As a child in Ohio, He Lives was one of the most requested hymns we sang. We never tired of the reassuring message that filled us with joy. It’s a theme effectively supported by a soaring melody that I found myself humming yesterday. It still has a profound effect on my spirit.
Strangely enough, the dreadful question “Why should I worship a dead Jew?”, inspired the writing of this hymn. Honestly.
In 1932 Pastor Alfred Ackley met a Jewish man in California. He’d been exchanging theological ideas with the man over several weeks and one day the new friend asked Alfred, “Why should I worship a dead Jew?” Naturally the question played on Alfred’s mind as he prepared Easter Sunday’s sermon.
That morning, Ackley preached with great vigor on Christ’s Resurrection, and did the same at the evening service. Later Easter night, he was still vexed over his friend’s question. Noticing her husbands mood, his wife said, “Listen here, it’s time you did what you do best. Why don’t you write a song it and maybe you’ll feel better.”
Alfred went to his study, opened his Bible, and re-read the Resurrection account from Mark’s Gospel. A thrill went through him and he began to write as his wife expertly suggested. A few minutes later, he was at the piano putting He Lives to music. He wrote it, but I think we really have Alfred’s friend and wife to thank for this triumphant hymn.
He walks with me and talks with me … He lives within MY heart.