Thoughts on the meaning of Easter
One of the dreams of my life was fulfilled when I was able to walk into what is known today as “Red Square.” I tried to imagine it when I was young as Communist leaders stood up on the high walls of the Kremlin and waved their hands to huge displays of missiles and soldiers marching. It was scary yet exciting and intriguing to a young boy growing up in the middle of the “Cold War.”
Two summers ago, I was able to put my feet down on this piece of ground in Moscow. I also visited a mausoleum. It was a bit ere as I walked down into this modern mausoleum. There was a line but only a certain number were allowed in at a time. It was dimly lit and there was this strange smell that permeated this bomb shelter like structure.
Then at the bottom of the steps there was this light that shined directly on the body. He looked good for being dead since the early 20’s. He looked like he was asleep – this mummy like body. He could have been made up by Estee Lauder and looked like someone out of Madame Tussauds Wax Museum.
There he was Vladimir, known for over a century now by his Bolshevik name, Lenin. He was one of history’s greatest mass murderers. In the course of his ruthless efforts to impose communism on Russia and it’s neighbors through brutal force, terror, and extra-judicial homicides in the millions, he became one of the greatest persecutors of the Christian church in two millennia.
Lenin’s minions killed more Christians in a slow week than the last of the great Roman persecutors, Diocletian, did in years.
Boris Yeltsin along with the Orthodox Church wanted him gone. They moved Stalin a number of years earlier and put him under some trees nearby with lesser officials even though he ruled Russia with an iron fist for more that 30 years. He too was a mass murderer of even larger proportions. But when it came to moving Lenin, 30% were against it so Putin prevented the plans to move him. I guess 30% is a majority in Russia?
It was the smell of death and a desire to anoint Jesus’ body that led the women to the grave that Easter morning. No matter what you do, you can’t remove the smell of death. There is not enough embalming fluid to bring you back to your old self. In fact I kind of chuckle when I stand in front of a body during a wake and people say “Doesn’t he look good?” I think to myself, nobody looks good after you have been embalmed. Perfume, makeup and a hairdresser can’t make you look like you are alive or bring you back to life. Death has a finality about it.
We have just been through 40 days of Lent and are deep into the Easter season. Jesus is risen – risen indeed as Christian’s have said for centuries. He is Christus Victor. He is the one who has conquered death, stared down death and has risen from the dead. This signals new life, hope, energy and vitality. This is the Christian proposal to the whole world. It comes to us in many ways – but first of all it simply says that the grave is not our final resting place. It says that love is stronger than hate, hope overcomes despair and life conquers death. Christians for centuries have declared this message of the abundant life, of new life and of life eternal.
You probably do not remember the name Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin. During his day he was as powerful a man as there was on earth. As a Russian Communist leader he took part in the Bolshevik Revolution 1917, was editor of the Soviet newspaper Pravda (which by the way means truth), and was a full member of the Politburo.
His works on economics and political science are still read today. There is a story told about a journey he took from Moscow to Kiev in 1930 to address a huge assembly on the subject of atheism. Addressing the crowd he aimed his heavy artillery at Christianity hurling insult, argument, and proof against it.
An hour later he was finished. He looked out at what seemed to be the smoldering ashes of men’s faith. “Are there any questions?” Bukharin demanded. Deafening silence filled the auditorium but then one man approached the platform and mounted the lectern standing near the communist leader. He surveyed the crowd first to the left then to the right. Finally he shouted the ancient greeting known well in the Russian Orthodox Church: “CHRIST IS RISEN!” En masse the crowd arose and in unison, the response came crashing like the sound of thunder: “HE IS RISEN INDEED!”
This is the good news we share, this is the hope we proclaim and this is the love that empowers us. This Easter season we are reminded and encouraged to not only live out this message but to share it with others. *