Almighty God, grant that in the midst of our failures and weaknesses we may be restored through the passion and intercession of Your only-begotten Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. AMEN
Read St. Matthew 26-27
One thing that has always struck me about the Passion accounts in each of the Gospels, is that each contains this somewhat quirky verse as we see in St. Matthew 26:30 ‘And when they had sung a hymn they went out to the Mount of Olives.’
When they had sung a hymn?
Based on the institution of the Lord’s Supper and the announcement by Jesus that someone would betray Him that occur before that verse, and the betrayal, arrest, trial and crucifixion that follow it, to tell us that they sang a hymn is like telling us that Peter washed and John dried the dishes.
What we do know about the Jewish tradition is that what they sang was most likely one of the traditional hymns of praise found in Psalm 113-118, which were sung before and after the Passover.
Two things strike me about that note that they sang a hymn. First and foremost is that such a mundane detail would be included. But it is important to remember that Jesus lives in the mundane. Jesus walked with common people; not the rich and famous, not the educated, not the powerful; but the otherwise mundane people.
And it is in His walk with these mundane people that He is not about to cut short the Passover meal just because it is His night of betrayal. Yes, Jesus is going to the cross, yes Jesus is going to die; but that can wait; because right now, there is a hymn that needs to be sung. Jesus is not going to stop and leave the worship service just because there is something else going on. Jesus dignifies the mundane with His presence.
The other thing that strikes me about this is that Jesus not only sang a mundane hymn, but that the hymn was a hymn of praise to God. This is not some Lenten hymn that no one likes because it is to sad, this is a joyful hymn. The Passover is celebrating the people’s departure from Egypt, and that requires a joyful response.
The last hymn that Jesus sings as a free man is a hymn of praise, a hymn of celebration. Can you imagine that on the walk out to the garden, where Jesus will be arrested in a matter of moments, one of the disciples is possibly still even humming the hymn to himself? Jesus is so stressed out that He is sweating drops of blood, and the disciples are singing a happy song to themselves.
As we mark this Monday of Holy Week, we do so on the curious note that before anything else happens, Jesus is singing a hymn. Jesus has come to do the extraordinary, and yet before He can do that, He must finish celebrating the Passover. Holy Week may look rather mundane to us year after year, but if Jesus is going to wait to sing a hymn, then perhaps we can wait and watch one more time as He does so.