In a cold, dark, dead tomb a corpse is wrapped in a shroud. No motion, no life.
Then, there’s a small motion as cells in the body begin returning to life. Tissue begins to regenerate and suddenly the body moves as the dead man takes a deep breath.
He stirs and finding himself bound by the shroud casts it off. He sits up and then removes that which was wrapped around his head and lays it off to the side.
There’s nothing frightening about all this. In an unexplainable way it all feels “right” – the way it should be.
In a flash of brilliant white light an angel appears in the tomb. The angel immediately falls to the ground, bowing, “My Lord and my God” he says.
At that moment the stone sealing the entrance to the tomb is rolled away. A second angel bows low, “My King,” he says.
The Resurrected One smiles and cheerfully replies, “Good morning! I think I’ll go for a walk in the Garden.”
There are a lot of great Easter songs, both old and new. However, I think my all time favorite is Robert Lowry’s “Christ Arose.” “Up from the grave he arose” never fails to get my spiritual heart to pumping! This old song, to me, captures the resurrection with powerful words and a simple melody that the congregation can sing with joyful abandon.
But many churches don’t know how to sing it!
The song is supposed to contrast between “low in the grave he lay” and “up from the grave he arose.” The verse is “in the grave.” It’s a funeral song. The chorus is Easter resurrection: victory over the grave. It’s exciting and joyful – maybe even a little giddy.
The verse and chorus aren’t supposed to be sung at the same speed. Stated simply, sing the chorus at twice the speed of the verse. Don’t over think it – sing the chorus like you are four years old at a birthday party and having the time of your life.
Then, Lowry ingeniously puts the brakes on with the final lines of the chorus, preparing the singers to slow down again for the next verse.
Please share this with every worship leader you know who, having never heard this song sung right before, are destroying (yes, it’s an over-statement) an awesome Easter hymn!
Saturday of Holy Week carries a weight of its own. This day speaks to people facing great disappointment, people who are hurt and confused, and people who cry out to God but have received no answer.
Since we have the advantage of knowing what tomorrow is all about we tend to see Holy Saturday as merely a day of preparation for the big celebration, but the day actually has its own message.
This day speaks to people who are hurt and confused; to those who are living in a spiritual desert where the voice of God has not been heard. Holy Saturday teaches us to be stubborn in our faith; insisting on standing firm in it even when it feels as if all is lost.
The story of the Crucifixion is powerful. The cross was more an instrument of torture than it was one of execution. Some film makers have made it their mission to portray the agony of the cross with as much graphic realism possible. Maybe it’s that realism or something else but it seems to me that many Christians are stalled at the cross, thinking it is what Easter is all about.
It’s not. Easter is about victory, hope, and redemption. The only reason to go to Good Friday is because we can’t get to Easter without it. However, the enduring symbol of Christianity isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be) a crucifix. Rather, it’s an empty cross. The reason we don’t make a cross with its victim our primary symbol isn’t because we can’t bear seeing Jesus hanging on it. We make an empty cross our primary symbol because Jesus is no longer on the cross. He has defeated it and all it stood for.
So, for believers, Good Friday is a “No Parking Zone.” We spend time on Good Friday remembering the cross and especially the love of Jesus for us that caused him to endure it. But we happily turn the page to Sunday morning, Resurrection Day.
Easter services shouldn’t be about the Crucifixion. References to the cross should be about Christ’s victory over it. If pastors and other church leaders have done their job the ordeal of the cross should have already been brought to the attention of the Church. That paves the way for Easter. Individuals too should make it their practice to visit the cross on a regular basis, but not park there. Its the Resurrection that transforms the crucifix into an empty cross and its the Resurrection that should be our primary focus. Let’s turn the page from Good Friday and celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and what it means to us.
Friends, don’t get in a hurry this Good Friday. We will celebrate the Resurrection soon enough. Let’s linger at the cross without “padding” it with reminders that “Sunday is coming.”
Instead, for six hours, from 9 to 3, gaze at the cross and the One suffering on it. Realize that he is hanging there for all of us, unworthy though we are. Realize he is hanging there for just one reason: love.
Save all the rest till later. For now, spend time at the foot of the cross.