Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen just as he said.
- Luke 24:5; Matthew 28:6
In the year 2003, western coalition forces predicted a decisive victory over a tyrant in the Middle East. Though pockets of resistance and determined skepticism remain, a prophecy in our time is being fulfilled.
On or about the year 33 AD, a revolutionary leader, whom some called a religious blasphemer and others considered a threat to Roman rule, predicted a decisive victory over death, the final enemy of mankind. Though deceptive tales and pockets of skepticism remain, soon after this mans body was placed in a sealed, guarded tomb, the greatest prophecy of all time was fulfilled.
The words of men do not compare to the Word of God, and the above analogy may break down. However, the tendency of many to accept only a preconceived point of view is every bit the same.
But millions of people from generations past have believed our report (Isaiah 53:1) and, as long as the earth remains, others will join that throng. So on this Easter Day the followers of Jesus Christ celebrate his resurrection victory from sunrise to sunset and beyond. Here, in capsule form, are the stories behind some of the words and music filling our hearts and churches today.
Though already devout Christians, the faith of brothers John and Charles Wesley was deepened by a group of Moravians they met as they sailed from England to the Colony of Georgia in 1736. When they reached Savannah, and later on St. Simons Island, John preached to the other colonists while his younger brother Charles composed hymns. Shortly after their return to England in 1739, the Wesleys turned an old iron foundry into a chapel and began holding worship services there. In honor of their first service, which turned out to be the beginning of the Methodist denomination, Charles wrote what may be the most popular of all Easter hymns, Christ the Lord is Risen Today. Wesleys words have been sung by joyful congregations ever since: Raise your joys and triumphs high ... Sing, ye heavns, and earth reply, Alleluia!
Wesleys Easter hymn represents true musical praise, because all the attention is directed to God or his son, Jesus. Hymns with either the first person singular or plural as the subject represent a response to something God has done. The following 20th-century hymns, He Lives and Because He Lives, are examples of the latter.
Why should I worship a dead Jew? asked a student who had just attended an evangelistic meeting. The speaker, Alfred H. Ackley, had an instant reply.
He lives! He is not dead ... This I know because of my own experience, and the testimony of thousands of others.
Whether or not the student ever believed Jesus was alive, Rev. Ackley turned the incident into a new hymn: I serve a risen savior, hes in the world today ... You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.
During the turbulent 1960s, prominent Christian musicians Bill and Gloria Gaither were expecting their third child. What a terrible time to bring a child into the world, they thought. But when the baby was born, their renewed faith in God spilled over into the words of a new hymn, How sweet to hold a new-born baby, and feel the pride and joy he gives; but greater still the calm assurance: This child can face uncertain days because He lives. In time two more verses were added, along with this popular Easter chorus: Because He lives I can face tomorrow; because He lives all fear is gone; because I know He holds the future and life is worth the living just because He lives.
The coalition victory over Saddam Hussein is a miracle for our time.
The Easter victory over death is a miracle for all time. Alleluia!
(Barbara Seaborn is a local, free-lance writer. E-mail comments to seabara@ aol.com.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.