The following story is told in Nikolai Arsenic’s book, ”Mysticism in the East.”
Comrade Lunachatsky was lecturing in Moscow’s largest assembly hall shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. His theme was, “Religion: Opium of the People.”
All the Christian mysteries are but myths, he said, supplanted by the light of science. Marxist science is the light that more than substitutes for the legends of Christianity. Lunachatsky spoke at great length. When he finished, he was so pleased with himself that he asked if anyone in the audience of some 7,000 had anything to add. A 26-year-old Russian Orthodox priest, just ordained, stepped forward. First he apologized for his ignorance and awkwardness. The commissar looked at him scornfully: “I’ll give you two minutes, no more.”
“I won’t take very long,” the priest assured him. He mounted the platform, turned to the audience, and in a loud voice declared, “Christ is risen!” The audience roared in response, “Indeed he is risen!”
These are the most important words ever spoken in all of human history. They are words of confidence, joy and hope. Words that communicate a truth that can completely transform our life, our family, our workplace, our friendships and our relationships. Our lives will be transformed on our best days and on our worst. He is risen!
A Cambridge professor wrote in a recent article in The Guardian that there is without a doubt abundant evidence that Jesus lived and died. He was a historical person who lived 2,000 years ago. But the real question, he writes, is not whether he lived and died, but did he die and then live.
I was in an airport one day, and wearing my habit. A young man came up to me and said, “Can I ask you a question? You’re a priest, right?”
I could have said, “No, I am part of a Shakespearean festival,” but I didn’t. The young man was tattooed everywhere with multiple piercings. “This is going to be an interesting conversation,” I thought to myself.
He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Do you really believe Jesus rose from the dead? What are your reasons?”
What a great conversation to have with this brother in Christ!
Here are my reasons.
First reason: Jesus was not in the tomb on Easter morning. Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, and to her shock the two-ton stone had been rolled away while being guarded by Herod’s best soldiers. She got Peter and John and they, too, saw that there was no body in the tomb, only burial clothes. There was no explanation for what they found. They were confused, as we might be. The guards were posted to ensure that the body would be protected, buried and ultimately forgotten. But Jesus was not in the tomb.
Secondly, I believe in the Resurrection because many people saw Jesus. On one occasion 500 people saw him, and he appeared at least 11 times to people with his risen body. People saw him and ate with him. He still had the marks of the cross. Jesus was not merely absent from the tomb, he was with people.
Thirdly, I believe in the Resurrection because it radically changed people’s lives. Before the Resurrection the disciples were hiding and fearful. After seeing Jesus they boldly told everyone that he is alive. Ultimately they and many others died for proclaiming this truth. In 2,000 years they went from just 120 followers to spreading the Gospel to every continent, every race and every nationality. Everywhere in the world you now find people who have met Jesus. There are 1.25 billion Catholics and another 800 million non-Catholic Christians.
Okay, so what does the Resurrection mean?
It means that the Son of God loves you and gave himself for you. Look upon the cross — the cross worked. It changed the very core of human life. The world is different after our Savior died for us and rose from the dead.
The cross has set us free from sin and death. Jesus took our sins and died to set us free. We are loved, redeemed and restored.
Don’t you want to sing alleluia? Jesus is as real and present as I am to you and more so because he can touch every heart.
Someone once told me a conversion story. It was like they wanted to get to know Jesus and so invited him over. Then he wouldn’t leave. What was supposed to be a nice teatime with Jesus ended up with him totally remodeling the apartment.
When asked why he was changing everything, Jesus said, “If I am going to live here I need to do some major remodeling.” He’s been doing that ever since.
Jesus gives hope that our best days are still to come. The Lamb of God takes away our sins and invites us to the heavenly banquet. Wow! Christ is risen!
But Jesus isn’t interested in merely making our life a little better. He’s not interested in making faster caterpillars. He wants butterflies! He wants us to enjoy new life in him.
Jesus is our friend, our guide, our confidence, our joy, our hope, and we can come to him anytime — even today. He is not dead — not in the tomb. He is risen! Life can never be the same again.