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Words: John Mason Neale (b. Jan. 24, 1818; d. Aug. 6, 1886)
Music: Waltham (or Calkin), by John Baptiste Calkin (b. Mar. 16, 1827; d. May 15, 1905)
Note: Dr. Neale did serve as a pastor for a time, but he is recognized today more for his translation of many ancient hymns from Latin and Greek, preserving our heritage from the days of the early church. He also wrote a number of songs himself. One is the carol Good King Wenceslas, about a godly duke of Bohemia in the eighth century.
A friend of ours was on vacation with his family in the Southern States. They’d driven a camper, so had their sleeping facilities with them. One night, their young son was particularly restless, and was making it difficult for the others to sleep. Finally, Dad said, “Why don’t you come here and sleep next to Mom, and I’ll take your bed.”
The exchange was made, but suddenly the father let out a yelp of pain. Throwing back the covers, he saw he had company in the bed. A scorpion! To this day, he has a swollen knot on his arm where he sustained that excruciating sting–a sting that would have been far more dangerous for his little boy. He told us it reminded him of how the Lord Jesus took death’s sting in our place.
The Bible says it again and again.
“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:3). “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son [gave Him to die upon a cruel cross], that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). “Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (I Pet. 3:18). “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us” (I Jn. 3:16).
But that is only part of the good news. A dead saviour is no saviour at all. The effectiveness of the saving work of the Son of God, and His very identity and more, are wrapped up in an event that took place three days later: His resurrection. The Lord Jesus Christ returned bodily from the grave on what we’ve come to call Easter Sunday morning.
The Bible is equally insistent on that fact, and it was the heart of the gospel message for the early church.
“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here [in the tomb], but is risen!” (Lk. 24:5-6). “Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him” (Rom. 6:9). “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).
“With great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33). “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Pet. 1:3). “For since by man came death [through Adam’s sin], by Man also came the resurrection of the dead” (I Cor. 15:21).
We serve, not a dead rabbi, but a living Lord and Saviour. What a cause for joyful celebration and worship. Not surprisingly, then, there are many hymns of the Christian church that mark this wonderful event. One of them was given to us by John Neale.
More significant than Good King Wenceslas is Neale’s song of joy about the resurrection of Christ.
CH-1) Lift up, lift up your voices now!
The whole wide world rejoices now;
The Lord has triumphed gloriously,
The Lord shall reign victoriously.
CH-2) In vain with stone the cave they barred;
In vain the watch kept ward and guard;
Majestic from the spoilèd tomb,
In pomp of triumph Christ is come.
The first two stanzas celebrate the event, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. What follows is the application of it–what it means to us now, and can mean forever.
CH-3) And all He did, and all He bare,
He gives us as our own to share;
And hope, and joy and peace begin,
For Christ has won, and man shall win.
CH-4) O Victor, aid us in the fight,
And lead through death to realms of light;
We safely pass where Thou hast trod;
In Thee we die to rise to God.
CH-5) Thy flock, from sin and death set free,
Glad alleluias raise to Thee;
And ever with the heavenly host
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
1) Can you list a few of the blessings that are ours because Christ is risen from the dead?
2) What are some other resurrection hymns you know and love?