“He’s Risen, He’s Risen” This Easter hymn was written by the first president of the LCMS, the Rev CF Walther. While on a voyage from America to Germany (for health reasons) in 1860, Walther was able to experience an Easter Sunday on the Atlantic Ocean. Apparently, the experience of this morning moved him to write both the text and the tune of this hymn. (It is unusual for both the text and tune to be written by the same person, Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress” being a notable exception.)
The first stanza proclaims that “He’s risen,” but then clarifies exactly who is risen; it is the “incarnate, true Word.” We are thus reminded of His birth—the Incarnation. This momentous event is proclaimed by “earth, sea, and mountain.” The second stanza recounts that the “Lord of creation was nailed to the tree,” perhaps recalling Colossians 1: 15, 16: “He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created. . . all things were created by Him and for Him.” These rather enigmatic verses imply Christ’s role in creation, and even that the creation was made for Him. (Some contemporary theologians have read from this verse the idea that God created the world simply so that His son might be incarnate in it. . . the advent of sin, they claim, altered the purpose of this incarnation, then, but not its essential fact.)
The fourth stanza reminds us of I Cor. 15: 55: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” A few weeks ago we sang “Abide with Me” (in relation to the Emmaus road account), whose seventh stanza reminds us of this same universal Easter theme: “Where is death’s sting? Where, grave thy victory?” The result of death’s “lost sting” is that, because Christ rose, He has “opened fair Eden’s door,” a reference to the Garden of Eden, in existence before sin. Christ, then, is the “second Adam,” who was able to keep the law perfectly, unlike the first Adam. In the words of I Cor. 15: 45, “The first man Adam became a living being, the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.” Christ’s redemption has “clothed” us in righteousness once more.
The season of Easter lasts for eight weeks; it is important that the joy of Easter morning be continued through this season (at least). Such overtly Easter-oriented hymns help us to do this.