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Ain’t No Grave Gonna Maintain Our Our bodies Down


Twelve-year-old Claude Ely was dying in Virginia, stricken with tuberculosis. As his household huddled in prayer round his bedside, the boy started to sing:

Ain’t no grave

Gonna maintain my physique down

Ain’t no grave

Gonna maintain my physique down

After I hear that trumpet sound

Gonna rise up outta this floor

Ain’t no grave

Gonna maintain my physique down

Claude ultimately recovered. And the therapeutic in his lungs was so full that he grew as much as turn out to be a singer and preacher identified for his freight-train quantity and Pentecostal gusto. In maturity, he traveled the South because the “Gospel Ranger,” proclaiming the resurrection energy of Jesus in a single righteously raucous revival assembly after one other.

On October 12, 1953, nearly 20 years after Brother Ely’s boyhood therapeutic, King Data captured him in a “reside worship” recording session on the Letcher County courthouse in Kentucky. The audio for “Ain’t No Grave” has been preserved, and listening to it’s a visceral expertise. “Ain’t no …” Claude sings, like he’s pulling a boulder again in a slingshot. “Graaaaaaaaaaaave,” he hollers, like he’s letting the boulder fly. Different worshipers be a part of him, shout-singing and clapping on off beats in a Spirit-fueled Pentecostal Holiness type, overpowering the microphones with gloriously distorted exuberance.

If Ely delivered “Ain’t No Grave” like a sonic earthquake, maybe it’s as a result of he might hint the music’s conviction again to a literal earthquake. Think about how Matthew describes the second in historical past that makes the music true: “After the Sabbath, at daybreak on the primary day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the opposite Mary went to take a look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord got here down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled again the stone and sat on it” (28:1–2).

That angel should have made fairly a sight, reclining on the boulder the Roman military had been sure would preserve Christ sealed in his tomb. Then he delivered the information that modified completely the whole lot: “He’s not right here; he has risen, simply as he mentioned” (v. 6). As Brother Ely may need declared it, no grave might maintain his physique down!

The “violent earthquake” in Jerusalem that morning was nothing in comparison with the seismic shift within the cosmos. Each one that encountered the risen Jesus was confronted with the magnificent actuality that, within the phrases of C. S. Lewis in Miracles, “[Jesus] has compelled open a door that has been locked for the reason that demise of the primary man. He has met, fought, and overwhelmed the King of Demise. The whole lot is completely different as a result of He has executed so. That is the start of the New Creation: a brand new chapter in cosmic historical past has opened.” Perhaps it’s solely proper that Ely’s efficiency of “Ain’t No Grave” is extra battering ram than melodious choir.

Nonetheless, Ely’s honky-tonk rendition is just one of many variations of this music. Earlier recordings embrace an exquisitely soulful 1942 efficiency by a home employee named Bozie Sturdivant, in addition to a 1946 barrel-house piano rendition by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who sang the music at her personal mom’s funeral. These renditions have a well-known, well-worn feeling to them, suggesting, as some music historians consider, that earlier variations of “Ain’t No Grave” appeared in Negro spirituals relationship again at the least to the late 1800s.

The core chorus of “Ain’t No Grave” appears to be extra of a primal human expression than the property of anybody artist. The music has since been tailored by numerous musicians through the years, together with Tom Jones, Russ Taff, Robert Duvall, and Molly Skaggs. Many people first encountered the music by means of Johnny Money.


American nation legend Money was days away from demise. With the assistance of his buddy and producer Rick Rubin, he continued to sing and document nearly to his final breath.

Effectively, look approach down the river

What do you suppose I see?

I see a band of angels

They usually’re coming after me

Ain’t no grave can maintain my physique down

When the recording was launched on the posthumous album American VI: Ain’t No Grave (2010), listeners encountered a fragility in his legendary voice that made the efficiency porous and transcendent. Rock critics struggled to search out phrases to explain the impact. The Washington Put up’s Invoice Friskics-Warren wrote in regards to the “religious, even biblical” high quality of the music. Extra pragmatically, Ann Powers, a author on the LA Occasions, dubbed the venture Money’s “Hospice Document.” Which, by all accounts, was precisely what it was.


My mom was in hospice. I used to be mendacity on the sofa subsequent to her mattress, holding my very own breaths within the pauses between her more and more shallow ones. She’d been unresponsive for days, and I knew her physique would quickly be within the grave.

“To be absent from the physique is to be current with the Lord,” I whispered (2 Cor. 5:8). She appeared absent from her physique already. All that remained was an illness-ravaged shell. And but, it was nonetheless a physique I beloved.

I held her hand and enacted the code she taught me in childhood: Three squeezes imply “I really like you.” I traced the remnants of her closing manicure on the perimeters of her fingernails, proof of her love of shade and her enjoyment of chats with the salon technician. I adjusted her pillow and remembered the best way her shoulders would shake subsequent to mine when one thing struck us humorous at church and we tried to suppress our laughter.

I discovered myself pondering of a stanza in Money’s model of “Ain’t No Grave,” one you don’t discover in most of the different renditions:

Effectively meet me, Mom and Father

Meet me down the river highway

And Mama, you realize that I’ll be there

After I test in my load

Ain’t no grave can maintain my physique down

That’s once I was nearly startled to do not forget that, as a result of I’m a Christian, I consider not solely within the resurrection, however within the resurrection of the physique. The resurrection of this physique, the one proper in entrance of me. No grave might maintain my mom’s physique down.

The doctrine of the resurrection of the physique has by no means come naturally to me. I used to be a mature pupil in graduate theological research earlier than I spotted I had by no means severely thought of the ultimate portion of the Apostles’ Creed: “I consider within the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the physique and life eternal” (emphasis added). I used to be offered on “life eternal.” However subconsciously, I believe I imagined it in a decidedly unbodily type. How might the our bodies that we all know decay within the floor (or, in some circumstances, we cremate into ashes) be part of our future?

A professor instructed me to learn Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15. After I did, it appeared just like the apostle was studying my mail. Paul jogged my memory that if we’re satisfied Christ has actually overcome demise, then perception within the resurrection of our our bodies shouldn’t be solely believable, however important.

Whether it is preached that Christ has been raised from the lifeless, how can a few of you say that there is no such thing as a resurrection of the lifeless? If there is no such thing as a resurrection of the lifeless, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is ineffective and so is your religion. (vv. 12–14)

Then, as if sensing my tendency to divorce our resurrected our bodies from those we now have now, the apostle pressed additional.

However somebody will ask, “How are the lifeless raised? With what sort of physique will they arrive?” How silly! What you sow doesn’t come to life except it dies. … So will or not it’s with the resurrection of the lifeless. The physique that’s sown is perishable, it’s raised imperishable; it’s sown in dishonor, it’s raised in glory; it’s sown in weak point, it’s raised in energy; it’s sown a pure physique, it’s raised a religious physique. If there’s a pure physique, there’s additionally a religious physique. (vv. 35–36; 42–44)

It started to daybreak on me that our religious our bodies shall be a transfiguration (reasonably than an obliteration) of our present ones. The God who made our bodies loves them and has actually great plans for them. “The outdated discipline of house, time, matter, and senses is to be weeded, dug, and sown for a brand new crop,” suggests Lewis. “We could also be uninterested in that outdated discipline; however God shouldn’t be.”

Within the Gospels, all who met the risen Christ encountered him in corporeal human type—but he might stroll by means of partitions, disappear at will, and ascend into heaven when the time was proper. “The physique we’ll rise with shall be like Christ’s glorified physique,” muses Peter Kreeft, “immortal and ideal but actually physique, as Thomas discovered when he touched the Lord’s wounds.”

The early church surmised that our risen our bodies shall be characterised by subtlety (matter and spirit so in sync that partitions are now not a barrier), agility (the flexibility to journey wherever we would like instantaneously), impassibility (immunity to sickness or damage), and glory (just like the luminosity of Christ on the Transfiguration). No surprise Brother Ely discovered the resurrection one thing to hoot and holler about.

At the moment … and the Future

At the moment, Brother Ely, Bozie Sturdivant, Sister Tharpe, and Johnny Money are within the presence of the Lord but nonetheless anticipating the Day of Resurrection. (So, for that matter, are the apostle Paul, C. S. Lewis, and my mama.) What a second it is going to be when “in a flash, within the short while … the trumpet will sound, the lifeless shall be raised imperishable, and we shall be modified” (1 Cor. 15:52).

Perhaps then, as we grin at one another and admire our same-but-different, gloriously reworked our bodies, we’ll sing all of it collectively:

After I hear that trumpet sound

I’m gonna rise proper out of the bottom

Ain’t no grave can maintain my physique down!

Carolyn Arends is director of schooling for Renovaré in addition to a recording artist whose most up-to-date album is Recognition. She lives along with her household in British Columbia.

This text is a part of The Wondrous Cross which options articles and Bible examine periods reflecting on the that means of Jesus’ demise and resurrection. Be taught extra about this particular subject that can be utilized throughout Lent, the Easter season, or any time of yr at

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