A Lover of Children
By John Ogunjimi
We’d returned early from the market where father sold turtle doves and he wanted me to deliver some birds to Jeriah of Emmaus in preparation for the feast of Passover.
I saddled the ass, set the birdcage on it, and rode off, mimicking the birds as they chirped their melodious tunes. The road that led to Judea from this western side of Jordan was unusually crowded. People thronged from all quarters behind a single man. Even Archelaus, one of the Pharisees, was there too.
As I drew near, I saw Jeriah, whose house I was headed. Alighting off the ass as quickly as I could, I ran to meet him before he mingled with the crowd. “Greetings, Rabbi,” I said, bowing in respect.
“The God of Israel be with you.” He blessed, waving his hands above me while his phylactery alternated the direction of his hands. “What brings you here at this hour?”
“Father sent me to give you these.” I raised the birdcage.
“You know the way to my house. You will meet my son feeding the sheep, give them to him.” He almost did not complete his sentence before joining the crowd, people making way for him as he passed. Then he turned back suddenly and warned, “Don’t give it to my wife! Don’t give it to my wife!!”
I returned back almost as quickly as I’d left the scene to watch what the gathering was about. Advantaged by the smallness of my stature, I was able to sneak into the midst of the multitude and secure a vantage position to gain sight of the man around whom they all gathered. I hid behind a man, trying to avoid Jeriah who was whispering into Archelaus’ ears.
“I have a question for you,” Archelaus said to the man, “Those among us who are of the School of Shammal limit the reason for divorcement to moral delinquency, while those of the School of Hillel allow it for the most trifling reasons. What do you teach your disciples, Jesus?” So this’s the man they call Jesus, I thought. I’d heard many things about the miracles he performed but I’d never seen him before.
I listened to him speak about how things were from the beginning. He rebuked the Pharisees, calling them stubborn people. He didn’t seem to fear the entire council of the Sanhedrin that surrounded him, neither did he regard their hateful looks.
If only my father could stand up to them like this man was doing, we wouldn’t need to send birds to a Jeriah as a bribe for a selling space in the temple during the Passover. Jesus was different; He spoke authoritatively—like he was God!
After his reply to their question, I saw Archelaus whispering back to Jeriah. I seized the opportunity to move closer to Jesus but before I could get close enough to hold his hands, a stronger hand pulled my ears and dragged me back. “Get away from here!” He screamed, “Go tell your parents the Master doesn’t approve divorce.”
“Let him alone, Judas.” Jesus said. “And you too,” he added, pointing to his other disciples who turned the women and their children away. “Bring the children to me. Stop hindering them. Don’t you know that it is their types that inherit the Kingdom of my God?”
I broke free from Judas’ hold and ran into the open arms of Jesus. Lifting me up, he said to all who cared to listen, “Anyone who does not believe on me like little children do, he won’t enter into the kingdom of my Father.” Then he took other children also, and blessed us all.
Happy Children’s Day!