The Hymn Before the Mount (Mark 14:26)

I.) They Sang a Hymn

Today I want us to fix our minds upon this simple verse:

“And after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”[1]

 This is undoubtedly a verse that many of us quicky pass over and do not take the time to consider not only what Mark is recording Christ and His disciples doing, but what we are called to do as disciples of Christ among one another.

            As we are aware, it is the night of celebrating the Passover of Israel. The time of remembering when God graciously spared His people from the angel of death by the blood of an innocent lamb because of His love for them. Regarding God’s love for them, there was nothing in and of themselves that drew Him to love them. Deuteronomy 7:6-9 says:

6 For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples,8 but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.9 Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”

Each year Israel would celebrate the Passover and remember the demonstration of God’s faithfulness and unconditional love for them. He brought them out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, delivered them from their bondage, redeemed them to Himself with an outstretched arm and great judgments so that they might be His people and He their God.[2] He loved them because He loved them. What was Israel’s response to such a deliverance? Praise! Exodus 15:1-2 says:

“Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and said, “I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted; The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea.2 “The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will extol Him.”

What did they do? They sang a Hymn.

II.) What is a Hymn?

What is a hymn? To sing a hymn is to sing a sacred song of praise. Sacred meaning something that is set apart for the service and worship of God. Praise meaning an expression of approval or admiration of gratitude and devotion for blessings received. The praise of God is the act whereby the creature acknowledges the perfections, works, and benefits of the Creator. To put it another way, to praise God is to adore Him for His character and nature, His work in both heaven and earth, and His blessings bestowed upon His people. To put it more simply, it is to praise Him for Who He is, and what He has done for His people in Christ on the cross, what He is doing in His people through the sanctifying work of the Spirit of Christ in the justified sinner, and what He is continuing to do among His creation as Creator, King, and Lord of heaven and earth. A hymn is a song dedicated to the worship of God, which revolves around the truth of His Person and Work.

III.) The Hymn before The Mount

Every Passover meal the Jews would sing the Paschal Hymns, which were Psalms 113-118 and 136. These collections of Psalms are known as the “Great Hallel”. The Hymns would have been sung throughout the duration of the meal. Psalm 113 would have been sung as a praise to God for His gracious dealing with the poor and barren of His people. Psalm 114 was a praise of His delivering Israel from Egypt and the power He displayed among nature. Psalm 115 praises God for being the Living God who dwells in the heavens and does whatever He pleases.[3] It praises Him for not being like the idols of man, who:

“5 Have mouths, but they cannot speak; They have eyes, but they cannot see;6 They have ears, but they cannot hear; They have noses, but they cannot smell;7 They have hands, but they cannot feel; They have feet, but they cannot walk; They cannot make a sound with their throat.8 Those who make them will become like them, Everyone who trusts in them.9 O Israel, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield.”

Psalm 116 would have been sung thanking God for deliverance from death, and Psalm 117 beckons all the world to praise Him for His lovingkindness and everlasting truth. They would have sung Psalm 136, which means that they would have thanked God for His goodness and 26 times they would have praised Him for His lovingkindness that is everlasting.

They would have sung Psalm 118, and as we see in our text after Jesus directs His disciples to the certainty that His body would be broken and His blood would be poured out for them they sung a hymn before going out to the Mount of Olives. I believe they would have sung Psalm 118 last.

 The Psalm beings by praising God for His everlasting lovingkindness:

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.Oh let Israel say, “His lovingkindness is everlasting.”Oh let the house of Aaron say, “His lovingkindness is everlasting.” Oh let those who fear the Lord say, “His lovingkindness is everlasting.”[4]

            It then thanks God for becoming the salvation of the Psalmist:

21 I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me, And You have become my salvation.22 The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone.23 This is the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes.24 This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.25 O Lord, do save, we beseech You; O Lord, we beseech You, do send prosperity! 26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord; We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.27 The Lord is God, and He has given us light; Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.28 You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You.29 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

Mark tells us that after the sang a hymn they went out to the Mount of Olives. What will occur at the Mount of Olives? The Stone which the builders rejected will be betrayed by a friend and delivered into the hands of His rejectors. They will hand the Prince of Life over to the Romans to mock Him, and spit upon Him, and scourge Him, and crucify Him. They will mean it for evil, but God will mean it for good to preserve many people alive by becoming their salvation.

The everlasting love of God will be demonstrated in Him as He suffers sins penalty for His people and sheds His blood to atone for them, and it will be confirmed when God raises Him from the dead three days later, and it will be experienced by all who turn from their sin and trust in the vicarious death and victorious resurrection of the Eternal Son of God. He was rich, yet for our sake became poor, that we through His poverty might become rich.[5]

What did the Jews praise God? They praised Him because He loved them and delivered them from their burdens and slavery and redeemed them to Himself that they might be His people and He their God. Ephesians 2:1-10 tells us we are to praise God for the very same reason:

“You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

            He loved us because He loved us, and He saved us to live to the praise of His glory.

IV.) Worship Him in Spirit and Truth

God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must do so in spirit and in truth.[6] To praise Him in spirit and in truth for who He is and what He has done requires us to have a correct knowledge of Him, of ourselves, and of what He has done for us despite ourselves. We cannot praise God for what He has done for us in Christ if we do not have a comprehension of ourselves apart from Him; and we cannot grasp what we are without Him if we do not see God for who He is. John Calvin said, “Men are never duly touched and impressed with conviction of their insignificance until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.”[7] John Newton said, “When I see Thee as Thou art, I’ll praise Thee as I ought.”

When we are gathered, God commands us in Ephesians 5:18-20 to:

“Be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.”

Colossians 3:16:

16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

            Romans 15:5-6:

Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

When we consider this, we will see that during our time of praise it is not to be the musical instruments that move us, nor the eloquence of the singer that leads us to worship God in spirit. It is it to be the grandeur of the doctrine that drives us to sing as one voice. Our praise of God is not to be fueled or manipulated by sound, but by the truth of the theology. By the Word of Christ that richly dwells in us.

True praise in spirit and in truth occurs when the truth of who God is and what He has done in Christ resonates within His people drawing their heart, soul, and mind to be in tune with His person and work on their behalf resulting in an outward action, songs of praise and lives lived for Him. Believers have every reason to praise Him, for as Calvin points out in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, we were:

“Divested of all virtue that we may be clothed by God, devoid of all goodness that we may be filled by Him, the slaves of sin that He may give us freedom, blind that He may enlighten, lame that He may cure, and feeble that He may sustain us; to strip ourselves all ground of glorying that He alone may shine forth glorious, and we be glorified in Him.”[8]

He loved us because He loved us. Calvin believed that because of this:

“All of life was to be lived before God as a prayer – a dialogue with a personal God. Within this life of prayer, in gratitude for the gracious gift of salvation, believers would live orderly, socially redemptive lives.”[9]

What does the Psalmist says in Psalm 146:2 “I will praise the Lord while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.”

            2 Corinthians 5:15 says:

“He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”

            Ephesians 1:11-12 says:

“We have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.”

Let us not just sing, but live to the praise of His glory! The Prince of Preachers, Charles Hayden Spurgeon said:  

“Doth not all nature around me praise God? If I were silent, I should be an exception to the universe. Doth not the thunder praise Him as it rolls like drums in the march of the God of armies? Do not the mountains praise Him when the woods upon their summits wave in adoration? Doth not the lightning write His name in letters of fire? Hath not the whole earth a voice? And shall I, can I, silent be?”

[1] Mark 14:26

[2] Exodus 6:6-7

[3] Psalm 115:3

[4] Psalm 118:1-4

[5] 2 Corinthians 8:9

[6] John 4:24

[7] The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul quoting Calvin; Page 57

[8]  Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin; Page XXII

[9] Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin; Page XVI

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