He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Our text for this morning as has been during the season of Lent is the appointed Hymn of the day, the sermon hymn that we just sang. The first thing we might notice in this hymn is the fact that while Luther’s influence in Reformation hymnody taught universal and objective salvation using terms as “we” and “us”, Paul Gerhardt’s hymns were more personal using the pronouns “I” and “me.”
Stanza one, “Awake, my heart, with gladness, See what today is done; Now, after gloom and sadness, Comes forth the glorious sun. My Savior there was laid Where our bed must be made When to the realms of light Our spirit wings its flight.” Last Friday we gathered and remembered Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. We left as we were reminded of Jesus’ burial and the closing of the tomb. How fitting that our hymn begins with stanza one, obviously, which takes us to the tomb where our hearts are gladdened at the sight of Jesus’ resurrection.
In this stanza, Gerhardt reminds us that the tomb was our grave. It was because of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden that death entered into our world. The price for sin was set at death, physical death and eternal death and hell. The price for our sins is death and more specifically human death for human sin. We should have been the ones on the cross and in the tomb. We are the ones who are conceived and born in sin. The wages of our sin is our own death. But Jesus took our sin. He took our place. He suffered and died for us, in our place. Yet, how we now awake with gladness as we come to the tomb and find it empty because Jesus rose from the dead.
Stanza two, “The foe in triumph shouted When Christ lay in the tomb; But lo, he now is routed, His boast is turned to gloom. For Christ again is free; In glorious victory He who is strong to save Has triumphed o’er the grave.” Stanza two reminds us that when Jesus died and was buried the devil thought he had won the victory so the devil shouted when Jesus was placed in the tomb, but now he has been routed, he has lost the battle and his boast has turned to gloom. We sing with gladness because Christ is victorious. He has defeated sin, death and the devil. He has risen from the dead. Christ is free.
Stanza three, “This is a sight that gladdens—What peace it doth impart! Now nothing ever saddens The joy within my heart. No gloom shall ever shake, No foe shall ever take The hope which God’s own Son In love for me has won.” This stanza takes us to the tomb where we are gladdened by what we see, an empty tomb. To witness Jesus’ resurrection brings eternal joy. Knowing that Jesus has defeated sin, death and the devil nothing can sadden us, no gloom can shake us.
Yes, while we live on in this world we will still face trials and tribulations, we still have times of struggle, the devil will still tempt and harass us, but the devil can never discourage us because Jesus has won the victory for us because of His love for us. Greater love can no one have than this that one will lay down His life for us and that is exactly what Jesus did. He laid down His life for us and then raised it up again.
Stanza four, “Now hell, its prince, the devil, Of all their pow’r are shorn; Now I am safe from evil, And sin I laugh to scorn. Grim death with all its might Cannot my soul affright; It is a pow’rless form, Howe’er it rave and storm.” Here in stanza four we confess and rejoice that the prince of hell, the devil himself has been stripped of all his power. Indeed, death, hell and the devil have no more power over us. We are saved from the evil of the devil. No, that does not mean we are free from temptation and sin, but we know that the devil has been defeated and we have Jesus on our side to help us in times of need. Our greatest enemy, death has been defeated and can harm us no more. Death is powerless no matter how it might rave and storm. By faith in Jesus our souls need not fear.
Stanza five, “The world against me rages, Its fury I disdain; Though bitter war it wages, Its work is all in vain. My heart from care is free, No trouble troubles me. Misfortune now is play, And night is bright as day.” Here again in stanza five we admit that the world may continue to be against us, we may continue to suffer trials and tribulations, struggles and temptation, but we can do so with out fear. The world rages against us. The devil, the world and our own sinful flesh tempt us. And yet, their work is in vain. Our hearts are free from care. No trouble troubles me. Nothing in the world can harm us.
Stanza six, “Now I will cling forever To Christ, my Savior true; My Lord will leave me never, Whate’er He passes through. He rends death’s iron chain; He breaks through sin and pain; He shatters hell’s grim thrall; I follow Him through all.” Because of God’s great love for us, because Jesus lived for us, took our sins, suffered and died for us, because Jesus rose for us our response of faith is to pledge that our faithfulness to Christ will never end. We will cling to Christ our Savior for ever and know that He our Lord will never leave us. Jesus breaks the chains of hell and gives us victory. He breaks through sin and pain shattering the torments of hell. His love for us moves in us to guide us and to follow Him through all.
Stanza seven, “He brings me to the portal That leads to bliss untold, Whereon this rhyme immortal Is found in script of gold: ‘Who there My cross has shared Finds here a crown prepared; Who there with Me has died Shall here be glorified.’” Stanza seven brings us to our earthly life’s end. He brings us to the portal. Jesus brings us to the door of heaven. The door to heaven is a door to untold bliss, pure peace and happiness, more precious than gold. And He gives us the crown prepared for each one of us. This same Jesus who gave up the glory that was His in heaven in order to take on human flesh and blood, in order to live for us, take our sins, suffer and die for us. This same Jesus who rose from the dead ascended to the place from which He descended, so that He might regain His glory, this same Jesus we will meet and see Him in heaven in all His glory.
Last Friday, Good Friday we witnessed once again that the price for sin was death. We witnessed what God promised in Genesis, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). We watched as our God died and was buried. Today we are reminded of Paul’s words in Romans, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). And this morning we come and see that death and the tomb, the grave had no power over Him because we are witnesses of the empty tomb and His resurrection.
Again, Paul’s words in Romans comes to mind, “35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).
Awake, my heart, with gladness. Jesus has risen from the dead. He has defeated sin, death and the devil. He has paid the full price for our sins, your sins and mine. We have forgiveness and with forgiveness we know we have life and salvation. What a great God we have, what a loving God we have. What else can we do except rejoice and say, to Him be the glory. He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Amen.