nations turning to the Lord, the end of the age, and the final judgment. These certainly are future events, also underscoring the worldwide redemptive implications of this psalm.233…Little wonder, then, that this was understood to be a Messianic psalm by the writers of the New Testament. What other individual’s deliverance from extreme suffering and death was worthy of being recounted again and again in the assembly of Israel? What other individual’s deliverance from extreme suffering and death was worthy of worldwide attention to the point that the nations actually turned to the God of Israel because of it? Only the death and resurrection of the Messiah, the perfectly righteous one, the ultimate fulfillment of Psalm 22.237.” (Michael Brown, iAnswering Jewish Objections To Jesus: Volume Three-Messianic Prophecy Objections, 118-121 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)

With the Messianic overtones of this passage in mind, look carefully with me at verse 6.

Psalm 22:6-But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people.

Look with me at the word “worm.” The Hebrew word used here is tolath.

The word is often translated as “scarlet” (cf. Isaiah 1:18).

The tolath was a red worm. People from the ancient world sought after this little insect for the crimson dye it produced, in order to enrich their merchandise.

However, what is truly amazing is the life-cycle of this little creature.

It is through investigating said cycle that we see how this prophecy paints a truly astonishing portrayal of the Messiah that was to come:

“These statements, however, hardly explain fully the identification of himself as a worm. The key seems to lie in the recognition that this was a specific type of worm the scarlet worm . As a matter of fact, the Hebrew word translated “worm” in this passage ( tolath ) is also frequently translated “scarlet” (e.g., Exod. 25:4) or “crimson” (Isa. 1:18). The reason for this odd equivalence is because the scarlet worm was the source of a fluid from which the people of ancient times made their scarlet dyes. Christ’s portrayal of himself as stained crimson on the cross thus immediately speaks to us in the words of Colossians 1:20. “Having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself.” But no doubt the deeper significance of His identification of himself as the Scarlet Worm lies in the remarkable life- death cycle of this unique animal. For when the mother worm of this species is ready to give birth to her baby worms, she will implant her body in a tree somewhere, or a post or a stick of wood, so firmly that she can never leave again. Then, when the young are brought forth, the mother’s body provides protection and sustenance for her young until they reach the stage where they can leave home and fend for themselves. Then the mother dies. And as she dies, the scarlet fluid in her body emerges to stain her body and the bodies of her progeny and the wood of the tree where they were given life by their dying mother. What a picture of the blood- stained cross, and how “it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Heb. 2:10). “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world” (John 16:21).” (Henry Morris & Henry Morris III, Treasures In The Psalms, 723-731 (Kindle Edition); Greeen Forest, AR; Master Books)

Incredible! This beautiful little creature in remarkable ways testifies to the Messiah Who went to the Cross of Calvary to bring forth His people by His blood.

Yet even this is not all.

Notice another incredible fact about this magnificent tolath:

“When her body is crushed, it produces medicine….After three days she bends into the shape of a heart and turns white. Then she turns white and becomes a waxy substance that can be scraped off the tree and used to seal things.” (Lori Pagel, The Crimson Worm Tells The Gospel Story, 71-80 (Kindle Edition); Bloomington, Indiana; WestBow Press)

On the third day, the body of this creature turns white and may used as medicine.

Through its’ death, life is produced;

through its’ blood, sustenance is provided;

and through its’ remains on the third day, healing is procured.

In the same ways, the death of Jesus on the Cross has provided forgiveness for all who will turn to Him (Colossians 1:19-21);

through His blood shed at Calvary, we are granted continual cleansing from sin if we will walk in the light (1 John 1:7);

and through His Resurrection on the third day, we are granted spiritual healing when we are united together with Him in baptism (Romans 6:3-4) as believers (John 11:25-26) who repent of sin (Acts 17:30-31) as we look forward to His Return (1 John 3:1-3).

My friends, if you are not a Christian, i encourage you to become one today.

As a believer, repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).

Be thus added by God Himself to His church (Acts 2:47).

If you are a Christian who has left the Lord, please return to Him today by repenting of sin and confessing it to Him (1 John 1:9).

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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