“And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Matthew 26:30). According to Jewish tradition, Psalms 113 and 114 were sung prior to the Passover meal and Psalms 115 through 118 were sung after its completion. As Matthew indicates, Jesus and His disciples did this.
Like each of the other Hallel (i.e. praise) psalms sung on this evening, Psalm 118 focuses specifically upon Jehovah’s praiseworthiness. The psalm begins and ends with the same exhortation: “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (vv. 1, 29). The psalm’s rationale for thanksgiving is:
- Jehovah’s impressive history of answered prayers. “I called on the Lord in distress; the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place” (v. 5).
- Jehovah’s unwavering companionship. “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is for me among those who help me” (vv. 6-7).
- Jehovah’s history of deliverance. “All nations surrounded me, but in the name of the Lord I will destroy them. They surrounded me, yes, they surrounded me; but in the name of the Lord I will destroy them. They surrounded me like bees; they were quenched like a fire of thorns; for in the name of the Lord I will destroy them. You pushed me violently, that I might fall, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation” (vv. 10-14).
- Jehovah’s promise of salvation through the rejected cornerstone (i.e. Christ). “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (vv. 22-24).
Jesus’ final song spoke of the climatic fulfillment of His earthly ministry—the rejection of the Jews and the building of His church. Before the next sunset, the Jews’ rejection of Him would be finally completed!
One can only wonder what Jesus thought and felt as He sang these words of His final song.