Let’s face it: if you slice the resurrection out of the Christian faith, there’s not a whole lot left. Jesus without the resurrection is just another religious teacher offering up ethical guidelines. But we don’t need a life coach or religious guru. We need a Savior, one who can tackle our fundamental human dilemma: we’re all doomed to die one day—one way or another. A set of rules to live by won’t help you much with that.
“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied,” St. Paul writes. “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor 15:19–20) Christ’s Easter triumph puts death in its place and soothes sorrowing and grieving hearts.
“This Joyful Eastertide,” which is set to a spritely Dutch tune, was written by Anglican priest George Ratcliffe Woodward (1848–1934). Rev. Woodward was a gifted musician, liturgical scholar, and poet. He collected and published Carols for Easter and Ascension-Tide in 1894. The one original composition in his anthology was “This Joyful Eastertide.” It’s woven out of faith and his personal grief: he had buried his wife, Alice, the previous October—after just four years of marriage.
So Rev. Woodward’s carol is a paean of Easter joy that takes death seriously. Weeping may last through the night, Scripture teaches, but joy comes with the morning (Ps 30:5). So this glad Easter carol bids us put away sin and sorrow, for the Lord who once was dead is alive forevermore. Out of death he has now “sprung to life.”
“This joyful Eastertide
Away with sin and sorrow!
My love, the Crucified,
Has sprung to life this morrow.”
Death stings; no doubt about it. The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law, but God has delivered us from both—through the resurrection of Christ Jesus our Lord. Death can still scowl and grimace, but it cannot bite.
“Death’s flood has lost its chill
Since Jesus crossed the river;
Lover of souls, from ill
My passing soul deliver.”
Those who fall asleep in Jesus rest from their labors until that glorious day when he will raise them up from death and decay to share in his own risen splendor. Then, reunited with them in living flesh, we shall all behold him face to face, forever.
“My flesh in hope shall rest
And for a season slumber
Till trump from east to west
Shall wake the dead in number.”
Death is now dead—for Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ shall come again.
Therefore though the Easter season comes and goes, our joyful Eastertide refrain goes on and on:
“Had Christ, who once was slain,
Not burst His three-day prison,
Our faith had been in vain:
But now has Christ arisen, arisen, arisen;
But now has Christ arisen!”
This guest post was written by Harold L. Senkbeil, author of The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Lexham Press, 2019).