Friend to Friend: The Cactus, the Cross, and Easter


The Cactus, the Cross, and Easter

Probably all of us have experienced when we really needed someone to help us. I remember once as a small boy I surely did. While playing on a mountainside near our home, I fell into the middle of a huge, prickly cactus plant. It really hurt! The prickly spines of the cactus went through my canvas shoes, through my stockings, through my trousers, through my shirt—they went through everything! I felt like a human dart board.

Immediately I let out a cry that was loud enough to shake the mountains. I couldn’t move up, down, in, or out. Every movement I made seemed to send those needles deeper and deeper into my skin. I just stayed there and howled.

I was five years old at the time and my older brother, who immediately rushed to my rescue, was eight. He was overwhelmed at the sight of me and the complexity of my plight. Nevertheless, he began to pull out some of the spines, but they seemed to hurt more coming out than going in and I howled even louder. Furthermore, the pin-sized wounds bled so much when the spines were removed that after a few minutes I looked like an advertisement for Red Cross blood donations.

Finally my brother saw that his feeble plucking was hopeless. There were dozens of spines yet to pull, and I was still screaming as loud as I could. He did the only thing an eight-year-old brother could do. He ran down the mountain, got his small red wagon, and labored painfully to get it up the side of the hill to where I was awaiting death—I thought. With some tugging and hauling and lifting—and plenty of noise from me—he got me out of the cactus and into the wagon. Then in some miraculous way, known only to children and Providence, he brought me down off that steep mountain in his wagon.

The rest of the story is blurred in my memory. As I recall, my mother got me out of my clothes and the rest of the prickly spines out of me. What I do remember clearly and will never forget is the sight of my brother tugging that wagon and determinedly making his way toward me. He was so concerned that he worked wonderfully hard to get to me. If I live to be one hundred, I suppose no memory of my brother will be more vivid than the view I had of him that day. I needed him desperately. And there he was, coming to help!

Easter is always a special time for us (to me it is the very best day of the whole year), and we should all try to remember that we once faced a most difficult problem and needed someone to help us. It was a problem much worse than a lost pet or a broken toy or a fall into a cactus plant. Through a long history of experience, beginning with Adam and Eve and stretching down to our own lives, it was a problem that if unsolved, would have left us in the presence of Satan and his hateful followers. We could then never be united again with our family, with our friends, and with our Heavenly Father who loves us. We would have been in a prison forever.

But Jesus, our elder Brother, did not allow himself to be captured by Satan. He was still safely outside the prison gates. In a way that we may not fully understand, even when we are very old, Jesus set us free. It was as though He had the only key to the prison door and that only He had the strength to swing it open. In doing so, He saved our lives so our families can be kept together and so we can someday return to our heavenly home. But He paid a terrible price to do this for us, a price for which we must give Him honor and reverence by keeping His commandments. He suffered a horrible death on a cross.

In that anguish of physical and spiritual pain Jesus, too, momentarily thought He was all alone and without help, and yet He did not turn away from helping us.

Jesus died for us, and only the mountains that trembled and the sun that darkened seemed to understand the gift that was being given. Then something wonderful happened! One who had died and was buried came to life again in a special way called resurrection.

In the peaceful setting of a spring garden, Jesus arose from His burial tomb to live again with our Heavenly Father. And in some wonderful, miraculous way, He gave us the same power and privilege. I do not know exactly how this will happen, but I know that we have, through Jesus, been given the opportunity to conquer all doubt and despair and death. That is what Easter means to me.

Each year at Eastertime, I would like you to remember how much nicer all the beautiful spring flowers look (and feel) than do those prickly cactus plants I once fell into. And I would especially like you to remember our Brother Jesus Christ to whom we owe everything, for He came to heal our wounds, calm our fears, and bring us safely home when we really, really needed Him.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Preston Heiselt