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In the days when he was gaining complete domination of his part of the world the ruthless and paranoid tyrant, Stalin, sent one of his important supporters to Kiev in the Ukraine. The people of Kiev were to be brought into line and faith in God through the Lord Jesus had to go. The eloquent Nikolai Ivan Bukharin harangued the gathered host for more than an hour. Jeering, sneering, threatening. With outright lies, half truths, specious arguments, appeals to self-interest he exalted the atheistic state and prophesied the death of faith. The churches would be closed, the leadership hounded, the gatherings obliterated, the Bible outlawed and unbelief would live and flourish while faith lay lifeless in the streets. His tirade ended and the silent thousands remained silent. A priest went to the microphone and spoke the Easter greeting with which early Christians greeted one another in the days when unstoppable Rome stood astride the world like a colossus.
In those days when there were spies everywhere and the threat to life and family was the daily food of believers they met one another in the fields and the catacombs, on the roads and in homes in forbidden gatherings. They didn’t say “hello” or “how are you?” They whispered or announced to one another in mutual self-identification “The Lord is Risen” and the glad response always was: “He is risen indeed!”
Bukharin is long dead [murdered by Stalin!] but other voices, powerful voices, persistent, persuasive voices that marshal their undeniable proofs tell us that faith is silly, powerless and doomed to die, no more to rise.
To the massive throng the priest calmly but clearly announced the Easter greeting: “The Lord is risen!” and with one voice, with the sound like a tsunami wave thundering against a massive cliff face the triumphant announcement came back: “He is risen indeed!”
Today and every day there will be people in their tens of millions—in their pain and loneliness, in their sadness and in their bewilderment at the presence of cruel injustice, with tears that often come unbidden, sometimes quietly and sometimes as sobs that can’t be [and should not be] muted the world will hear: “He is risen indeed!”
And on the Lord’s Day around the world, while gathered in their millions for corporate worship worshipers will say to one another “The Lord is risen!” and reply “He is risen indeed!”
And this will have meaning even for those who live their entire lives under brutal regimes and soul-killing poverty but have not heard the glorious truth that buries and will finally obliterate all tyrannies—even those who know no reason to hope have reason to hope.
The Lord is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed!