What Hymn Did Jesus Sing at the Last Supper?
With Good Friday and Easter approaching, Christians around the world will remember the death and celebrate resurrection of Jesus Christ. No doubt the story is quite familiar to many. But even for those familiar with the story, there is always something new.
As I read through Matthew and Mark’s accounts of Christ's passion, something stood out to me that I have barely taken notice of before – a phrase that occurs in Matthew 26:30 and Mark 14:26. Immediately after observing the Passover meal and establishing the Lord’s Supper as a new practice for his disciples, both Gospel authors inform us that the meal concluded “when they had sung a hymn”.
What hymn would they have sung on this night of darkness and betrayal? What song would have been the last sung by our Savior prior to his arrest, torture, and crucifixion?
In the Jewish tradition, the “Passover Psalms” were sung during and after the meal. These were Psalms 113-118. Typically, Psalms 113-114 were sung during the meal and Psalms 115-118 were sung at the close of the meal. In Greek, the word “hymn” isn't limited to the singular, which makes it likely that Jesus and his disciples followed tradition and together sang Psalms 115-118. I would highly encourage you to read through all of these Psalms this week as you reflect on the passion of Jesus in preparation for Good Friday.
Here are just a few of the lines Jesus would have sung minutes before his betrayal and arrest.
115:9,11 - O Israel, trust the Lord! He is your helper and your shield. All you who fear the Lord, trust the Lord! He is your helper and your shield.
Psalm 116:1-8 - I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! Death wrapped its ropes around me; the terrors of the grave overtook me. I saw only trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Please, Lord, save me!” How kind the Lord is! How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours! The Lord protects those of childlike faith; I was facing death, and he saved me. Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me.
He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
Psalm 118:1 - Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.
Psalm 118:5-7 - In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? Yes, the Lord is for me; he will help me. I will look in triumph at those who hate me.
Psalm 118:13-14 - My enemies did their best to kill me, but the Lord rescued me. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.
Psalm 118:22-26 - The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful to see. This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Please, Lord, please save us. Please, Lord, please give us success. Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord.
What a beautiful picture of our King singing these hymns on the night he drank the cup of God’s wrath that we deserved. His enemies did their best to kill him, but they failed. The Messiah was rejected but has become the cornerstone of our faith in God. The Lord has provided a great salvation for his people. Because of Christ's death and resurrection, we are saved into relationship with God. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever! How kind the Lord is! How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours!"