Cross Words: The hymn Jesus sang with His disciples


By Isaiah Pauley



I’m excited to share with you a beautiful connection between Psalm 118 and Jesus Christ.

Jesus and His disciples were eating a Passover meal together. We call it the Last Supper. After partaking of bread and wine, the Bible briefly mentions the hymn Jesus sang with His disciples.

“And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Mark 14:26 ESV).

What were they singing on such an occasion? Well, that’s where Psalm 118 comes into play.

My commentary explains, “The following psalms, 113-118, are identified by ancient Jewish tradition as a sequence for us in religious festivals, particularly at the Passover meal. This sequence is often referred to as the Egyptian Hallel, or ‘Egyptian Praise.’ To this day, most Passover liturgies call for the reading or singing of Psalms 113-114 before the meal and 115-118 afterward.”

In other words, after eating the Passover meal in Mark 14, it’s likely that Psalm 118 had a place in the hymn Jesus sang with His disciples. And when I read Psalm 118, this makes perfect sense.

Psalm 118 is a congregational hymn. It’s liturgical in nature and made for more than one voice. It begins, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! Let Israel say, ‘His steadfast love endures forever.’ Let the house of Aaron [the priests] say, ‘His steadfast love endures forever.’ Let those who fear the LORD say, ‘His steadfast love endures forever’” (v. 1-4 ESV).

After an introduction of praise, the author describes his distress (v. 5), acknowledges that God is on his side (v. 6-7), recognizes the LORD as his refuge (v. 8-9), and worships God for helping him succeed despite the enemies that had surrounded him (v. 10-13).

Then, he says, “The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous: ‘The right hand of the LORD does valiantly, the right hand of the LORD exalts, the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!’” (v. 14-16 ESV).

The songwriter continues by speaking life over death, even though God’s discipline had come upon him (v. 17-18). Then, he asks the LORD to open the gates of righteousness—the gate of the LORD. And only those who are righteous may enter (v. 19-20).

Now, pay attention to what the psalmist says next: “I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! …” (v. 21- 26 ESV).

These verses are full of depth, imagery, and power. And Jesus Christ is definitely present. So are we. Let me show you.

Remember, Psalm 118 was sung during Passover. Scholars believe that Jesus and His disciples followed this tradition by singing it at the conclusion of their Passover meal in Mark 14. The Passover festival can be traced back to Exodus 12 when God had the Israelites mark their doorposts with lamb blood in order to escape the LORD’s wrath on Pharaoh.

You see, Jesus has become our Passover lamb. By His shed blood on the cross, God “passes over” our sin and offers us mercy and grace. Psalm 118 is the story of God’s salvation through the perfect Passover lamb—Jesus Christ.

Jesus sang about Himself and His people as He joined with His disciples in song after the Passover meal. You see, He experienced distress in Gethsemane shortly after singing (Mark 14:34). But He acknowledged the Father on His side and took refuge in Him (v. 36). And despite the enemies who surrounded Him and killed Him on a cross, Jesus claimed victory over death and made a way for God’s people to enter the “gates of righteousness”—Christ Himself.

After all, Jesus claims, “‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No ones comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6 ESV). He is our Passover lamb. He is the rejected stone that is now our cornerstone (Psalm 118:22; Acts 4:11). And copying the words of the psalmist in Psalm 118, the Israelites sing, “‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Mark 11:9 ESV) as Jesus enters Jerusalem shortly before Passover.

Who knew that a psalm written hundreds upon hundreds of years before the coming of Christ would include such detail and power? Who knew that Jesus would later sing that hymn about Himself and our redemption?

The hymn Jesus sang with His disciples is the hymn we sing today. One of praise and redemption. It’s a song of life defeating death. All because of Jesus, the Lamb of God.

“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 118:29 ESV).

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By Isaiah Pauley

Isaiah Pauley is passionate about sharing Jesus in a simple way. Follow the journey of this young pastor at www.isaiahpauley.com, on Facebook at Isaiah Pauley Page, or on Instagram @isaiahpauley.

Isaiah Pauley is passionate about sharing Jesus in a simple way. Follow the journey of this young pastor at www.isaiahpauley.com, on Facebook at Isaiah Pauley Page, or on Instagram @isaiahpauley.