A Maundy Thursday Tradition

“And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

Matthew 26:30

I have always found this part of the Easter story fascinating. The Passover meal was completed, and Jesus and the disciples enjoyed a night of fellowship that guided their minds back to their ancestors and their hearts towards the living God that saved them. This was a habitual yearly reminder that further embedded the Jewish story deep within their bones. To understand their plight, their history and salvation was to comprehend their identity. A few years back after reading this part of the story I asked myself about the songs they sang. From what I can tell there is a strong tradition of the Jewish people singing Psalm 113-118 after the Passover meal. Some accounts even state that the head of the table would sing a line of the psalm and then the people around the table would finish it by saying, “Hallelujah!”. While we are not certain what exact songs were sung, or even how they performed it that night, it is not a theological stretch to look at these Psalms, called the Hallel, and reflect on the night before our savior’s crucifixion. You will be amazed at what the Psalms are describing! Take your time and reflect that these might have been the songs that the Holy Spirit inspired to prepare the hearts of the Jewish people for Jesus. These were the songs written and inspired not only for God’s people but for his only son who was freely giving his life for us. These songs prepared Jesus for the steps to the cross. Singing these lines while walking to the garden…one of his own already out conspiring…a religious leadership ready to quell a potential threat… Singing and thinking these words…

Psalm 118

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

Let Israel say:
    “His love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say:
    “His love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say:
    “His love endures forever.”

When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;
    he brought me into a spacious place.
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?
The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
    I look in triumph on my enemies.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in humans.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in princes.
10 All the nations surrounded me,
    but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
11 They surrounded me on every side,
    but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
12 They swarmed around me like bees,
    but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
13 I was pushed back and about to fall,
    but the Lord helped me.
14 The Lord is my strength and my defense[a];
    he has become my salvation.

15 Shouts of joy and victory
    resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!
16     The Lord’s right hand is lifted high;
    the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!”
17 I will not die but live,
    and will proclaim what the Lord has done.
18 The Lord has chastened me severely,
    but he has not given me over to death.
19 Open for me the gates of the righteous;
    I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord
    through which the righteous may enter.
21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
    you have become my salvation.

22 The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
23 the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 The Lord has done it this very day;
    let us rejoice today and be glad.

25 Lord, save us!
    Lord, grant us success!

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
    From the house of the Lord we bless you.[b]
27 The Lord is God,
    and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
    up[c] to the horns of the altar.

28 You are my God, and I will praise you;
    you are my God, and I will exalt you.

29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

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