John 12:32 – But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. (NIV)
A long, long time ago, on a remote Mississippi Delta cotton plantation, an old man told a wonderful story to a group of children that not one has forgotten.
The old storyteller's name was Jaybird. As he slipped into the hypnosis of his bullfrog bass voice, the children clustered at his feet, leaning toward him like eager flowers toward the rising sun. He told them the story of Jesus. The little ones had heard this man Jesus called Saviour, Messiah, Son of Man, even the Son of God, but their young minds were confused. Jaybird knew that, and set about telling Jesus' story in a way they would understand.
He put his hands together, palm to palm. Though gnarled by years of toil, they were beautiful hands, monuments to a lifetime of tending fields and caring for his wife and many children. Twice daily, he had clasped those same hands together, once in the morning, once at night. His relationship with the One Whose hands had created all was simple and sure: he knelt before Him in the morning and asked for what he wanted; he knelt before Him at evening and gave thanks for what he got. For more than eight decades, this simple ritual had sustained the old farmer.
"Notice how each hand holds up the other," he said. Then, dropping one hand, he continued, "Without the support of the other, this hand soon tires and falls." He let the remaining hand go limp. "Now the hands are apart, no longer able to depend upon each other for support." He brought the hands together once again. "This is what Jesus does for you, every day — He holds you up."
Jaybird explained that Jesus left His Father's side in heaven and came to earth and walked among plain, ordinary people. Each day He used his hands to embrace, to feed, to heal, even to raise the dead, but most of all He clasped his hands together to pray for the people of the earth.
With his hands still clasped, Jaybird spoke again. "One evening, as Jesus knelt alone, His hands together in prayer, talking to His Father, evil men came and took Him away. They beat Him and spit upon Him and condemned Him to die. They placed a crown of thorns on His head, they plunged a sword in His side — they pulled the praying hands apart and nailed them to the cross."
Here the old man held his arms wide. "But the evil men did not know. Jesus no longer needed to put His hands together in prayer. He was now where He had so often prayed all God's children would someday be: heaven. His hands are now wide apart, beckoning all: Come to Me, come to the eternal embrace of God.
I was one of those children at Jaybird's feet. I won't forget: He is risen. Happy Easter!
Prayer: Embrace us, O risen Saviour, and keep us Yours forever. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.