It is Holy Week. For Christians, we are hushed, reflective, repentant, and pensive. The perfect Son of God, Jesus Christ, who came to earth to live a sinless life, offers himself as an unblemished sacrifice as payment for the sins of the world. He is crucified, dies, and descends into hell.
This knowledge is weighty, and it marks the days of this week. Maundy Thursday. Good Friday. It is solemn and we are sobered as we contemplate Christ’s journey to the cross. Or, maybe, as the redeemed of the Lord, we are experiencing the both/and of Christ’s sacrifice and his explosive victory over death. Our dropping heads raise, and our hearts swell with anticipation. We know the story. Hope rises.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here but has risen. Luke 24:1–6a (ESV)
Christ is risen! He conquers the grave, satisfies the penalty of sin, and reigns forever at the right hand of God in heaven, our King of Kings, and Lord of Lords! Our hope is eternal, real, and a result of the free gift of grace from God the Father.
And, as an expression of this hope, we celebrate unlike any other people. We set aside Easter as a commemoration and observance of Christ’s victory over sin and death. Whether celebration comes in the form of a sunrise worship service, traditions observed with family and friends, or fun activities with our children, we have a wide range of ways to celebrate.
A common way we celebrate Easter is to sing special songs. The lyrics and the melodies become associated with this unique remembrance. Even as you read, it’s likely familiar words and strains of tunes have entered your thoughts. Rich with theological truth and easy to memorize, they are a wonderful addition to family worship and discipleship of our children.
One hymn is a fitting match for Holy Week. Written by a 19th century preacher, Robert Lowry (1826–1899), this hymn is one of several for which he is well-known. Lowry was as a capable minister of the gospel with a great ability to inspire his congregants with word pictures. Music and hymnody were what we now would call his side hustle. Composed in 1874, “Low in the Grave He Lay” (also called “Christ Arose”) appears in many hymnals.
Hallelujah! Christ Arose!
The song begins, and the first somber stanza plods as block-like chords restrain the singer. The music brings us to the tomb. (Matthew 27:57–60)
“Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior,
Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!”
We’re reminded how Jewish leaders were afraid that the disciples might steal their dear friend’s body, so they ask Pilate to provide a guard and seal the tomb. (Matthew 27:62–66)
Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Savior,
Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord.
Simply put, the grave cannot hold him. Jesus arose from the tomb in three days as he said he would. (Matthew 28:1–6)
Death cannot keep its Prey, Jesus my Savior,
He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!
Voices cry out and the refrain rises like trumpet sound as those he came to save explode with the good news. He is not here! (Matthew 28:6)
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!
We Sing with You
Recorded in the Scriptures and confirmed by historians as an actual event, the resurrection of Christ from the dead is not an allegory. It is reality, and the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is mighty to save! As you anticipate Easter and plan your celebration, we rejoice and sing with you the fact that “Christ Arose.”