Jesus died with a Psalm on his lips, Psalm 22 specifically.

“My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1, Spoken by Jesus in Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34).

And on many occasions before His death, Jesus lived with a number of other Psalms upon His lips.

To the chief priests and the elders, He quoted Psalm 118:22, “The stone that the builder rejected has become the cornerstone!” (Matt. 21:42)

When the Pharisees tried to set a verbal trap for Jesus, Jesus turned the tables on them, quoted Psalm 110, asked them about its meaning and implications, and effectively shut them down for a brief moment (Matt. 22:41-46; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:40-44).

And these are just two of many more examples of Jesus with the Psalms on His lips.

Because of this, I too want to live with the Psalms on my lips, but I find that any number of the Psalms hold me off at a distance or simply stop me dead in my tracks.

Psalm 24 is a prime example:

“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” (vv. 3-5).

I’ll never forget the first time I really listened to this Psalm. It was at a community prayer event. Christians of many stripes in a small town gathered around the flag pole outside the public high school praying for homes and churches and schools and states and the nation. The leader at this event used these verses as the happy opening to the event, a glad invocation. Everyone seemed to go along with it with great ease while inwardly I couldn’t get past what a non-starter this Psalm was for me, personally.

My hands aren’t clean. My heart is filthy. For people like me, Psalm 24 isn’t an invitation into the presence of God. Instead, it bars my entrance.

Long before Psalm 24 or any number of other Psalms hold me off at a distance, it’s the very first Psalm – Psalm 1 – that closes me off with an iron-clad gate from God. Just listen to how it starts:

“Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers” (vv. 1-2)

You see, on the grounds of Psalm 1, every gathering I’ve ever been a part of has never actually qualified as blessed. For every one of those gatherings has included the counsel of the wicked, and a terrible sinner, and a petty scoffer. And I’m not talking about other people. I can instead speak of myself as chief of sinners.

Ultimately, it’s the prophet Isaiah’s words that ring true:

"Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Is. 6:5).

On our own, none of us can enter into the world of the Psalms and live with them on our lips as Jesus did. The whole of the Psalms were open to Him, but to me, they stand closed.

Or at least, they stood closed. Past tense, because now the way has been opened.

On Easter, the world changed. On Easter, Christ Jesus rose from the grave. On Easter, Jesus walked with the two uncomprehending, unseeing disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-34).

Jesus walked with them. Jesus stood with them. Jesus sat with them. (All echoes of Psalm 1!)

He opened all of the Scriptures to them. He showed them how everything that had happened to Him – His incarnation and birth, His Baptism at the hands of a reluctant Baptizer, the miracles He performed, the lessons He taught, His betrayal by a friend, His cruel suffering, His innocent death as a common criminal, and His shocking resurrection – Jesus showed how all of these things were spoken of and promised in the Old Testament.

In His death, He took away my sin and the sin of the world. And in His resurrection, He validates what He accomplished in His death, and He makes us truly blessed individuals, and a blessed community by joining Himself to us with his words of forgiveness, mercy, blessing, and promise.

Suddenly Psalm 1 is opened to you and to me and to all people as Jesus walks with us, stands with us, sits with us, and gives us His words and gifts of life!

With Psalm 1 open to us, all of the other Psalms open to us also, including Psalm 34. Hear again its once devastating words:

“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.”

Joined now with Christ in His death and resurrection, we are bold to ascend the hill of the Lord our God with both hands that have been cleansed and hearts that have been made pure by Jesus Himself.

So as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the grave throughout this season of Easter, let’s give thanks that in Jesus’ death and resurrection the Psalms are now opened to us, put upon our lips, and they even lead us to the throne of God our Father – all through Jesus.

Who may ascend? We do. People like us do. For in Jesus the way has been opened to us and all people, and Jesus Himself takes us into the presence, peace, and blessing of God our Father.

In light of this, have yourself a blessed Easter and a blessed new life opened to you and anchored in Jesus Christ for you.