Friday, April 10, 2015

Christ the Lord Is Risen Today, LSB 469

Christ the Lord Is Risen Today
Luke 24:4–7; 1 Corinthians 15:55–57; 1 Peter 1:18–21; Rev 5:9–13
(Lutheran Service Book 469)
Text: Charles Wesley (1707-88) alt.

“Christ the Lord is ris’n today!”
Charles Wesley
Saints on earth and angels say;
Raise your joys and triumphs high;
Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth, reply.

Love’s redeeming work is done,
Fought the fight, the battle won;
Lo! Our Sun’s eclipse is o’er;
Lo! He sets in blood no more.

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal;
Christ hath burst the gates of hell.
Death in vain forbids His rise;
Christ has opened paradise.

Lives again our glorious King!
Where, O death, is now thy sting?
Once He died our souls to save;
Where thy victory, O grave?

Soar we now where Christ has led;
Foll’wing our exalted Head.
Made like Him, like Him we rise;
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies.

Hail the Lord of earth and heav’n!
Praise to Thee by both be giv’n!
Thee we greet triumphant now:
Hail, the resurrection, Thou!

Charles Wesley, along with his older brother John, are considered the co-founders of the Methodist Church. Both were poets, but Charles far exceeded his brother in sheer volume of hymns, writing over 6,000. Many, like “Christ the Lord is ris’n today!” are still sung today. This particular hymn was based on an earlier Latin Poem. You will notice that ours has been altered. I know of no modern hymnal that doesn’t have to give this notice as Wesley’s original hymn had 11 verses.  Also, the language has been updated a bit.

John and Charles came under the influence of a Moravian called Peter Bohler, who emphasized the truth of Scripture and the need for a personal experience of the work of the Holy Spirit. John had been doubting his salvation. He has a breakthrough in assurance of his salvation on Wednesday, May 24, 1738. Here are Wesley's words: "In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, London, where someone was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart of a person through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death." This hymn was written about a year after this experience.

Quite obviously, this is an Easter hymn. Our verse one is an ascription of praise, which comes from people and angels. This is a most appropriate response. It is like the praise given in Revelation 5:9. The reason for the praise is the resurrection of Jesus.

In verse two some of the meaning of the resurrection (and therefore some of the reason for our praise) comes through. We sing “Love’s redeeming work is done.” The word “Love” is actually referring to Jesus. It reminds me of the Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) hymn “Love Came Down at Christmas” (LW 46). “Love” is used because love was the motivating factor for the work of Christ, which was our salvation (John 3:16-17). Concerning this work of Christ, Peter wrote:

18knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21)

Peter tells us that, before the world began, God in His unfathomable way, chose to redeem the world through his Son, granting that redemption to all who are brought to faith in Jesus. The Son paid the ransom owed the Father because of our sin with His own precious blood. The Father affirmed the ransom payment with Christ’s resurrection. Satan’s power over humanity has been broken.

The opening words of verse three refer to the experience of the women as they came to the tomb on the first Easter morning. Luke 24:4-7 reads:

4While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5And 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? 6He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” (Luke 24:4-7)

What they were perplexed about was that the stone they expected to be blocking their way into the grave had been rolled away. The ladies had come to honor their Lord with burial spices. The stone was a typical way to close a grave, which was actually a cave. The “seal” had been placed by the authorities, along with a guard, to prevent tampering (Matthew 27:62-66). They feared the disciples would steal the body of Jesus. These preventive measures were in vain, not because the body was stolen, but because Christ had risen from the grave. Two angels appeared to the ladies and told them “He is not here, but has risen.” Death could not hold Jesus (Acts 2:24).

The resurrection of Jesus should not have come as a surprise. Jesus had told them he would rise (Luke 18:31-33, etc.). It had also been foretold throughout the Old Testament (Luke 24:26-27). The angel reminded the ladies of this. When Jesus says something, He means it. We should respond in confidence by believing His written word to this day. We are not to add to it, or take away from it, but receive it whole and seek to understand it by the guidance of the Holy Spirit working through that same word (Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18-19; Ephesians 6:17).

In our verse four, we sing:

Lives again our glorious King!
Where, O death, is now thy sting?
Once He died our souls to save;
Where thy victory, O grave?

Wesley is referring to 1 Corinthians 15:55–57.

55          “O death, where is your victory?
            O death, where is your sting?”

56          The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

God’s Law demands punishment for those who transgress it (sin). The wages of sin is death, both physical and eternal (Romans 6:23a). In 1 Corinthians Paul speaks of how death has been conquered through the victory of Easter. Jesus defeated it and Satan with His own death and glorious resurrection. His victory is every believer’s victory. This is the joy of Easter. This is the Good News we share.

In Revelation 5:9-13 we get a peek into heaven. The precise event is the reception of Jesus at his Ascension. We read:

9And they sang a new song, saying,

            “Worthy are you to take the scroll
                        and to open its seals,
            for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
                        from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10          and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
                        and they shall reign on the earth.”

11Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12saying with a loud voice,

            “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
            to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
            and honor and glory and blessing!”

13And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

            “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
            be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

The praise of Jesus for his redeeming work resounds in glory. So when we “Soar we now where Christ has led; Foll’wing our exalted Head.” We will participate in the praise of Jesus that we began while here on earth. Both creatures from heaven and earth join in the glorious song. Through God’s grace we will be included with those redeemed in that heavenly song.

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