The Crucifixion is a mysterious intermingling of the eternal and temporal, of the spiritual and physical, of unbearable horror and indescribable wonder. In the midst of it, center stage, dies the most wonderful, holy, perfect Man who ever lived, betrayed by friend and foe alike, born for this moment (Jn 12:27) … to be forsaken by God. (Mt 27:46)
As Christ hangs upon the nails, writhing between Heaven and Earth, being tortured by His enemies, He’s praying, thinking back upon all the times God has intervened and mercifully rescued His people. (Ps 22:4) They weren’t confounded; they were delivered (5), but He’s suffering alone.
Christ then admits something profound: “I am a worm, and no man.” (6) It is as if He’s saying He’s less than a man, unworthy of deliverance, irredeemable. Perhaps in becoming our sin for us (2Co 5:21), He occupied, for one brief hour, some unthinkable place beneath humanity, reserved for the unutterably wicked.
This worm that Christ identifies with is peculiar and unique; the word refers to actual worms (Ex 16:20, (De 28:39), and also to the colors scarlet (Ex 39:8, Le 14:49) and crimson (Is 1:18). So the specific worm with which Christ is identifying is the crimson worm, from which crimson and scarlet dyes were made for use in the temple and priestly garments.
The Crimson worm [coccus ilicis] female reproduces only once, by attaching her body firmly to a piece of wood and forming a hard crimson shell, which is anchored so well it can’t be moved without killing her. She then lays eggs under her body inside the shell. When the eggs hatch, the young feed on the living mother’s body for a few days until she dies. As she dies, she dispenses a crimson / scarlet red dye onto the young and the wood, staining the young worms for life. Three days later, the dead mother’s body transforms into white wax and falls away.
There are so many parallels here with Christ’s work that it’s uncanny; it is no coincidence that He identifies with this unique, lowly creature during His most intense suffering. For those whom He is bringing eternal life, He gives Himself in His death as our food (Jn 6:55), and cleanses us with His blood. (1Pe 1:2)
God is so creative in His work, so unexpected in how He reveals Himself. The riches of Christ are unsearchable (Ep 3:8), and the depth of His wisdom and ways are so beyond us. (Ro 11:33) The heavens reveal His glory (Ps 19:1), and worms evidently do as well.