”When they had sung a hymn” (Matthew 26:30)
‘No man ever spoke like this Man,’ and possibly the same might be true of Christ’s singing, ‘never man sang like this man.’ Did angels listen then as did the prisoners to the singing of Paul and Silas at Philippi?
Christ sang, and the disciples joined. They were, most of them, fishermen, and fishermen are remarkable for their hearty singing. O to have heard the discourses! O to have heard that prayer (John 17)! And O to have heard that hymn! The singing would be heard outside, and perhaps the young man (Mark 14:51) who followed them to the Garden of Gethsemane may have crept near to listen. Would not you?
Christ’s singing showed the reality of His humanity. Aristotle said of his god Jupiter, that no one ever heard of his singing; it would be beneath him. But Jesus sang, and showed He was truly one of us.
We like a hymn — especially in affliction (Acts 16:25; Ps. 42:8; Job 35:10). Martyrs have sung going to the stake, and there is a tradition that the three youths in the fiery furnace sang aloud. A hymn is more unselfish than a prayer; it expresses gratitude and love. Hence, heaven is peculiarly the place of song, for all is unselfish there.
Christ is on the eve of the most terrible conflict ever witnessed — tonight and tomorrow the Garden and the Cross! He summons to His help every aid. His eye is on the Father’s glory. He bathes Himself in it and is refreshed for conflict.
What did He sing? All writers agree that it was Psalm 118. For two thousand years the Jews have concluded the Passover by singing this Psalm. If you glance over it you will see how appropriate it is, and it came in course at the Passover. What shall we sing? The Lord will tell you as occasion calls for. As it is written, ‘His song shall be with me,’ as well as ‘My prayer’ (Ps. 42:8).
When did He sing? After the solemn Passover service and the Supper, and just before the scenes of the Garden, with Calvary in view. We are not told in the Gospels of Christ singing until now — perhaps because His doing so in these circumstances was so peculiar and so fitted to instruct us. His last note was a cheerful note, though He knew what was in the future. Much more should ours be so.
Let us try unselfishly, like Jesus, to keep our friends from sorrow as long as we can. In the face of difficulties, sing to the Lord. If you have a dread of what is coming, sing, instead of brooding over it. If you are like the Master — singing before He went to the Garden — you will be enabled to go fearlessly forward.
When will He sing again? When all sorrow and conflict are over (Ps. 22:23, 69:30, 118:21). It will be the day of the Song of Moses and the Lamb. When He comes again Christ will lead that great multitude of the redeemed whom no man can number, in the song of praise. He will sing over completed redemption at the sea of glass, as did Moses at the Red Sea.
After they had sung this hymn they seem all to have been so elated, in such spirits, so full of joy, that the Master had to put in a word of warning. ‘All of you shall be offended because of Me this night.’ But, so like the Master, He added, ‘But I will not forsake you. I will go before you into Galilee.’ But the silly sheep who were to be scattered did not believe Him.
Do not blame Peter too much, for they all joined in saying, ‘Though I should die with You,’ etc. Christ did not contradict them. He knew the corruption of their heart; He knew what would happen. When they said this they were full of feeling. Let us not lay too much stress on feeling and emotion when we come to the Lord’s Table. Put stress upon this: That the Shepherd’s heart will never change toward you. ‘Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.’
– Andrew Bonar