Fling Wide the Gates

While I attended an awesome Maundy Thursday service at All Saints Ecclesall last night, a startling revelation. Psalm 24 is messianic in its entirety, and it’s place in Haggadah is prophetic.

The recitation of parts of Psalm 24 occurs early on in Haggadah and happens straight after the initial blessings. The Seder opens with Kiddush, the blessing over the cup.

Blessed are You, L-rd, our G-d, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

Blessed are You, G-d, our G-d, King of the universe, who has chosen us from among all people, and raised us above all tongues, and made us holy through His commandments. And You, G-d, our G-d, have given us in love feasts and festive seasons for rejoicing and the day of this Feast of Matzot and this Festival of holy convocation, the Season of our Freedom, a holy convocation, commemorating the departure from Egypt. For You have chosen us and sanctified us from all the nations, and You have given us as a heritage Your holy Festivals in happiness and joy. Blessed are You, G-d, who sanctifies Israel and the festive seasons.

Blessed are You, G-d, our G-d, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.

Immediately after this blessing Psalm 24 is often read. Here are those amazing words.

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

Lift up your heads, O gates!
And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle!
Lift up your heads, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory!

Psalm 24 is, amongst over things, a psalm of ascent, of approach to Mount Zion, to Jerusalem, to the temple of the LORD. Of course, it asks certain questions of those daring to enter the presence of the Almighty, not least, who is worthy enough? The answer – he who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.

The immediate response of the Christian versed in the New Testament should be, “Well that counts me out then”. And indeed it does, for there is no-one who is righteous, not ever one. So we are left with a need for someone to come and ascend the hill of the LORD who is that which we are not in our natural state – holy and righteous.

Enter, on Palm Sunday, and then repeatedly again over Holy Week, Jesus. Jesus enters the city on Sunday, proclaimed with Hosannas. He enters again through Holy Week, walking into the Temple and teaching, before retiring outside the walls each evening (Luke 21:37-38). For five days he makes this symbolic journey of ascending the hill of the LORD and standing in his holy place. Then, finally after five days of this, he sits down with his friends and blesses God (who has sustained him these three and thirty years) with the words,

Blessed are You, G-d, our G-d, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.

All the holy festivals, all the rituals, all the symbolism, all the story-telling, all this has been to point to this one moment, this fulfilment of all God has promised and enacted. Truly we ask, who can ascend the hill of the LORD, who can stand in this holy place? Who will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation?

Answers on a postcard to a secret meeting of Sanhedrin, to a public trial in the Prelate’s courtyard, to a hill like a skull outside the city walls, across Gehenna.

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