By Kevin Leary
Did Jesus sing when He lived on the earth? If He did, why and when did He sing? Furthermore, if Jesus sang, how should that impact our lives today? If Jesus, the Head of our Church, our Lord and our Savior, sang while He was on the earth and if we are to be growing in Christ-likeness, then the answer to these questions ought to impact our lives. With 100% certainty we can say that Jesus sang while He lived on this earth. As Jesus completed the Passover with His disciples, we read in Matthew 26:30, “and when they sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
Many times we can just skip over those words “when they had sung a hymn.” But I want to encourage you to not skip those inspired words of God. At one of the most crucial moments of Jesus’ life, as He just instituted the Lord’s Supper, and as He departed to the Mount of Olives where He would be betrayed into the hands of sinners, we find that Jesus sang! So what did Jesus sing? The answer is most likely one of the Hallel (Hallelujah) Psalms, Psalms 113—118, that the Jews would historically have sung during and at the conclusion of the Passover meal. This also gives us some insights into how Jesus would have learned to sing as a boy growing up in a Jewish culture (Luke 2:52). The context of Luke 2:41 reveals that Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of Passover. Jesus would have heard the singing of Levites as the Passover lambs were slain, and Jesus most likely would have been led in song by his father as they ate the Passover meal together. In both the temple and in the home, Jesus learned the importance of singing praise to God.
Therefore, it should not surprise us that the gathering of the local church is to be a time of singing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16), and the Christian home ought also to be a place where teaching through singing takes place (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:20–21). A primary means for imparting truth is through song. Consider how many Scripture verses you can recite and compare that to how many song lyrics you can recite. It is likely that you have more lyrics to songs placed in your mind than you have Scripture verses. This is not necessarily a bad thing if the lyrics in our minds are rooted in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. In Ephesians 6:4, fathers are specifically encouraged to bring up their children in the admonition of the Lord. The word “admonition” literally means to “put or place in the mind.” Singing is a God-ordained way to place truth in our minds. That is why the church is told to teach and admonish one another through psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.
Let me conclude with some practical suggestions to help us in our singing. First, participate in the song service of your local church by singing! Second, think about what you are singing. Third, develop a personal repertoire of songs that are rich in meaning and praise to our God. Memorize one new song each month! Fourth, sing those songs whenever appropriate as praise to God and as spiritual encouragement to your own soul. Allow them to be songs in the night whose truths can turn you to Christ and bring you through life’s darkest moments. And finally, if you are a parent, develop a strategy where your home is a place where doctrinally-rich songs are frequently sung to the praise of God and to the benefit of your children.
Kevin Leary (MA, Piedmont Graduate School) is pastor of First Baptist Church, Hamburg, N.Y. This article was originally posted to the church’s blog and is republished here by permission.