the sound of music!
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same. Mark 14:26-31
In today’s passage, the word deny appears twice, once by Jesus saying they will deny him (v.30) and then in Peter’s response that he will not (v31). I could focus on this word, but most of you know the story. I will return to it at the end of the chapter.
Instead, today I want to focus on the first line, “And after they had sung a hymn…” Passover meals were acts of worship and included songs of praise and thanksgiving to YaHWeH. In later traditions, Psalms 113-118 were sung, known as the Hallel. Even though the Greek is singular, which may indicate the last song sung, it could also be plural. Regardless, it is the word that I gravitate to: “ὑμνήσαντες.” The pronunciation of this word is “hym-neh-san-tes.” Now you know where we get the word “hymn,” and it means to sing or to laud.
There are “worship wars” about music sung in worship services in many churches, especially in mainline Protestant churches. These wars are fought under the guise of what sacred music is. The “old school” says that praise music is not sacred, favoring the hymns of the last 500 years. The “new school” says that many hymns are boring or the language is no longer relevant and prefer contemporary praise music. There are books written about this phenomenon.
Before the Reformation, music was often sung in Latin or Greek, and most of it was musical versions of the Psalms. Go back to that Passover night with Jesus, and they sang Psalms in Hebrew! The early church developed songs of praise and thanksgiving about Christ, which scholars believe an example is Philippians 2:5-11:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
You know what I say? All types of music, if sung to praise and give thanks to the Triune God of Grace, are “hymns!”
So let us make hills and churches come alive
with the sound of music!
May our lives be songs of thanksgiving and praise for what you have done throughout time, especially with that glorious moment in history where you emptied yourself for us!
This tongue passionately confesses that you, Jesus Christ, are Lord!
I pray this in that Name that is above all names. Amen!
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Check out this song: When We Worship Him