After instituting the Lord’s Supper for His disciples, we read the following in Matthew 26:30
And when they had sung a hymn they went out into the Mount of Olives.
What is intriguing about this text is that it indicates that Jesus had indeed been following the Jewish Passover Seder, which is the Jewish feast that marks the beginning of the Passover celebration. By celebrating the Passover Seder, Jesus was concerned to fulfill completely the traditions of worship that Moses had established. The Seder typically involved a retelling of the story of salvation from slavery in Egypt. Traditionally, Psalms 113 and 114 were sung at the beginning of the service and Psalms 115 – 118 were sung at the end of the service. This tradition shows, at all events, that the ancient Jews perceived in these six psalms some link of close connection. They all sing of God the Redeemer, in some aspect of His redeeming character.
While these psalms suited the paschal feast, we can see how appropriate they would be in the lips of Christ, our Redeemer, in the upper room. In Psalm 113, He sang praise to Him who redeems from the lowest depth. In Psalm 114, He sang praise to Him who once redeemed Israel, and shall redeem Israel again. In Psalm 115, He uttered a song – over Earth’s fallen idols – to him who blesses Israel and the world. In Psalm 116, He sang His resurrection song of thanksgiving by anticipation. In Psalm 117, He led the song of praise for the great congregation. In Psalm 118 (just before leaving the upper room to go to Gethsemane), he poured forth the story of his suffering, conflict, triumph, and glorification. In particular, consider Psalm 118:27:
Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
For Jesus, these psalms must have been prophetic. For the disciples singing, the Passover psalms must have helped them remember the deliverance of their fathers from the land of bondage. It must have helped them remember the whole history of being freed from the bondage of Egypt and their entry into the Promised Land. So, for the Christian, singing at the Lord’s Supper must spur our remembrance of the freedom we have in Christ.
In this way, the Lord’s Supper is the ultimate fulfillment of Passover. This is normally why hymn or psalm singing is done before and after the Lord’s Supper. Because of the significance of the sacrifice, let us sing a hymn that is solemn, but not as a funeral. Consider the words of Charles Spurgeon as he instructed his congregation during the Lord’s Supper:
Let us sing softly, but nonetheless joyfully. These are not burial feasts; those are not funeral cakes which lie upon this table and yonder fair linen cloth is no winding sheet. ‘This is my body,’ said Jesus, but the body so represented was no corpse; we feed upon a living Christ.
The feast we observe is a joyful feast. It is on the Lord’s Day that we feast. We do not approach it as serfs on our knees, but as freedmen to serve Christ in drinking wine which gladdens our hearts. Sitting around the table as free men now is the time to sing, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. He maketh me lie down in green pastures: He leads me beside the still waters.” In particular, the Psalms give us the fullness of Christian prayer and expression. All of the emotions of lamentation, supplication, festal shouts, and solemn resolves belong to a celebration of Holy Communion.