Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Song From the Cross.

"This is my body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me."  In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant between God and you, sealed by the shedding of my blood.  Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it."  For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord's death until he comes again. (1 Corinthians 11:24-26)

When we come to communion we are to remember.  We remember covenant.  We break the bread in 2 to remind us of the covenant God has made with us.  We drink the wine in remembrance of the blood that covers us.  We think of Christ’s betrayal & the Passover.  We think of His agony on the cross.  We remember that it is His stripes that heal us & for our sake He was pierced.  And we remember the cup of the kingdom for Jesus said He would not drink of that cup again until He shared it with us in heaven.  We do not think of His joy.

Yep, you heard me right.

Now remember that during the Passover meal & the trial & the crucifixion we are transitioning from the Old Covenant to the New.  Jesus is taking on the mantle of our Great High Priest.  The old things are passing away.  He is about to become our Passover Lamb, the perfect sacrifice.  We are in Passover, one of the High Festivals;  One which saw every Israelite congregate in Jerusalem to worship in the Temple. 

The scriptures are very succinct & because we are so poorly instructed in the things of the Old Covenant we miss many of the blessings of the New. 

We read that on the night he was betrayed Jesus gathered with His disciples in an upper room to celebrate the Passover meal.  Now some of us have celebrated a seder & have a little understanding of what was happening before Judas betrayed our Lord.  We understand that the communion elements come from that meal.  We understand the symbolism of the lamb & the blood.

What we didn’t focus on was something implicit in the New Testament text:  The Praise.  The Hebrews used the book of Psalms as their song book.  During a seder there are 7 psalms that are sung. The psalms were always sung or chanted. Collectively they are known as the Hallel: Psalms 113~118.  They are primarily songs of praise.  Hallel means praise.

Psalms 113 & 114 were sung before the meal.

Psalm 116 has the place of importance in the middle.

After the meal The Great Hallel, Psalm 136, would be sung.

Now remember Jesus is performing a priestly role.  He is sacrificing the lamb.  He will pour out His blood on the heavenly altar.  He will act as our High Priest, interceding for us before the Father.  He is entering into the Holy of Holies & what does scripture say?

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;[
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations. Psalm 100

The Levite priests chanted the Hallel as they slaughtered the Passover Lambs. And what does Jesus do?

Matthew 26:30

Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.  How easy it is to skip over this & miss it’s significance.

Now Jesus would have sung one of 2 psalms.  As the Head of the Passover he would have acted as cantor & led the singing.

He may have sung psalm 118 which begins:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
2Let Israel say:
“His love endures forever.”
3Let the house of Aaron say:
“His love endures forever.”
4Let those who fear the Lord say:
“His love endures forever.”

However I suspect this would have been sung as part of the Passover proper & what they sang before leaving was the Great Hallel, Psalm 136 with it’s repetitive refrain: His Love endures forever.

Jesus would have given the call:  GIVE THANKS, to which the disciples responded with: His love endures forever.  It is an amazing declaration in the light of what was to come. What's more, as the disciples wound their way through Jerusalem's streets the sound of praise would have been arising from every house they passed.

Crucifixion was an absolutely agonising death.  For one thing it was slow.  There was massive blood lose from the beating with the Roman whip, which was designed to open up the flesh & cause deep bruising.  All the body fluids pooled in the extremities, especially the feet as the lowest point of gravity.  This caused the heart to beat harder & harder until it became fatigued.  It caused the body to literally dry out & the tongue to cleave to the roof of the mouth.  The body reaches a point when it begins to involuntarily spasm, straining against the nails, & the weight of itself begins to press against the lungs causing suffocation.

Leviticus 17:11 says:
for the life of the body is in its blood. I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the LORD. It is the blood, given in exchange for a life, that makes purification possible.

Blood is the depository of life.  By our sins we have forfeited our right to life.

Now don’t mistake me.  I don’t for one minute think Jesus enjoyed the cross.  I think it was appalling & it broke Jesus'   heart.  But He endured it for love of us.  And He did something else.  He rose above it as Paul says in Hebrews 12:2 Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.

How on earth could Paul be so sure of that?

Because Jesus sang on the cross.

I do not mean he sang as he did during the seder ~ he would not have had breath or energy for that, but for the Hebrews to quote the opening line of a psalm was to reference the whole & at the foot of the cross were not only the bulls of Bashan but a disciple, His mother, The people of the Book & they would assuredly have known what Jesus was saying!

Firstly that agonising cry:  My God!  My God, why have you forsaken me? From Psalm 22.  It we stop at the opening line we miss Jesus point.  This is a Psalm that points out that things are not as they seem.  It looks as though God has forsaken Christ but what do we see when we get to the end of this psalm?
22I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
23You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honour him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

It ends with a declaration of what God will do unto the ends of the earth, of His goodness & faithfulness.

Traditionally this psalm ends with those famous words:  It is Finished, complete.  These are the words the High Priest utters as the last Passover Lamb is slaughtered.  There is nothing more.

Jesus also references Psalm 31: 21

21They put gall in my food
and gave me vinegar for my thirst.

And Finally, in utmost trust, Psalm 31:5

5Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

And Jesus still sings over us:

For he said to God, "I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among your assembled people." Zephaniah 3:17

With us.

For us.

It is Zephaniah & Psalm 22:22 Paul quotes in Hebrews 2:12

For he said to God, "I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among your assembled people."

In the midst of great suffering our Lord & saviour never lost sight of God’s character.  Never lost His trust.    Never abandoned His faith.  Instead with his dying breath He lifted His voice & declared His praises  Praise Be to God!  


  1. And TRUE! :) I was stunned when God showed me what I had missed for all these years. lol