Posted by Jimmy Reed on April 11, 2017
Editor’s Note: Oxford, Mississippi resident, Ole Miss alumnus, Army veteran, and retired Mississippi Delta cotton farmer Jimmy Reed (email@example.com) is a newspaper columnist, author, and college teacher. His collections of short stories are available via southernstories.com.
One fine spring day, on Dad’s Mississippi Delta farm, my boyhood best friend and mentor Jaybird told a story to a group of us children, a story he called “Easter Hands.”
As the old black man slipped into the hypnosis of his bullfrog bass voice, we little ones clustered at his feet, leaning toward him like eager flowers toward the rising sun. He told us the story of Easter.
We had heard Jesus Christ called different names — Savior, Messiah, the Nazarene, Son of Man — and our young minds were confused. Jaybird told Jesus’ story in a way we could understand.
The old plowman put his hands together, palm-to-palm. Though gnarled by years of toil, they were beautiful, monuments to a lifetime of tending crops.
Twice daily, he clasped those hands together. At dawn, he knelt before the Lord and asked for what he wanted that day; at dusk, he knelt before Him in thanks for what he got that day. More than eight decades later, these morning and night rituals of faith still comforted and reassured him.
“Notice how each hand holds up the other,” Jaybird told us.
Then, dropping one hand, he continued. “Without the support of the other hand, this hand tires and falls.”
He let the remaining hand go limp. “Now the hands are apart, unable to depend upon each other for support.”
He brought his 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, came down to this world, and walked as a man among men.
Daily, He used His hands to embrace, to feed, to heal, even to raise the dead, but most of all, He placed His hands together to pray for the people of the earth.
With his hands still clasped together, Jaybird spoke again.
“One evening, as Jesus knelt with His hands together in prayer, talking to His Father, evil men came and took Him away. They beat Him, cursed Him, spit on Him, and condemned Him to die. They placed a crown of thorns on His head; they taunted Him; they plunged a sword in His side; they pulled the praying hands apart and nailed them to the cross.”
Here Jaybird held his arms wide apart.
“But the evil men did not know — Jesus no longer needed to put His hands together in prayer. Beyond the cross, beyond the grave, He returned to His Father’s side, to the place where He had so often prayed that all God's children would someday be: Heaven. His hands are now wide apart again, beckoning to all: ‘Come to Me, come to My eternal embrace.’
“Children, never forget what the Bible tells us: ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’”
We will not forget, Jaybird, nor will we ever forget you or that wonderful story you called “Easter Hands.”