(This is an email sent to our congregation discussing the idea that Jesus sang portions of Psalm 118 as He entered into Jerusalem.)
This past Lord’s Day I argued that Jesus was likely singing portions of Psalm 118 as He entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. One of the folks in the congregation had a great question for me and a good catch – that the text never explicitly notes that Jesus was in fact singing. How do we know that He was?
First, this was a great question. It forced me to think about the issue and why I would argue that Jesus was singing.
Second, given that this is an implication of the text and not an explicit assertion of the text, this is certainly not a hill anyone should die on. It is possible that He did not sing on this occasion. But whether Jesus sang Psalm 118 on this occasion or not, we do know that He sang the psalms frequently and that He did so during Passover week (cf. Mk 14:26). Further, the NT frequently asserts that the words of the psalms are the words of the Lord’s Anointed, His Christ, and so they are most appropriately Jesus’ words (cf. Heb 2:11ff). Consequently, it is fitting to consider how the words of Psalm 118 reflect the faith of our Lord – even as we did in our points of application on Sunday.
Third, I would argue that frequently when the Scriptures cite a verse of a psalm in the context of a “worship” or “praise” moment, that verse frequently serves as a pointer to the psalm in toto. So, for instance, as Jehoshaphat and the people of Israel marched out against the Edomites, Ammonites, and Moabites, they were singing “Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever” (2 Chr 20:21). Most commentators would argue that this verse is stuck there to point us to Psalm 136 (and possibly Psalm 106). So the quotation from the psalm in the book of Chronicles is a pointer, telling us that as Jehoshaphat and Israel went forth to battle they were singing Psalm 136 from the Psalter. This is why I would argue that Jesus was singing part of the psalm. I think the quotation of the psalm in Mark serves a similar “pointer” purpose. Be that as it may, you should be aware that this is an implication of the text not an assertion of the text – and weigh it accordingly.
For those interested, much of my thinking on this matter of Jesus as the singer of the psalms was shaped by a book written by James E. Adams entitled, War Psalms of the Prince of Peace: Lessons from the Imprecatory Psalms published by P&R. He has a chapter in there on Jesus as the proper singer of the psalms. He notes that in passages such as Hebrews 2:11-13 Jesus is represented as the One truly singing the words of the psalms. I would highly recommend his book if you haven’t read it – I think there may be a copy on the book table.
May the Lord continue to heighten our love for His Word and our desire to understand and apply it!