Headed to Gethsemane: The song they sang will surprise you

Secrets Passion logo

Visit the land of the Bible and you’ll find plenty of “secrets” hidden in plain sight. As we approach this year’s celebration of the Resurrection, you can find a daily insight to the “secrets” waiting to be discovered from the Week of Passion at ExperienceIsraelNow.com.

For many church attenders, one of the better known practices of Passover is one they had no idea was a part of Passover.

As every preacher has noted, Jesus and his disciples sang a song as they left the “Last Supper” and headed for Gethsemane.

Here’s the scripture reference:

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:30)

At first glance, this must warm the heart of any older church member who longs for the days when his church sang from a hymn book. Is there any more comforting thought than the image of Jesus holding a beloved and well-worn Baptist Hymnal while leading his disciples in a great gospel tune?

So far, archeologists haven’t found a single hymnal, so scratch that fantasy.

On the other hand, we do know the songs they sang that night.

In your Bible, you’ll find them listed as Psalm 113-118. They are called the “Hallel” psalms and are noted for their spirit of joy and thanksgiving.

If we were in an Orthodox setting, you’d hear all six psalms sung on many of the Jewish holidays. The first of those holy days is Passover.

The Passover meal for Jesus and his men would have lasted for hours, as it still does today. It’s probable that Jesus and the disciples were in their private room until midnight. At that point, they sang the last of the Hallel psalms to wrap up a memorable meal and then headed to their camping site at the foot of the Mount of Olives. There was an oil press there (thus, “Geth-semane”) and it provided a quiet place for Jesus to pray. As you know, Judas knew of the site, too.

Memorable night? You could say that! Jesus had washed the feet of his disciples, shocking them into silence. Once they were listening, he had explained again that he was about to die for them. They all took part in the most symbolic meal in Jewish life and Jesus reinterpreted it as a meal that symbolized his own life! Somewhere in the mix Judas slipped into the darkness, perhaps even as the other disciples were protesting the idea that any of them would ever betray Jesus.

They would all betray him within a matter of hours.

Jesus was arrested in the garden, beaten savagely, illegally tried, stripped of his skin via a “scourging” and crucified.

The turn of events was so shocking, the disciples who survived that night would never get over it. The scene was so gruesome, it appeared that demonic forces had carried the day. And yet … they had just pronounced that God was in complete control as they sang the last psalm of the Hallel collection.

And you know the words, more than likely.

The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the chief 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. (Psalm 118:22-24)

This is the day that the Lord has made … let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Wasn’t that the happy-clappy song from church camp?

Yes, that’s the one. Only Jesus didn’t sing it with that particular rhythm and chord chart, nor were the words projected on a big screen in the Upper Room.

But they sang it, nonetheless.

And in all that would seem to go wrong, they literally proclaimed that God had planned it all.

This is the day … this day.

There was never another day in history like it. There had never been one like it before. It was The Day. It was, as the song had said, “of the Lord’s doing.”

On that day, Jesus did what he did for us.

He even sang about the day at hand as if it was going to be a great day, and not a horrible one. He sang as if he knew we, too, would one day consider it a marvelous day. A Good-Friday day.

And so it is. Therefore rejoice … and be glad in it.