Christ and His apostles are present at the Last Supper where He institutes the sacrament and tells them it is in representation of His infinite sacrifice that He will soon perform.
It is the first day of Passover and both Matthew and Mark recount what happens next:
“And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.”
As a singer myself, I always wondered what they sang. I didn’t know too much about Jewish customs and practices so I decided to delve into it.
It was customary at the time in Jewish tradition, on the Thursday before Passover, for the Jewish people to sing “Hallel” which consisted of what we know today as Psalms 113-118. Many Jewish congregations still participate in that ancient and sacred tradition today.
It is a lengthy passage, but I would like to focus on Psalm 118 for a moment.
5) I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place.
6) The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?
7) The Lord taketh my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me.
8) It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.
Let’s put that in perspective for a moment-
It is prophetic in nature at how accurate these Psalms of David depict the miraculous act that Jesus will perform as he prepares to take on the sins and heartache and distress of the world, where He Himself will call out in grief and pain-
“Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.”
He called upon His Father in heaven in distress, not knowing how to finish this act of endless love, and it baffles all understanding that He was able to sing praises about it the evening prior. He also, by reaching out to His Father in pain, echoed the words of David by putting His trust in God. The Psalm continues:
14 The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.
15 The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly.
16 The right hand of the Lord is exalted: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly.
17 I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.
18 The Lord hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord:
20 This gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter.
21 I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.
22 The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.
24 This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.
26 Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord: we have blessed you out of the house of the Lord.
27 God is the Lord, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.
28 Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee.
29 O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
I cannot fathom how those men must have felt as they sang these words with Christ, knowing that it foreshadowed the events taking place the next day. Emotions must have been riding high and it would have felt like a somber occasion. They were in the attitude of praising God and putting their trust in Him. What a miracle that is.
Some people, me included, mistakenly thought that they only sang a short hymn and were finished. The Hallel psalms, when fully sung, lasts at least an hour.
An hour of singing specifically dedicated to the Son of God. He may not have fully known the weight of burden He was about to carry, but the thing that helped not only Him, but His apostles, was music.
There have been many instances in my life where I didn’t know what to do, or where to turn and music got me out of the rut. One in particular comes to mind-
I was struggling with health issues, recovering from 3 major back surgeries, and trying to do school and work was tricky.
Our choir was singing “My flight for heaven” during one of our concerts. Here are the words:
“Charm me asleep, and melt me so
With thy delicious numbers,
That, being ravish’d, hence I go
Away in easy slumbers.
Ease my sick head,
And make my bed,
Thou power that canst sever
From me this ill,
And quickly still,
Though thou not kill
Fall on me like the silent dew,
Or like those maiden showers
Which, by the peep of day, do strew
A baptism o’er the flowers.
Melt, melt my pains
With thy soft strains;
That, having ease me given,
With full delight
I leave this light,
And take my flight
I felt such a peace and calm because I knew the Savior was watching over me. He “eased my sick head” and melted my pains” time and time again.
I am in awe of His endless mercy and am so grateful that He, along with His apostles used music as a way to help make their burdens light.