Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Saviour,
waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o’er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Saviour,
vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!
Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Saviour;
he tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!
Robert Lowry (1874)
Along with Low in the Grave He Lay, Robert Lowry wrote several well-known and loved hymns. I need Thee Every Hour is one of his; All the Way My Saviour Leads Me is another.
Lowry was not just a hymn-writer; he only wrote them on the side. His most enjoyable task was preaching the gospel which he is said to have done with great skill with the use of vivid images.
He once said, “I would rather preach a gospel sermon to an appreciative, receptive congregation than write a hymn.”
The hymn is a simple one – made up of three verses and a recurring chorus.
Each of the verses takes us to the grave where we have a look inside to find Jesus lying in the grave, or lying on a death bed or being sealed in a tomb or being locked up by death.
But each verse leads into the triumphant chorus as we meditate on the fact that Jesus did not stay in the grave.
No! He arose from the dead. And his resurrection marked his decisive victory over sin and death and evil. His resurrection was not just a raising to life, it was an exaltation to glory. It was a crowning as king. It was the decisive moment in redemptive history and means that now Jesus is reigning not just by himself, but with all the captive souls he has rescued from death.
We see an emphasis on Jesus as king and Jesus as saviour all through this hymn. Each verse ends with the two-fold declaration: Jesus my Saviour in the first line and Jesus my Lord in the second.
This emphasis in in the chorus as well as we sing of Jesus’ victory but declare that in his victory he will reign with his saints, those who have been liberated from sin and guilt and death and the devil by his victorious resurrection!
– Tom Eglinton