Holy Week: Sing!
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 26:29 (Holman) But I tell you, from this moment I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it in a new way in My Father’s kingdom with you.
The thought in our text—that we will enjoy Heaven with Jesus someday—is highlighted in all five Bible accounts about the Lord’s Supper (Mark 14:25; Luke 22:16; John 14:3; 1 Cor. 11:26). Thus this thought should always be in our minds as we take the meal. We deem it primarily a remembrance. It is also a prediction.
The Passover meal looked back to deliverance from Egypt, and forward to settling in the Holy Land. The Lord’s Supper looks back to the crucifixion, and forward to the Second Coming. Jesus never lost sight of the fact He was and would be the winner. To Jesus, the cross was not defeat, but the steppingstone to victory.
On Good Friday Jesus drank the bitter cup alone, but forever He will drink the promised victory cup with us. He did not come to establish an earthly political kingdom. He came to do something much better. He established a spiritual kingdom that will last forever; and He is delighted to share it with us.
The Lord’s Supper covers time. In the present, it enhances our fellowship with Jesus. It points us to the past, to the one sufficient payment for the sins of the world. It points us to the future, to the unending satisfaction of every desire.
In a dark hour, Jesus steadied Himself with thoughts of a well-lit future. Join Him in anticipating the celebration. “Deep down in our hearts some of us have gashes that always bleed” (Maclaren). For believers, someday the hurt will stop.
At times our faith falters, and we sin. A blessed day is coming when we will never hurt Jesus again. Let thoughts of a blessed future strengthen us as they did C. S. Lewis, who wrote, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
Matt. 26:30 After singing Psalms, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
When Jesus’ ultimate war against evil forces was to begin, He chose to go to His place of prayer, where He had nightly gone in this holy week (LK 21:37). Our prayer closet is always the best place to fight evil. Before temptation begins, or at its first impulse, find your private prayer chamber and go to war with the evil one.
Jesus did not stay in the city—this could have incited a riot. He did not stay in the upper room—this could have endangered the homeowner. He left the house, but before leaving, Jesus sang; He worshiped. This is a remarkable statement about our Savior; He sang in the shadow of death. Our Master went to the cross singing. We know what He sang. In Jesus’ day, the Jews sang Psalms 113-118 at the Passover meal. These songs of victory and joy were known as the Hallel (Praise) Psalms. They begin with the word “Hallelujah”, a term we often use without fully realizing its significance. Hallel meant praise; hallelu was plural, meaning praise ye; hallelujah added the abbreviated name of the recipient of praise, YHWH.
At least five times this dreadful evening Jesus sang the word, “Hallelujah” (113:1,9; 115:8; 116:19; 117:2). Our Master taught us; at all times, sing hallelujah. Are we afraid we may be about to experience a terrible trial we may not be able to sing after? I hope not, but if so, sing before it. Get your praises in before affliction stifles the tune. Fill heaven with your praises while you can (Spurgeon).
At all times, sing hallelujah. Don’t let troubles interrupt our praise. Songs of praise are always appropriate. Don’t let difficulties squelch them. Sing even in the sad times. Job lost his farming industry, his cattle, and his children, yet said, “The Lord gives; and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21b).
At all times, sing hallelujah. The last words Jesus sang this night were, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever” (118:29). Paul later commanded us, “In everything give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:18). Don’t miss the promise nestled in the command–whatever our difficulty, look around; we will always be able to find something to thank God for, however dark the night becomes. Remember God’s kindnesses when we face troubles and trials.
At all times, sing hallelujah. Yes, even in the face of death. Death is terrifying, but fear and cowardice will not make it less so. Sing praises instead.
Paul and Silas sang in prison. Margaret Wilson, martyred in the days of the Covenanters, sang while bound to a stake, waiting for the tide to rise enough to drown her. John Hus, when the flames were lit beneath him, began to sing; as they enveloped him, he continued singing till within seconds of His death. A beautiful trait of our faith is; it has given millions the ability to sing in the face of death.
In Pilgrim’s Progress, when Christian came to the river of death, he began to sink and cried out. His friend Hopeful called back, “Be of good cheer, my brother, I feel the bottom, and it is good.” Christian, having little faith, continued sinking.
Hopeful grabbed him and struggled to keep his head above water. Dragging Christian along, Hopeful said, “I see the gate, and men standing by to receive us.” Finally, Christian’s faith found solid ground to stand on. He and Hopeful crossed to the other side of the river, and made their way to the gate of the celestial city.
David wrote, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4a). Shadows never hurt us. A gun’s shadow never killed anyone; a lion’s shadow never tore anyone. Even so death does not harm believers. Shadows tell us a light is somewhere casting the shadow. Believers, at death, step through the darkness, into light on the other side.
Matt. 26:31a Then Jesus said to them, “Tonight all of you will run away because of Me, . . .”
This night of betrayal was hard not only for Jesus, but for the disciples also. They tripped over Jesus—ashamed of Him, and afraid of what might happen to them. We all see ourselves here. These men were believers (John 17:11) who loved Jesus. They had been loyal to Him through thick and thin. There will be only one traitor tonight, but they will all be cowards. A storm can waylay us quickly.
Ashamed and afraid, because of Jesus–this describes all of us way too often, doesn’t it? Ashamed–we have opportunity to speak for Him, but don’t. Afraid–what will people think of me? What could this end up costing me?
Believer, beware thyself. We may not be as spiritually strong as we think. We often fail to measure accurately the extent of spiritual weakness in us. Nothing more proves our need for a prayer closet than not feeling a need for a prayer closet.
The farther we go on our spiritual pilgrimage through life, the more we should be realizing we are totally weak in and of ourselves. We desperately need to be poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3). Our trust must be in Him, not us.
Our text can comfort us. It should encourage us to know Christianity is not for the proud and strong, but for weak people like us.