"Ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for He is risen…" (Matt. 25.5-6)
INTRO.: A song which reminds us of the fact that Jesus, who was crucified, was also raised form the grave, is "Christ Arose" (#174 in Hymns for Worship Revised, and #155 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune (He Arose) was composed both by Robert Lowry (1826-1899). A native of Philadelphia, PA, who was educated at Bucknell University, he became a Baptist minister and lived in the New York City, NY, area from 1859 to 1869. As a result of his interest in writing hymns, he was selected by the Biglow and Main Publishing Co. of New York City as the music editor for its Sunday school songbooks and he is credited with the publication of over 20 collections.
"Christ Arose," often identified by its first line, "Low in the Grave He Lay," was produced in 1874 after Lowry had moved to preach in Lewisburg, PA, where he also served as Professor at Bucknell. During the spring of that year, he was having his evening devotions and was impressed with the events associated with Christ’s resurrection. Soon he found himself in the parlor of his home and, in a very spontaneous fashion, there came forth from his thoughts the words and music for this song. It was first published the following year in a Sunday school songbook Brightest and Best of which he was co-editor with William Howard Doane (1832-1915).
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Christ Arose" appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
This song emphasizes both the facts and the importance of the resurrection of Christ.
I. Stanza #1 talks about how Christ lay in the tomb waiting the resurrection day
"Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior,
Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!"
A. The Bible records the burial of Jesus in Joseph’s new tomb: Matt. 27.57-61
B. However, this was only a waiting period, because even the Old Testament had prophesied that the Messiah would be raisd from the dead: Psa. 16.9-11; cf. Acts 2.29-31
C. And even Jesus Himself had often predicted His own resurrection: Matt. 16.21, 17.22-23, 20.17-19
II. Stanza #2 tells about how preparations were made to keep Christ’s body in the tomb
"Vainly they watch His bed, Jesus my Savior;
Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!"
A. The Jewish leaders were afraid that the disciples would steal the body, so they asked Pilate to set a guard and seal the tomb: Matt. 27.62-66
B. They remembered His redictions of a resurrection and wanted to have all their bases covered: Matt. 12:38-40
C. But, of course, all their preparations were in vain, and the very thing which they sought to prevent is what they eventually claimed happened: Matt. 28.11-15
III. Stanza 3 speaks of how Christ came forth from the grave
"Death cannot keep its Prey, Jesus my Savior;
He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!"
A. The simple fact is that after three days in the tomb, Jesus arose just as He said that He would: Matt. 28.1-2
B. Following His resurrection, He appeared to a number of people to show by many infallible proofs that He was indeed alive again: Acts 1.1-3, 1 Cor. 15.3-8
C. And the rest of the New Testament teaches us to remember Christ’s resurrection because it declared Him to be the divine Son of God: Rom. 1.3-4, 2 Tim. 2.8
CONCL.: Sometimes, song leaders may choose to have the congregation sing all three stanzas one right after another and then the chorus which triumphantly declares,
"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!"
Of course, Ellis J. Crum in Sacred Selections had to change "with His saints to reign" to "death He overcame" as usual to eliminate any references to Christ’s reigning forever, apparently concluding that such a thought must be premillennial even though that is the exact language used in Rev. 11:15. The resurrection of Christ from the dead is recorded in the scriptures not as some kind of allegory but as an actual event: Lk. 24.6-8). And it is presented in the scripture as the basis for our hope (1 Pet. 1.3-4). Therefore, we can rejoice and have hope because of the fact that "Christ Arose."