“Jesus Christ Is Risen Today”

"…He is risen; He is not here…" (Mk. 16.6)

     INTRO.: A song which emphasizes the fact that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead is "Jesus Christ is Risen Today." The text of stanzas 1-3 was written by an anonymous author. It is identified as a fourth century Bohemian Latin hymn "Surrexit Christus Hodie" in John Walsh’s 1708 Lyra Davidica, where it was translated into English and joined to the tune now usually associated with Charles Wesley’s similar resurrection hymn, "Christ the Lord is Risen Today." The present arrangement of these stanzas dates from the 1749 Compleat Psalmist of John Arnold (c. 1720-1792). The text of stanza 4 was written by Charles Wesley (1707-1788). It was added in his 1740 Hymns and Sacred Poems. The modern version of the song appeared in 1816 edition of the the 1698 appendix to the 1696 New Version of the Psalms originally prepared by Nicholas Brady (1659-1728) and Nahum Tate (1652-1715).

     The tune (Llanfair or Bethel) is attributed to Robert Williams, who was born on Oct. 27, 1782, at Mynydd Ithel in Anglesey County, North Wales. A native and life-long resident of Anglesey Island, he was born blind but became a skilled basket maker. Tradition says that he had unusual musical ability and could copy down a tune perfectly after hearing it but once. The melody is taken from his manuscript notebook and bears the date of 1817, about a year before he died at Mynydd Ithel on July 15, 1818. The arrangement was made by John Roberts, who was born on Dec. 22, 1822, at Tanrhiwfelen in Aberystwyth, Wales. When he was five years old, his family moved to Penllwyn, and in 1829 to Pistyllgwyn near Melindwr. At age twenty, he went to live at Aberystwyth and became a teacher, poet, and composer.

     This arrangement was first published in the 1837 collection Peroriaeth Hyfryd compiled by Joseph Parry. In 1852 Roberts moved to Liverpool and later became editor of Amserau. In 1858, he went to Aberdare in South Wales and became editor of Gwladgarwr.  While in South Wales, Roberts began preaching at monthly services among the Calvinistic Methodists in Glamorgan and in 1859 became minister of a church at Panttywyll Merthyr Tydfil. That same year he set up a choral union in Aberdare which was the center of the South Wales coal field, published Llyfr Tonau Cynulleidfaol (Congregational Tune Book), and conducted the first hymn singing meeting that may be properly called a Cymanfa Ganu which became a national Welsh institution. In 1861 he became minister at Bethlehem Chapel and in 1865 at Capel Coch in Llanberis where he remained until his retirement in 1869. His death occurred at Fron in Caernarvonshire, Wales, on May 6, 1877.

     Among hymnbooks published during the twentieth century by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1963 Christian Hymnal (with the three original stanzas)edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today it may be found in the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise edited by Alton H. Howard. The same tune is used in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann with Charles Wesley’s "Hail the Day that Sees Him Rise," and in the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand with Stopford A. Brooke’s "Let the Whole Creation Cry."

     The song is a stirring paean of praise to Jesus for His resurrection from the grave.

I. Stanza 1 centers upon the resurrection of Christ
"Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once, upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss, Alleluia!"
 A. Rather than saying, as Charles Wesley did, that "Christ the Lord is risen today," meaning that He arose and is even today in a risen state, this song uses the present tense, as if the author were there, to speak of the day upon which Jesus arose, which of course is the first day of the week: Mk. 16.9
 B. This day is "our triumphant holy day" because upon it disciples assembled to "break bread" in memory of the Lord’s death: Acts 20.7, 1 Cor. 11.23-26
 C. Thus, we remember that our Savior, who is risen, suffered on the cross to redeem us by His blood: 1 Pet. 1.18-19

II. Stanza 2 centers upon the death of Christ
"Hymns of praise then let us sin, Alleluia!
Unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save, Alleluia!"
 A. Because of His death for us, all men should honor the Son as they honor the Father who sent Him to die for us: Jn. 5.23
 B. As a result of His willingness to die for us, He arose again to sit as King at God’s right hand: Acts 2.30-36
 C. What led Him to endure the cross was the joy set before Him of redeeming and saving sinners: Heb. 12.2

III. Stanza 3 centers upon the salvation of Christ
"But the pains which He endured, Alleluia!
Our salvation have procured, Alleluia!
Now above the sky He’s King, Alleluia!
Where the angels ever sing, Alleluia!"
 A. Because of the pains which He endured, He has procured our salvation: 1 Tim. 1.15
 B. After His death and resurrection He ascended back above the sky: Acts 1.9-10
 C. There, all the angels sing praises to Him who was slain: Rev. 5.11-12

IV. Stanza 4 centers upon the praise of Christ
"Sing we to our God above, Alleluia!
Praise eternal as His love, Alleluia!
Praise Him, all ye heavenly host, Alleluia!
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Alleluia!"
 A. Because it was God who sent Jesus to die for us and then raised Him from the dead, we should offer Him the sacrifice of praise by the fruit of our lips: Heb. 13.15
 B. The reason why we praise Him is because of His eternal love which makes it possible for us not to perish but have everlasting life: Jn. 3.16
 C. Yet, we praise not only the Father but also the Son and the Holy Ghost: Matt. 28.19

     CONCL.: Perhaps not many of our books have included this hymn because it is often referred to as an "Easter carol." However, it is by His resurrection from the dead that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power (Rom. 1.4). Therefore, it is not only right and scriptural to sing about the resurrection of Christ, but in this world of unbelief we truly need more songs which loudly proclaim our faith in the fact that "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today."


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