And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. … Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives. [Mark 14:23,26 (NLT)]
He gave thanks! He knew exactly what would happen and how horrible it would be and He gave thanks! Knowing one would deny Him and another would betray Him, He still gave thanks! He knew the people He’d fed, healed, taught and loved would prefer a thief over Him; nevertheless, He gave thanks and then sang a hymn with His disciples. Knowing what lay ahead for Him, was it a mournful funeral dirge? Most likely not! Because it was a Passover feast, the hymn most likely came from Psalms 115 to 118, the traditional Passover hymns commemorating Israel’s escape from slavery. These are joyful hymns of praise and thanksgiving; three end with the words, “Praise the Lord!” and the fourth ends, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever!” As they gathered in that upper room celebrating Israel’s release from bondage in Egypt, did the disciples realize they really were celebrating man’s release from bondage to sin?
The following day, after three hours on the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” After the praise and thanks of the previous night, did He now doubt God? The question had to be rhetorical because Jesus knew exactly why He was suffering—He was bearing the weight of the sins of the world. What the gospels don’t include is the rest of Psalm 22, the psalm Jesus probably was reciting. Although the psalm reflects what was happening in David’s life at the time of its writing, it is prophetic in its clear depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus: people mocked and scorned Him, He was in pain, His strength ebbed, His mouth was dry, His hands and feet were pierced, He was dying, and His clothing was divided and lots cast for it. By the psalm’s 22nd verse, however, its tone changes and the plaintive cries turn to praise and confident words, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among your assembled people. … All who seek the Lord will praise him. Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.” These are not the words of a defeated man but the words of the promised Messiah, the Anointed One, the one who fulfilled the promise made to Abraham in Genesis that, “through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” Out of what seemed to be defeat came victory. Praise the Lord! His faithful love does, indeed, endure forever!
The cross was two pieces of dead wood; and a helpless, unresisting Man was nailed to it; yet it was mightier than the world, and triumphed, and will ever triumph over it. [Augustus William Hare]