They Sang the Hymn
Matt. 26:30 ¶ When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
The disciples were together celebrating the passover. It was on that night that Jesus passed to them the bread and the cup and they celebrated the “Last Supper,” an event which would be repeated to this day. Throughout the meal there would have been places where they traditionally sang Psalms. The Psalms helped to solidify the story of their faith and this was a part of the tradition. Jesus continued with this tradition because we see here that they concluded their time together with singing the hymn.
What was it that they sang? More than likely they concluded by singing Psalms 115-118. As we take the time to read these three Psalms we discover prophetic words regarding Christ. However, the disciples probably didn’t notice, for they had no idea what was about to happen. However, for Jesus, this would have been a sobering moment as he knew that his actions would be the fulfillment of the hopes and dreams of those faithful followers of God who had gone before. The enduring love of God would be revealed through the death of the Messiah.
These last hymns were joyous ones and ones of thanksgiving to a God who had delivered his people. They sang the hymn and praised the Father and with joy in their hearts and bellies full of food heading out with Jesus to the Mount of Olives where he normally went to pray. It’s not that hard to imagine why the disciples fell asleep. Jesus was agonizing over the days ahead. The disciples were blissfully ignorant and had just enjoyed a delightful celebration with Jesus, unaware of the hints he was giving them as to what would lie ahead. I can just imagine them dropping off to sleep while the hymn was still being sung in their heads.
What were the disciples singing that night? We don’t know the tune, but here is a portion of that hymn, a song called “Forever” sung by Michael W. Smith.
Over and over again we hear the line, “His love endures forever.” It was on that night that Jesus would be arrested and we would see the enduring love of God pouring out his saving grace to all of humanity in a way that had never been imagined.
Let’s return a moment to the hymn. Why did they sing a hymn? Because it was their tradition. Jesus did not destroy their traditions, just as he did not destroy the Law. Jesus said he didn’t come to destroy the Law, but instead, he came to fulfill the Law. Could it be that he has also come to fulfill our traditions — bring them to life?
We are living in a time where we struggle with traditions, even traditions in worship, such as the songs that we sing. Jesus was ushering in something completely and totally new and this would change the way in which people worshipped God. At the same time, he was anchoring the new to the old. The old tradition of celebrating the Passover became the Lord’s Supper. At the same time some of the ancient hymns became the Psalms of the early church and are even sung to this day.
There is something here that we can learn about worship. The traditions of the past are not all bad, but they may need to be celebrated or fulfilled in the new. Jesus did not keep all the ancient traditions the way they were, but he brought new life to them. He made them relevant to his contemporary context. This is our challenge, to make the traditions relevant to the context. At the same time the words of the hymn continue to speak to us today and teach us about God. There are great old hymns which provide us with lessons that will be lost if simply toss them aside. If Jesus had wanted, he could have skipped the hymn at the end, but he didn’t.
Thoughtfulness and intentionality in worship were important to the Messiah and they should be to us as well. Maybe we need to remember to sing the hymn.
Lord, thank you for the variety of ways in which you help us to learn about you. Amen.