April 1, 2021

by: Judy Bangsund

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. – Psalm 118: 22-23

Psalm 118 may well be the hymn Jesus and his disciples sang together before going to the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:30).  They had just celebrated the Passover together.  During the week of Passover, it was customary for the Jews to sing through the Hallel (Praise) psalms: Psalms 113-118.  After singing this hymn (as did perhaps 2000 other Jews in Jerusalem that night), they went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray – and as we know, there Jesus was betrayed and arrested as his long ordeal began, culminating in his death on a cross.

Jesus was rejected. Isaiah had predicted this rejection, in words we will read on Good Friday: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:3)  The very One who gave his life for us is the One we rejected.  The very Cornerstone on whom we build our lives, was rejected by those very builders who ought to have known better.

It’s not just them; it’s also us.  Even the most faithful of us – it must be acknowledged – set Jesus aside sometimes.  It’s as if we compartmentalize our lives and put Jesus in a box where he must stay and not stray.  It’s as if our lives were a house, in which Jesus is allowed in some rooms, but not in others. Set aside; rejected.

Our faithlessness must be acknowledged.  This is one reason why we gather on Maundy Thursday and on Good Friday – indeed, the whole season of Lent is characterized by penitence. As one of our hymns states so poignantly, “Who was the guilty?… ‘Twas I, Lord Jesus.  I it was denied Thee; I crucified Thee.” (Ah, Holy Jesus, LBW #123)

But it doesn’t end there.  Psalm 118 continues with this next verse, one we often use as we begin worship: ““This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (vs 24)  

I am intrigued as I read Psalm 118 with Maundy Thursday in mind.  The Passover is a night of solemn remembrance of God’s deliverance.   Sad and somber as it is, God’s love and mercy, his utter faithfulness to us, is what wins the day.
I encourage you to take a moment to read through Psalm 118 with the events of Maundy Thursday in mind.  And then praise God as you sing/ listen to the song, Above All

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