There is a song often sung on Easter (and other times) that is quite tremendous. This hymn has meaningful words. The music is exciting and gives us a sense of hope as we sing.
This song was written in 1874 by Robert Lowry who also wrote “I Need Thee Every Hour”, “Nothing but the Blood”, and “Shall we Gather at the River.” Robert Lowry was a Baptist minister for 51 years who lived and ministered with churches in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. His hymn focuses us on the promise of Easter Morning and the meaning that Easter Morning brings.
What song is it?
“Christ Arose” or as most of us probably call it “Up from the Grave He Arose.”
Verse 1: Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior, Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!
As we begin to look at these verses, I cannot help but note that over and over in the three verses of the song; Jesus is referred to as “Savior” and “Lord.”
Why is Jesus called “Savior?”
Jesus is called Savior because it is Jesus Christ that provides forgiveness and salvation from our sins. Jesus is the source of eternal life for us. Jesus was the One who willingly suffered and died on our behalf to be the substitute for our sins. We could not and did not earn salvation, it is a gift of God called grace. Titus 3:4-7 tells us plainly, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”
Why is Jesus called “Lord?”
To be honest, Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is God. That makes Jesus the Sovereign Infinite Everlasting Creator God of the Universe and He is in charge. In John 13:13 Jesus says, “You call Me ’Teacher’ and ‘Lord’, and rightly so, for that is what I am.” Being “Lord” is Jesus’ identity. Being Lord means He is the Son of God. Being Lord means He has all things under His power.
It was this “Savior” and “Lord” that was willingly crucified on Friday and now lay low in the grave… waiting for the coming day when He would rise from the dead. I can not imagine how much Jesus endured on the cross knowing that with a minor thought He could have changed it all.
Verse 2: Vainly they watch His bed, Jesus my Savior; Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!
The verse of the song speaks of two things that “vainly” happened while Jesus was in the tomb. The word “vain” has two basic meanings. First, it means “one has an excessively high opinion of themselves.” That’s not what it means here. Second, it means “to do something that produces no result.” In this verse of the song, “vainly” refers both times to the Roman guards and religious leaders that wanted Him dead and got their wish, but in the end what they wanted would not come to fulfillment. Jesus would not stay dead!
The religious leaders and guards vainly watched the tomb to make nothing was amiss. The plain fact was… Jesus was dead. They had killed Him on purpose and now He was dead. The disciples fled. No one would come to take His body or do anything… Jesus was dead. They could watch the bed all they wanted, but at the appropriate time, Jesus would rise from it. They could do nothing to stop it.
The religious leaders and guards also sealed the tomb in vain. We know that once Jesus rose from the dead, nothing would keep Him inside. Jesus would come out of the tomb and it would be earth-shaking… both literally and figuratively. Matthew 28:1-4 tells us, “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.” They could stand guard and try to keep the stone in place, but the stone would roll away and show the whole world that Jesus had risen.
Verse 3: Death cannot keep its Prey, Jesus my Savior; He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!
Verse three of this classic hymn tells us of the complete victory that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, won that Easter Morning.
First, we have victory over death. We who are believers have nothing to fear the hour we take our last breath. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has already been dead and prepared a place for us. Romans 8:2 says, “Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” 1 Corinthians 15:56-57 tells us, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Death for the believer is not something that victimizes us or hunts us, but rather death for the believer is victory shared in Christ.
Second, we have victory over eternal prison. Romans 6:23 promises us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In death for believers, there is no constriction or bars or hurtfulness, but complete freedom in God. Eternal life in God is freedom and goodness and plenty and peace.
We sing these three wonderful verses based on truths in Scripture. These truths are put forth as beautiful poetry in this hymn. We then come to the chorus and because of the truth of what Jesus Christ has done, you and I can sing loud and proud and boisterous and confidently with strength of heart and hope in our spirits.
Up from the grave He arose, With a mighty triumph o’er His foes, He arose a Victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever, with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
As I think about those words, one question comes to mind: what ‘foes’ were defeated when Jesus Christ rose from the dead? That is a worthy question I think. When Jesus rose from the dead, what did He defeat?
Death was defeated.
Satan was defeated.
Sin was defeated.
Guilt was defeated.
Chaos was defeated.
Darkness was defeated.
Evil was defeated.
Let us celebrate with all that we are this Easter. Raise our voices in praise! May the joy of our hearts come out in joyous song for our Savior and Lord who rose from the grave victorious!
[“Christ Arose” is public domain]