In 1922 an estimated 33 million people were in danger of starvation in Russia. A story is told of Nikolai Bukharin, the “darling” of the Bolshevik party, who was sent to Kiev to address a vast anti-God rally.
For an hour he abused and ridiculed the Christian faith, until it seemed as if the whole belief structure was in ruins. Questions were then invited from the audience.
An elderly priest of the Orthodox Church rose gave the people the ancient Christian greeting ‘Christos Aneste ek Nekron’ or ‘Christ is risen from the dead’. Instantly the vast assembly rose to its feet and the reply came back like the roar of breakers crashing against a cliff, ‘Alithos Aneste Alleluia’ - ‘He is risen indeed, Alleluia’.
Bukharin’s mistake, not unlike many new atheists today, was to treat the Christian faith as a mere ideology. There are those who regard Jesus as perhaps the greatest man who ever lived, but who then died. His life may be studied, his words examined, his teaching analysed. Such study is very necessary, but by itself will always miss the point. Searching for Jesus as a source of ideology is to look for him among the dead, like his disciples on the first Easter morning. But as they and we who search soon discover, Jesus is alive and is someone to be met with every day.
I doubt our current times of grave austerity will reach the levels of Russian hardship in the 1920s, but in times of corporate or personal depression, it is always this encounter with the living Jesus that will bring hope.
For the Easter message is that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. “He is risen indeed, Alleluia!”