I had planned to post this on Small, Still Voices this week, but we’re currently taking a little hiatus. I didn’t want to wait to post this, seeing as it refers to the days we commemorate this week, so I’m going to publish it here as part of my personal act of worship.
Community, we know what Friday is. It is a day of remembrance, and we call it good– because it is. This day we mourn our sin that caused the death of our Savior, but we also marvel at His grace, at His beauty, at His willingness to sacrifice His own life for the sake of ours. This day we think about His death, but we also know that the death of Christ was not the end of the story.
Today, I want to think about the night before this good day. I want to think about the night Jesus was betrayed, about the songs he might’ve sung at the last supper Passover meal, and the prayer he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.
I am blessed to have been able to visit Jerusalem and see what’s left of the garden on the Mount of Olives, the tiny park of majestic, ancient olive trees enclosed in a metal fence. Olive trees can survive for centuries, but these trees may or may not have been there with Jesus on the night of His agony. It doesn’t really matter, because it was still beautiful to see these gnarled, stubborn trees growing and growing for so long that part of their trunks have to be held up by cinder-blocks just to keep them upright.
The place was real, the olive press. Jesus knelt here and asked for the cup to be passed, asked to be spared from the suffering that would press His blood into the anointing oil of gladness that would save the world. And yet, He submitted. “Not my will, but Yours be done.” He prayed for us, too. He prayed for his disciples that couldn’t even stay awake long enough to keep watch and pray with Him.
Before going to the garden, Jesus ate a meal with His disciples, the Passover meal, where it was tradition to sing Psalms 113 to 118. I love studying these psalms and thinking about Jesus singing them. (We can’t know for certain that He did, but it is likely, and the psalms speak of His glory regardless. For this post, I am going to assume that these hymns were sung at Passover.) In Psalm 115, the disciples would sing about the idols of the nations with mouths that cannot speak and eyes that cannot see, and all the while here is their God sitting among them, signing hymns with them.
In Psalm 116, Jesus would sing, “How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. O Lord, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, your faithful son” (v.12-15).
Finally, in Psalm 118 comes the prophecy: “The stone the builders have rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (v.22-23). On the night of His betrayal, the night that led into His suffering and death, Christ would sing verse 24, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
I encourage you to read these psalms today. I encourage you to think about the garden, about the suffering and obedience of our Savior. But most of all, I encourage you to draw closer to that Savior, because He has conquered death and is very much alive. Sunday has already come, friends, it came a very long time ago. Let us rejoice and be glad in the goodness of our God.
Photos by Robyn: Sculpture by Rick Wienecke; Olive tree from Gethsemane.