Pathways through Lent

Weekday reflections from St. John’s in the season of Lent.

Tuesday in Holy Week: March 26, 2024

For the final entry in this year’s series about the Hebrew Scriptures, I invite you to consider three Psalms that play a big role in Holy Week and Easter.

Psalm 116 on Maundy Thursday

A Psalm of Praise for Deliverance. It might originally have been either a personal experience or a corporate reminder of the Exodus. The psalm has the standard sections for most praise songs:

  • I love the Lord because he has heard and saved me.

  • I recount the Lord’s goodness to me and how I will repay him.

  • Because God has counted my life precious, I offer this expression of devotion.

A colleague of mine once reflected that “lifting the cup of salvation and calling on the name of the Lord” is something like a toast. He suggested that maybe sometime, when no one is watching, when we lift the chalice, we might whisper “Cheers for the Lord God.”

Psalm 22 on Good Friday

An anguished prayer of David, who was being victimized by enemies. He protests his innocence and begins to anticipate the joy of what God will finally do to vindicate him. This is the most often quoted Psalm in the New Testament. Many of the phrases fit into the descriptions of the suffering of Jesus.

Some scholars propose that when Mark and Matthew quote Jesus as saying, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” they might mean not just those words, but something like, “Then Jesus prayed Psalm 22.” The quotation might be something like a reporter saying, “Then they said the Hail Mary” or “Then they said the Our Father.” If that was the gospel intention, it would signal that Jesus not only asked “Why have you forsaken me?” but also expressed confidence in God’s deliverance.

Psalm 118 on both Palm Sunday and Easter

Like Psalm 116, this is another classic Psalm of Praise for Deliverance. It is the last in a set (Psalms 113–118) that came to be used at Passover. Many scholars assume that this is the “hymn” referred to at the end of the Last Supper: “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” No wonder it is the Psalm for Easter, the Church’s Exodus.

The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.
I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.
The same stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
On this day the Lord has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Jack Reiffer
Pathways Editor

Links to the appointed readings for today