“And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives” (Matthew 26:30).
When Christ leaves the room of the Passover to enter upon the night of His passion, He goes on His way singing.
You and I are not the first ones to meditate upon that singing of the Man of sorrows who is walking on the way of suffering. Long ago the contemplation of “the singing Christ en route to the place of slaughter” charmed the feelings of many, and induced some to begin singing themselves. In the middle ages, especially, many an individual sat down to compose a song about the hymn which Jesus sang as He went out to die.
Whoever takes notice of the many hymns which the spirit of the middle ages left us in its literature will observe that very frequently the theme of the singing Crucified One is expressed in the symbol of a nightingale pouring its exalted notes into the air from a May-tree. By this means the harsh brutality of the cross gives way to the rich luxury of a May-tree in blossom.
The arid voice of the Man of sorrows, whose blood is flowing from many wounds, whose dry throat can utter no sound save the scrawny cry of His Holy Passion for God, is by such artistic compositions deprived of all its terribleness. A different figure is substituted for it—the figure of the lyric nightingale which, because it loves so much, cannot help but sing. The seven words of the cross, we are told, are the seven high notes of the nightingale. And thus men have lyrically woven a poetic halo around all that Jesus said and sighed and suffered in the night of His passion, by comparing Him to the nightingale which sings at the prompting of overflowing love.
We may as well say outright what must be said of this. Such poetry does injustice to the content and to the holiness of the Gospel of the Passion. We simply may not metamorphose the brutal outlines of Christ’s wrenched body and forsaken soul into the lush sweetness of a nightingale whose pulse-beats are regulated by life and love and by these alone. For, although love and the will to live caused the Holy Heart of Jesus to beat faster—the finger of God’s justice made it stop. Under the threat of that finger Jesus suffered terribly. That finger made His body writhe in pain, His soul bend to breaking. His utterances were not those of natural love gratified by the situation; they were those of justice, of the strenuous achieving of grace which would attain peace on the cross by passing through awful struggle.
To that consideration we must add another. Whenever the figure of the nightingale is employed to represent Jesus’ love, that figure, irrespective of its lyric quality, always separates the love from prophecy.
The nightingale sings under the foliage of its tree. Its song does not carry beyond the boundaries of nature; it echoes back from these on reaching them. And that for nature and for the love of nature is quite enough. Surely, there is life, there is the throbbing pulse of it in the song of the nightingale and in the wonderful luxuriance of the green garden of the earth. But there is no prophecy in these. Nature is subject to prophecy, is part of its domain, but nature never yet sang prophetically. Nature is not the mouthpiece of the highest prophecy, and never prophesies, itself. True, the Spirit is active in it, and that same Spirit gives everything alive in it a tongue and language with which to speak. But the Spirit does not enter into nature to prophesy through it. That right, the right to prophesy, the Spirit has reserved for man.
Remember (we cannot tire of stressing this) that it is Christ who prophesies. He prophesies aloud of the deed He does for us and of its implications. And it is precisely by His prophecy that He carries the deed and its significance far beyond the bourne of nature, carries it up to God’s high heavens. His deed, you see, is accompanied by the Word of prophecy.
Hence it is that when Jesus sings He always sings prophetically. Such singing is not poverty; it is abundance. The beauty of nature is less beautiful than the beauty of the Word. Yes, Jesus sings prophetically. But afterwards He also sings lyrically, epically, didactically. Therefore the song which He sings before the cross at the farthest end of the temple of suffering as well as that which He sings here at the threshold of it in the room of the Passover is a prophetic song.
That song lays hold on the Word. It fulfills the Word. It explains the Word. When they had sung a hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. Jesus goes to God singing.
We must not say too many disparaging things of medieval poetry in its use of the symbol of the nightingale. For we must admit that we ourselves, generally speaking, have devoted more attention to the seven words on the cross, which are only derived from the Scriptures in part, than to the hymn of praise which Christ sang in the room of the Passover and which in each of its parts was entirely derived from the Scriptures.
Yes, we pay more attention to what Christ says during what we appreciate as His suffering, to what He says in a wild and plaintive voice and at the prompting of awful passion than we do to what He says in quiet recitative at a time when He apparently is still far from the cross. And such division of our attention probably characterizes us, and that unfavorably.
Do you suppose that we may abuse Christ’s calm as He sings the Scriptural words by fancying more profundity into the words on the cross than into those of the hymn with which He left the room of the Passover? May we really think that a greater manifestation of love issues from those passion-wrought cries which we designate “the words on the cross” than from the prophetic appropriation of the Word of the Lord in Jesus’ hymn?
To put the question is to answer it.
Hence we must re-examine our Reformed principle of the interpretation of Scripture as it applies to our confession about the soul and spirit and work of Jesus Christ. We must acknowledge that the hymn of praise sung at the conclusion of the meal of the Passover is as worthy of our careful attention as are the words of the cross, taken singly.
We must say at the outset that the singing of a hymn obviously represents nothing unusual. At the Jewish Passover thousands joined in the singing of the same hymn which Christ sang at this time.
The singing of a hymn, the singing of that particular hymn was a part of the official programme of the feast of the Passover. In other words, the singing and the song represent the usual thing. The hymn was a familiar one, comprising Psalms 113 to 118. Taken as a unit these psalms were called the Hallel. According to the ritual for the occasion these had to be sung in two tempos at the Passover. All Jews followed the customary usage.
Perhaps that is the reason for which so many people find nothing moving or extraordinary in that hymn, and find something much profounder in a word spoken on the cross, one which none but Jesus ever spoke.
Such reasoning, surely, is sheer foolishness. What Jesus does is not affected by the fact that others also do it. The important point is that no one in the world does a thing in the same way that Jesus does it. Something entirely new inheres in the singing of the Hallel the moment it comes from Jesus’ lips. That new and different quality never was known in the world before and never will be repeated in it again.
And that unique quality does not inhere in the tone of the voice which sings the song but in the mystery of the fact that now the Author, the Poet, is singing His own poem.
This is a beautiful and a holy matter.
On the day of the Passover and on the day before and after it people sang the Hallel in every street, in every home. The heavens echoed because of it; the angels were greatly troubled by it, and also greatly pleased.
But no one ever sang it as Jesus did. In Him the poet was singing His own song.
The poet himself is the best reader of his poem. The secret of elocution is sincerity. And it is true that to understand a poem we must appreciate its setting. Moreover, in order to appreciate a poem fully, the reader must be able to enter into the poet’s heart, must be able to read it, must be able to read the poem companioned by the author’s feeling. In fact, the student of poetry must possess the poet’s heart. Hear a hundred persons recite a poem; hear the author recite it then. And if he is a good speaker and can hit upon the inflections and cadences proper to his emotions and thoughts, he will read better than any of the hundred, simply because he created the poem. He it was who experienced its emotion; and he it is who can best express that emotion.
There are poets, of course, who are less talented as speakers than as poets. They are capable of significant emotions and can put them in words, but they are not gifted in the rhetoric of speech.
Jesus has no such inadequacy. Every form which He employs in speech or song is perfectly expressive of the significance of the particular, unique moment of time in which it is spoken. The form is completely adequate to the requirements of the moment in reference to the demands of His being.
Draw your own conclusion. Heaven hears all Jerusalem singing on this day of the Passover. The pious homes echo and re-echo the praise for the salvation achieved for them.
But among those singers one is unique. He is Jesus; He is the poet; He sings His own hymn.
Have you ever read Psalm 116? And stopped to ponder the meaning of the phrase: He hath heard my voice? Ah, but God hears so many voices. The whole of creation sighs to Him, the host of apostles sing, the chorals of the church rise, the shrill voice of cursing shatters the consecrated tones of praise; the peals of rebellion rend the skies and all these voices are directed to heaven. God hears an oppressive totality of voices. Nevertheless, we read: “He hath heard my voice.” He distinguishes the one voice from the many.
Have you read the 116th Psalm?
Jesus sang this psalm also on the night of the Passover. Jesus’ mouth pronounced the words:
I love the Lord because He hath heard my voice.
Do you agree that those words were never uttered with such certainty as then: He hath heard My voice! No, the song was never sung in this way before. The poet was presenting His poem from the foot of the stairs, to the throne of the Highest Majesty.
He was not a troubadour of love (as some by adhering to their “spiritual” eroticism suppose).
He was not a nightingale singing “he knew not how.”
He was the Prophet, the Exalted One in the hymns of Israel, singing His own hymn before God.
The Passover ritual, like every other “ritual,” is very significant, but it also was never observed in the perfection of its essence save by Jesus alone.
If we accept the fact that the singing of the hymn, although prescribed by the law, is harmoniously woven into the mosaic of Christ’s life-work and that this hymn, imposed as it was by external dictation nevertheless was given an organically interconnected and genuine place in that life, we can readily see in what sense it is that the Poet Himself is singing His own psalm on this occasion.
Before Christ tabernacled among us as a man, He, as the Eternal Word of God, as the uncreated Logos, as the Angel of the Lord, already prophesied in Israel. This is the great mystery which Peter put into words by saying that the Spirit of Christ which was in the prophets of the Old Testament did signify, when it testified beforehand, the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow (I Peter 1:11).
In those words of Peter, the Spirit prophesies that, as the humiliated and exalted Mediator, Christ is the content of prophecy (including the Psalms) not only, but that He by His own Spirit was active as the Author of prophecy in Israel (again including the Psalms) also.
He who came to Israel was the Holy Spirit. But He was also the Angel of the Lord. The Eternal Word, the Son, He also came to Israel.
These two are, as they appeared to be then, one person.
It was the Spirit of Christ which poured itself out in Psalms 113 to 118. And now it is that Spirit of Christ who proceeds to sing His own hymn, and to sing it in the soul of the man Jesus.
This is the profound mystery which no one can understand. This is the mystery of God and man united in one person. Human nature, God alone knows how, was perfectly united with the Divine in single, undivided conjunction.
This mystery, this miracle, which we accept by faith in a general way was particularly applied to, was given unique application in the event of the day, in the singing of the Hallel. We do not know how the Spirit of God, which is given to Christ “without measure,” influenced the human soul of Jesus of Nazareth as often as He prayed, thought, developed, and sang. We do know that the Spirit is present in all of the souls of God, that He works and prays there. Those words were written for us which say that the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. But, save for the thrust of that “cannot-be-uttered” those words were written for Christ also. The Spirit prays in the soul of Jesus and the Spirit also sings in Jesus’ soul. God’s own Spirit, who is eternal, prays and sings in the soul of Jesus, who is a creature.
Jesus differs from us in respect, of course, to the fact that our souls carry sin and the lie within themselves and for that reason to an extent still pray and sing in opposition to the Spirit; and the Spirit, similarly, works in opposition to these. But Jesus is always without sin and always prays and sings in full consonance with the Spirit.
Moreover, a second difference distinguishes us from Jesus. Our human finiteness and limitation can never appreciate the influence, the words, of the Spirit in our heart as fully, cannot be as aware of these, as Jesus was.
But in one important respect Jesus on this occasion is like us in all things: though He is infinite according to His person, He is finite according to His soul.
We cannot say more about it. We may not say more. We may worship and believe. We may believe that the infinite per son of the Son, and the infinite Spirit of God are two-in-one, and that this one is the Author of the Hallel of the Passover. These two co-exist in the human, created soul of Jesus of Nazareth. In order to fix the divinity of His Person, the profundities of the Eternal Spirit, and His own perfect human will upon God, the Logos, the Spirit impels Jesus’ soul, drives Jesus’ genuine, authentic soul, and all that is in Him, to sing the hymn of praise and thanksgiving. These three impel His soul and drive all His senses to present the hymn of God as a sacrifice of praise. Now the words have their fulfillment:
I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
The Author of them sang those words that day; sang them accompanied by finite music, of course, sang them “in proper time,” for He was human. Nevertheless, the Author actually sang.
What we human beings could hear of it were the cadences of the voice, the purity of the tones, the sublimity of the hymn. But those who heard did not really hear, for their eyes were darkened. They did not see Jesus’ eyes as He sang, for their own were blinded. And their ears were stopped; they did not hear the vibration of high feeling in that voice, nor how Jesus deepened it by His assent. Their hearts had continued to be “fat” in part.
Irrespective of who heard, however, Jesus sang thus. The Angels heard it even better than the disciples did. Their own song at Christmas, they felt, could not compare with this hymn of the Poet-King, Jesus.
But of auditors, one is most important. God heard His voice and supplications. God inclined His ear.
Thus the Author sang His psalm, Again, however, the general law, the eternal verity, the “great mystery,” the fact that God is revealed in the flesh is applied to it.
We may not regard Christ in the form of a servant only when He wears the servant’s loin-cloth at the washing of feet, or when He bears the cross on His way to death, or when He is forsaken of God. We must always see Him in His servant-garb.
Even when He sings the Hallel the eternal Poet of the Psalms does so in the form of a servant.
Observe Him a moment, observe the Author of the Psalms. He is reading them from a bit of paper; just as a priest reads the mass from a book, just as every Jew who goes up to celebrate the feast reads the hymn from a leaflet, so Jesus in obedience to the official prescription reads His own psalms. The Poet subjects Himself to the law of priests and rabbis, for so “it became” this poet to “fulfill all righteousness.” The great Author must read and sing His own compositions as does the weakest singer at the feast. The little old woman who sings her psalms so brokenly in the church on Sunday, but who loves Jesus, is in this respect accepted by Him. Haughty as poets have been alleged to be, this One does not ignore the crowd “because the best they can do is to dabble with the beauty of a hymn anyhow.” Our great poet is a prophetic Poet but He is also a priestly poet. He sings, being under the law. This manner of singing is as fully informed with obedience and humiliation as was the moment of baptism when Jesus told John: Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. O, boundless compassion!
The poet sings with the others, with the meanest and frailest in the chorus, sings with them in a more actual sense than even David did. Woe upon Michael! Now especially, now it is sure: she will remain barren. She will fall to the ground, dead. O boundless mercy!
We know who this Author is. He has more than twelve legions of angels at His command. He can tell them to raise a chorus in the skies, excelling that which appeared on Christmas eve, spellbinding Jerusalem. And that Author sings His own verses under the law, thrusts the angels aside, lets them stay behind the clouds, tempers His voice lest it cause the walls to quake, and patiently accommodates His singing to Peter’s strident voice.
That is wonderful, is it not? Think, that voice will still be calling aloud when He is dead.
Is Jesus, the later Barnabas, perhaps, sitting downstairs while this singing is going on overhead? If so, He must have struggled, and suffered, and prayed strenuously before he could understand later on, very much later on, that He who was singing in his Aunt Mary’s house was singing His own hymn, that He was the Poet of old time, whose name is Lord.
After a half hour Simon Peter will be sleeping, and after a few more hours he will startle the angels who have been listening to this song, will shock them with his cursings. Simon Peter, also, will have to struggle and suffer and pray long and strenuously before he can write the words which we have just quoted from him before he can say that it was the Spirit of Christ who testified and prophesied beforehand, also in the psalms of the Hallel which Peter and John sang at Jesus’ bosom. It always takes a long, long time before a person, and before even the Christ, learns to refer the psalms to the poet. In that fact is contained the whole of church history, and of the history of doctrine. We can say nothing opprobrious of Peter—we must admit that we ourselves had to learn to understand it.
What we must do is to lister attentively to Peter. Simon Peter learned that the Spirit of Christ made this Hallel, and Peter wants to tell us that he has learned that. And we – “we have also a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto we do well that we take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place.”
Repeat those words, will you? A light that shineth in a dark place.
The dark place is the room of the Passover. The darkness of it consists of Jesus’ human voice, of the frailty of His lungs, of the limitations of the flesh, of the much that must be concealed.
And the light is the Spirit of prophecy, the Logos, the great Poet. It is the Poet (the Creator) absolute and unique.
The whole of theology, the whole of the mystical mercy of God, the whole teaching of the Scripture — that in respect to the Word and the incarnation of God also—is contained in the verse: When they had sung a hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.
First Christ prophesied out of the body, in the Old Testament. Even then the Spirit of Christ was singing in the poets. That is the first moment.
Then the Spirit of Christ sang again; this time in the soul and by means of the tongue of Jesus. That is the second moment.
And years after this dark night of the Passover the Spirit of Christ caused Simon Peter to write the words, to which we alluded, about “the Spirit of Christ which testified beforehand.” That is the third moment and it unites the first with the second.
For the Scriptures are one; and the Spirit is one; and time is one; and God one.
The devils heard Jesus sing, and they trembled.
The Hallel was an awful song, making the firmament shake, even though it was “altogether human.”
Jesus’ going to the Scriptures was, from God’s point of view, quite the usual thing.
We often hear the word “mysticism” referred to, and many have made supposed mystical experiences of the Crucified One a pet subject of meditation.
There is a mysticism in Jesus’ soul at this time. The Poet must return to His hymns and to His prophecy, because, although as Servant of the Lord He is the object of these, as Poet He is the subject of them. True mysticism consists of a living relationship between subject and object; a relationship, that is, whose life consists of communion.
In that way an unbroken mystical relationship exists in Jesus between the Scriptures and His soul. He is continuously in living contact with the Scriptures; it is simply impossible for Him to take that living union “for granted,” be it for but a second. Similarly, on the other side, His whole soul clings to the Scriptures. The subject penetrates into its own object. The object enters into its own subject.
Again that is all we can say of it. But if anyone cannot feel that the dogmas of the church also allow a poet to sing, he must not blame the church and the dogma for lacking the appeal of beauty. He must blame himself.
All of us, for that matter, all of us, not as poets or thinkers, but as believers, as needy, lost souls need to know and experience the truth that Jesus sings the Scriptures. The Word made flesh is Jesus; the Word made Scriptures is the Bible, including the Hallel. These extend a hand of fellowship to each other and do it for our atonement. We should have done that; we should have reached out for the Scriptures, for the Word. But we did not do it. Hence the singing of the Hallel signifies more than the great joy of the Poet who is allowed to sing His own hymns. Be sides, the singing includes more than the profound shame of the Saviour-in-humiliation who experiences His authorship under limitations. This singing includes another significance; namely, mighty obedience for our benefit. It represents the active obedience of the Mediator of God and men, who sings while others are silent, who sings with perfect tones the notes which stuck in Adam’s throat . . .
Finally, this: The Jesus who sings the Hallel exhibits to us the charming features of mature manhood.
As a child Jesus heard these psalms sung; as a child He joined the “grown-ups” in singing them. When He attended the feast of the Passover as a lad, the Hallel fell upon His ear. Who can tell? Perhaps the questions the twelve-year-old Jesus put to the teachers in the temple concerned texts and issues drawn from the Hallel and from the hymns which the pilgrims sang upon entering Jerusalem. As a child, then, Jesus grew up by the psalms; as perfect man He grew towards the psalms. And as a man He has now grown into maturity with the psalms and before the eyes of God.
God tested the quality of the holy sacrificial lamb. While testing, He asked also whether the psalms resonated purely enough in Jesus’ soul, whether He had been sufficiently sensitive to them to fulfill them on the cross. Only that poet, surely, can fulfill his own psalms who has understood them and fully responded to them. O, boundless mercy! O, unfathomable mystery!
This poet first sang of Himself. Thereupon, as a human being, He tried to understand Himself and to fathom His own significance. Now, the greatest thing must still be done. He must vindicate the psalms by doing what He witnessed concerning Himself beforehand. The autobiography of humiliation and exaltation consisted of prophecy only: the deed had to fulfill it.
Now the Christ comes to do the will of Logos and Spirit. The poet’s human soul addresses the Divine Spirit of the Poet, as He bends to hear: Yes, I come to do Thy will; in the beginning of my book it is written of me . . . I am coming, I come. The time is at hand. It has come. It is coming. Now the Poet no longer speaks of Himself but does what He spoke of Himself before. Look, He is going out into the mount of Olives. He is looking for the humiliation, for the exaltation. He makes His own psalms come true. He writes His signature under His prophetic autobiography. By that He is saying: All that this hymn said of me is true; I am going out to prove that; God grant me my reward, Amen. — So the Christ swears to the truth of His own psalms. In this way heaven tests the lamb who realizes His own law, and experiences that law with the whole of His perfect being. And heaven names the lamb flawless, perfect.
You see—Jesus sang the hymn of praise for our salvation also.
To go on. Where would we end if we should inquire into the content of the Hallel in detail under this evangelical light?
Read Psalms 113 and 114 again, thinking as you attend to each phrase of “Jesus in the room of the Passover” and then ask yourself whether the designation “chief musician” was ever so meaningful as now. But you see so many glorious implications that you can hardly be specific about them. There is no boundary, no limit, to the significance of the lines, when you sense the Messianic meaning in terms of that comprehensive notion: Christ on the night of the Passover.
It begins very directly in Psalm 113:
Praise ye the Lord.
Praise, O ye servants of the Lord,
Praise ye the name of the Lord.
Blessed be the name of the Lord
From this time forth and for evermore. From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same.
The Lord’s name is to be praised.
That is the Lord’s Prayer, is it not, which Jesus Himself composed? Blessed be the Names Hallowed by Thy Name. May Thy Name resound from East to West, from the sun’s rising to its setting. Thy Kingdom Come. Where are the servants of the Lord? Thy will be done.
You go on, and read that the Lord dwells on high, that He be holds the things that are in heaven, and in the earth, and raises the poor up out of the dust. Those thoughts again illustrate the central motif of God’s self-revelation in Christ, the motif of transcendence and immanence. These two are conjoined in the Cross. We think about it for years: Jesus experienced it in one instant.
Or, read Psalm 114. When Israel went out of Egypt—that is: the theme Jesus experienced personally as a child. As a man He appreciates the full content of it now. It is a theme which asserts that He is in perfection the Son who was called out of Egypt, but who later will be made a slave again in that same Egypt (Revelation 11:8).
Listen to Jesus sing of God as He who
. . . turned the rock into a standing water,
The flint into a fountain of waters!
That was fulfilled this very night. Paul tells us later that the rock which issued forth water was Christ; the stone which poured out the water, it followed, and the water were Christ. Today, in the profoundest, most exalted sense, the stone will pour out water at the cross; today the living stream of grace will flow from a fountain which no force can avail to stop. The law of the Red Sea (verse 3) will be fulfilled today, just as the baptism of water “in Moses” will be fulfilled in the baptism of fire in Christ. The hymn of Moses (Psalm 114) will be fulfilled and will become a . . . hymn of Moses and the Lamb (Rev. 15).
Again, listen to Jesus’ voice in Psalm 115:
Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us,
But unto Thy name give glory.
Surely, the Servant of the Lord is saying this. And He alone can perfectly appreciate the fullness of its meaning.
In the same psalm Christ summons the house of Aaron to service and praise. But it must be that His soul weeps in the summoning. True the house of Aaron urges Him to sing praise to the priests of Aaron; nevertheless Aaron’s house does injustice to His own psalms by the cross. Yes, He will sing to the house of Aaron until the end, for thus “it becometh Him to fulfill all righteousness to Aaron.” Nevertheless, He will also assert Himself in the right and strength of Melchizedek, and in that way fulfill Psalm 115 (which treats of the difficulties of the annual struggles of Aaron that cannot come to rest) in Melchizedek’s single, perfect, priestly deed (Hebrews 10).
We will go no farther. We would go out of bounds if we cited Psalm 115:
I love the Lord, because He hath heard my voice;
The sorrows of death compassed me,
And the pains of hell got hold upon me . . .
Then called I upon the name of the Lord.
O Lord, truly I am Thy servant, I am Thy servant and the son of Thine handmaid;
Thou hast loosed my bonds.
(In that last line Christ is prophesying deliverance from His passion beforehand.)
Then there is the 117th Psalm, in which all the peoples, the vast extent of the earth, confront Jesus’ attention, and in which He gives a direct answer to Satan who once showed Him all the Kingdoms—but not in relevance to the Psalm, of course, you remember the event: it was the third temptation in the wilderness.
And where, pray, where would we reach an end in this treatise, if we were to think of Psalm 118 as Jesus sensed it. Think of
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear;
What can man do unto me?
They compassed me about like bees;
They are quenched as the fire of thorns
For in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.
I shall not die, but live,
And declare the works of the Lord.
And, again, of:
The stone which the builders refused
is become the head of the corner.
No, we shall cite no more. All those passages constitute a unit in the soul of Jesus. His appreciation of the Hallel was Messianic throughout. These psalms represent prophecy looking to the future. The future was also in Jesus. There are liturgical hymns (113, 115) in this Hallel—but the greatest Liturgist was Jesus. One of the hymns, Psalm 118, represents a chorus for antiphonal singing: the one sings, the other responds. Perhaps the disciples sang it in reply to Jesus’ first song. If so their meager expression of its rich symbolism must have hurt the pure soul of Jesus, which had sung and was singing perfectly. But when there was none to help Him, His own arm provided support. When no chorus could adequately respond, His own mouth replied to His singing. Jesus sang the song and the response alone. And, no wonder: the dialogue was a monologue for the Poet.
He sang “pro omnibus.” Jesus, pray for us, sing for us! Holy Father, hear Jesus sing; listen to Him singing alone, His hand on the door of the palace of Thy holiness. Father, no salvation is possible for us, save in Him. He sings vicariously; He sings alone; but in Him all His own also sing: Thou hast heard their voice.
Suppose a poet had been present in the room of the Passover, or a psychologist, or a dramatist, or Bach, or Beethoven. Would they have sung better, been better aware of the soul, composed a more significant drama, given expression to better music? Perhaps–better, more artistic, more moving, perhaps. But, if so, the superiority would not be owing to their natural ability, to the externals of these matters, but because of faith and by reason of revelation.
And if they had not believed and had really been present, and had heard and seen in actuality– then they would have cursed, and gnashed their teeth, and have sounded diabolical chords on their organ.
After all, this miracle moves in a medium between heaven and hell. We are in it or we are entirely out of it. This is not a poet’s benefit—but then by faith, by Him, alone.
We abide here. We should never dare to sing again, were it not for the fact that Christ’s Mediatorship, singing for us vicariously, is included in this chapter next to the emphasis on the perfect Poet and the pure singer. God be praised. That Mediatorship is present in the chapter and ever will be. Hence we shall not try to sing “as beautifully as Jesus” (think of the vanity!) but, nevertheless, in His strength and by His grace. We were not present when He sang the hymn, did not attend the premiere, and were not spectators, students, “of the first class.” But we are not jealous of the disciples who were present. To hear Jesus the Poet-chanter, is a matter of faith. Whoever is internally, sincerely called he it is who really hears with his soul, who really listens to God. He it is who not only was present but still is and if he listens to His Master’s voice and then sings the Hallel of the feast of “spiritual” liberty, he is joined with Christ in his song by a mystical union. Jesus still remembers in heaven that He sang on that day of the Passover (Hebrew 5). His human soul as well as His Divine Spirit respectively bends towards and enters into each human heart which believes in Him, as a child, and yet as an “anointed” singer.
Through the Spirit Jesus still sings the hymn of praise each day in the corridors of our heart. This phenomenon is called mysticism. Use that word sparingly: Jesus and the Spirit, and the entire content of this chapter are back of it. Use the word sparingly.
But sing lustily. Sing by virtue of the blood; sing of the blood. Sing by virtue of the cross; sing of the crown. Quiet, Peter: just be quiet: we “have a more sure word of prophecy.” And we have the hymn of the New Testament, for Jesus bore the Hallel from the Old Testament into the New while singing it.
Now we have the true tabernacle, for the Author of the psalms Himself became the Precentor of it. His Spirit has qualified us to sing through Him and with Him—to sing frailly, very imperfectly, but perfectly in principle.
In this true tabernacle the Hallel still searches out heaven; Christ and His Spirit still sing it to Themselves, for the Father’s glory.
The mount of Olives has been left behind long ago; but just now an angel heard a Hallel arising from Java.
 Our belief to the effect that the meal, concluded by the Hallel, was indeed the Passover meal, is related to this fact as well as to the argument of Chapter 10. There is an opinion which asserts that the Passover meal was another, different from this. The nature of this book does not allow us to expose the reasons for our holding to the opinion that Jesus actually participated in the Passover meal. We shall simply say that our opinion rests on arguments derived partly from the history of revelation, and from its structure, but especially and primarily on exegetical bases. It can be very generally said here that the intimate relation between Jesus’ commission to find a room where the Passover could be celebrated and their sitting down in (this) room (the one requested) immediately afterwards makes the interpretation very tenable.
 Kierkegaard uses this phrase.