Sunday, April 8, 2007

Welcome, Happy Morning!

I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. Rev. 1:18

Happy Easter! (We got more than a foot of snow overnight, so it doesn't quite "feel" like Easter in our part of the country...)

Easter is the day we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead. I think His miraculous resurrection surprised even His closest followers – even though He had told them what would happen. Can you imagine what it would have been like to be one of the Marys on that morning, and going to the tomb, finding it empty? Thinking that someone had stolen your beloved friend and Savior? And then learning that He wasn’t stolen – He arose! And you will see Him again! What wonderful news! They must have been beside themselves with joy.

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified.

He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.

Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you."
Matthew 28:1-7

As this hymn tells us, Jesus’ resurrection won heaven for us and vanquished hell. Vanquished is a big word that means conquered, defeated. Jesus conquered hell by rising from the dead – the devil no longer has the power – Jesus does! We’ve looked at this verse before from Hebrews but it bears repeating:

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. Hebrews 2:14-15

Jesus was a human just like we are, and partook of death, as a human, so he might render the devil powerless. We no longer fear death! Jesus has conquered it for us! This hymn uses this illustration in several verses – in verse 1 it speaks of hell being vanquished, in verse 5 it reminds us that “mankind to deliver, mankind did put on.” Jesus became a man in order to deliver us through his death and resurrection.

For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. I Cor. 15:21

We are delivered from our impending death because of our sin, and also delivered of the sins that imprison us. As the hymnwriter here says, “Loose the souls long prisoned, bound with Satan’s chain.” Until we confess that we are sinners in need of a Savior, ask for forgiveness and profess that Jesus is Lord, we are imprisoned by our own sin, bound by Satan’s chains. As Paul explained to the Romans,

I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Romans 7:23-24

Until he came to saving faith, Paul, and each of us, were imprisoned by our sin. But Jesus sets us free from the body of this death! His death and glorious resurrection raises us to life again with Him.

For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
Romans 6:5-7

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:11

We have a new life now, and we also have eternal life. As Jesus promised

"For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." John 6:40

All that is fallen is raised to life again. All glory and honor and praise to God for His wonderful plan: sending His own son to take my sin upon Himself to die a shameful death upon a tree, then rising again, having become the propitiation (satisfaction) for my sin, and now seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having finished the work that He came to do.

He is not here. He is risen! Hallelujah!

Welcome, Happy Morning!
Words from the Venantius Fortunatus, circa 590;
translated from Latin to English by John Ellerton

“Welcome, happy morning!” age to age shall say:
“Hell today is vanquished, Heav’n is won today!”
Lo! the dead is living, God forevermore!
Him, their true Creator, all His works adore!

Earth her joy confesses, clothing her for spring,
All fresh gifts returned with her returning King:
Bloom in every meadow, leaves on every bough,
Speak His sorrow ended, hail His triumph now.

Months in due succession, days of lengthening light,
Hours and passing moments praise Thee in their flight.
Brightness of the morning, sky and fields and sea,
Vanquisher of darkness, bring their praise to Thee.

Maker and Redeemer, life and health of all,
Thou from heaven beholding human nature’s fall,
Of the Father’s Godhead true and only Son,
Mankind to deliver, manhood didst put on.

Thou, of life the Author, death didst undergo,
Tread the path of darkness, saving strength to show;
Come, then True and Faithful, now fulfill Thy Word;
’Tis Thine own third morning; rise, O buried Lord!

Loose the souls long prisoned, bound with Satan’s chain;
All that now is fallen raise to life again;
Show Thy face in brightness, bid the nations see;
Bring again our daylight: day returns with Thee!

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