Where Does the Phrase ‘He Is Risen Indeed’ Come From?
Where Does the Phrase ‘He Is Risen Indeed’ Come From?
Lia Martin Contributing Writer
And although divisions in denominations developed over history, Christians agree Christ is risen. It’s a gift we celebrate, regardless of how various churches plan Resurrection Sunday service, or over what weeks the occasion is honored.
If I could choose one fundamental hope Christians center our faith around, it would be Jesus’ proof that even death can be overcome. He is risen indeed, and lives! We have a Bible full of historical facts and promises as evidence.
Yes, we’re born with a finite earthly life, into what feels like a world of unknowns, but God knew the purpose from the very beginning. He offered his immeasurable power and inconceivable grace—in flesh and Spirit—to reconcile us to him eternally.
The fact that our Savior rose from the perceived grips of rejection, humiliation, abuse, and even death equips us to believe he will indeed make all things new (Revelations 21:5).
Christians celebrate the truth of the resurrection all year, but it comes sharply into focus each Easter. The empty cross takes on fresh significance as we revisit Jesus’ sacrifice during Holy Week.
And truly, a miracle so mind-blowing as resurrection from the grave bears repeating as we rejoice on Easter Sunday. As we proclaim “He is risen!” you may hear others doubly confirm, “He is risen indeed!”
But why is it worded this way? Let’s look at the history and heart of this phrase.
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The Meaning behind ‘He Is Risen Indeed’
The phrase “He is risen indeed” is actually a response that is part of a paschal greeting exchanged on Easter Sunday, primarily in Orthodox churches. And although divisions in denominations developed over history, Christians agree Christ is risen. It’s a gift we celebrate, regardless of how various churches plan Resurrection Sunday service, or over what weeks the occasion is honored.
The phrase as a paschal greeting is an Easter custom among Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, Latin Catholic, and Anglican Christians. Paschal is derived from the Greek word pascha, which is a transliteration of the Hebrew word pesach meaning Passover.
Pascha is the feast of the Resurrection of the Lord, during which fasting, processions, and chants are customary over a period of 12 weeks. Its timeframe doesn’t always precisely coincide with when the Western church celebrates Easter, but it commemorates the same divine resurrection.
During the feast of Pascha and throughout Ascension (a time known as Paschal season), the paschal greeting is exchanged around the world in over 50 languages. It’s heard informally during this time, and also recited during liturgical services in churches. Instead of greeting one another with typical hellos, the greeting begins with “Christ is risen!” And the given response is “He is risen, indeed!” or “Truly, he is risen!”
Some cultures (Russians, for example), also exchange a “triple kiss of peace” after the greeting. The kiss of peace is an ancient traditional Christian greeting, sometimes called a "holy kiss.” It signifies a blessing of “peace be with you.”
This greeting of “Christ is risen,” met with “He is risen indeed,” is an act of unity around the belief in Christ’s resurrection.
Is ‘Risen Indeed’ in the Bible?
It’s interesting to note that the Eastern Orthodox Church suggests Mary Magdalene initiated this now-popular saying when she announced Jesus’ miraculous resurrection to Emperor Tiberius in Rome, saying, “Christ is risen.”
Stories are told, though not confirmed, of an egg that turned red in Mary’s hands as she addressed the Emperor, which so impressed him, he had Pilate removed.
Whether or not a red egg factored into Mary’s announcement of “Christ is risen,” it was compelled by the witnessed (and since recorded) fact that Jesus was buried, rose, and appeared again before ascending into heaven.
All four Gospel accounts record the true story of Jesus’ followers discovering that he was risen, indeed. And although the narrative may not read word-for-word as a call-and-response greeting, two sections of Scripture in the New Revised Standard version point to its likely inspiration:
He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you. – Matthew 28:6-7
They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” – Luke 24:34
Why Christians Say ‘He Is Risen Indeed’
I believe Christians (no matter their timing, festivals, or denomination), express ‘joy of the Lord’ by sharing this beautiful phrase. It’s often shared in the Paschal season, or Easter, because this is a time set aside to remember that Jesus is truth, he offers life, and he is the way.
His prophesied arrival to call us to eternal life confirmed that God is with us, and death cannot keep us from him. Beyond whatever religious or pagan traditions we may enjoy, there was a stone rolled away and a Savior rose.
It’s worth mentioning that the word “indeed” originates from the the Middle English term “in dede” which means, “in truth, or in fact.”
Saying “indeed” either underscores that something is true, or it is used to segue into your next statement—that’s even more worth emphasizing. This is why when we recall that he is risen, we want to follow it with a resounding, “truth!” or “can’t top that!”
Best of all, Christianity.com explains that not only is Jesus risen, but by his resurrection, he raises us. Scripture is clear:
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23
Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. – Romans 10:9
Jesus didn’t only rise to show us. He rose to save us.
A Prayer to Celebrate That Jesus Is Risen Indeed
Thank you for showing us what is true. Thank you for being our bridge, our Savior, and the way to eternal life in a world you will renew. This Easter, and all year, will you keep the flame of my joy for you burning? Will you remind me when things look bleak that you raise what may seem dead? Help me to not just hear that you are risen, but let me believe it in my bones, that because you are risen, indeed, we have a hope and a future worth celebrating.
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Lia Martin loves to inspire others to lean into the Lord daily. She's a writer, editor, marketer, former Crosswalk.com Faith Editor, and author of Wisdom at Wit's End: Abandoning Supermom Myths in Search of Supernatural Peace. When she's not cultivating words, she loves walking in nature, reading, exploring the latest health trends, and laughing with her two wonderful kids. She blogs at liamartinwriting.com.