- MAUNDY THURSDAY
Thursday in Holy Week is most commonly referred to as Maundy Thursday. Why Maundy? Maundy is a shortened form of the Latin word mandatum, which means “command.” What command does Maundy Thursday refer to? In John 13:34, 35 we read “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” On that Thursday before Good Friday Jesus celebrated a Passover meal with his disciples. The meal started with Jesus washing his disciples feet and his radical new interpretation of the Passover meal. The meal was briefly interrupted with Judas’ departure and according to Matthew 26:30 and Mark 14:26 ended with a song. Have you ever wondered what that last song was? We do have a fairly good idea.
- READ MARK 14:12-42; PSALM 116, 118
Not only would celebrants at a Passover meal eat and drink and remember how the Lord delivered their ancestors out of Egypt – they would also sing. Psalm 113-118 is a collection of psalms known as the Egyptian Hallel. Before the meal started people would have sung the first two hymns and after the meal ended they would have sung the last four psalms. It would not be an understatement to say that these songs helped prepare Jesus to die. Here are a few truths from these psalms which would have encouraged Jesus as he sang. As I hope to prove singing can help us too.
a) Jesus praised the Lord– In Psalm 113:2 we read; Let the name of the LORD be praised, both now and forevermore. In Psalm 115:18 it is we who extol the LORD, both now and forevermore. Praise the LORD. Many people will only offer up praise to God either when things have gone well or the future prospects look rosy. Jesus knew that betrayal, rejection and death were in store for him. He still offered up praise to his Father. In Matt Redman’s song “Blessed be the name of the Lord” he gets the balance right. The first verse we can all sing heartily along with.
Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name.
How many of us have learned to sing the closing verse
Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name
Jesus teaches us how.
b) Jesus knew that his death was not the end – It would not be long before Jesus
experienced the full horror of Psalm 116:3 the cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Compare this verse to Mark 14:34 and notice the similarity of the language. Nevertheless by singing the Hallel Jesus affirmed his conviction that his death would not be the end. Jesus could sing Psalm 116:8, 9, 15 with renewed confidence; For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living . . . Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. As Tim Keller says; God does, of course, allow his people, to die, but they are so precious to him that he will someday pay the ultimate price on the cross, so that our physical death will be just an entrance into a greater life (2 Corinthians 5:1-10). Singing Psalm 116 at that first Lord’s Supper reminded Jesus not only that his death was precious to his Father, but that it would not have the last word.
c) Jesus Lifted the Cup of salvation – In Psalm 116:13, 14 we read; I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfil my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. In Mark 14:23 Jesus took a cup and after giving thanks reminded his disciples that the cup represented his blood. In Gethsemane a few hours later in Mark 14:36 Jesus would ask his Father to remove the cup from him. We know that the cup represents the cup of God’s wrath (Psalm 75:8; Jeremiah 25:15, 16; Isaiah 51:17). Singing this hymns helped Jesus drain the cup to its dregs. We along with the Psalmist can drink the cup of salvation, but only because Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath for us.
d) Jesus Embraced God’s Help – In Psalm 118:6-7 Jesus would have sung, the LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies. This would have reminded him that since God was with him he need not fear man (mocking priests, brutal soldiers or a cowardly governor). They can inflict pain but they cannot frustrate God’s plans.
e) Jesus affirmed his mission – We have still not answered the question – what
was the hymn Jesus sang with his disciples in Mark 14:26 before going out to the Mount of Olives. We know how Psalm 118 has repeatedly cropped up in this last week of Jesus’ life. When he triumphantly entered Jerusalem the cry of the crowds was Psalm 118:26; Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. When he explained to the Pharisees the parable of the tenants and the danger for them of not responding correctly to him Jesus quoted Psalm 118:22, 23 The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes. Tucked between these two references in vrs 24 is a very familiar verse; this is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Might this thought, so helpfully put to that old chorus have been the last refrain that Jesus sang before leaving with his disciples? Jesus was the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the earth (Revelations 13:8). According to Hebrews 10:5-7 this was the goal of Jesus’ entire mission.