Sarah and Paul struggled to keep up with Tammy, and Sarah chuckled as they followed behind. Word must have spread quickly of Tammy’s recovery, because cheers broke out when they walked into the courtyard. Ezra and Zillah were the first of the children to reach Tamara, and they both patted her and hugged her while she giggled. Orphah wasn’t far behind, then Darius and Gideon.
Jesus sat in the center of the courtyard, and as soon as Tamara spied Him, she shrieked with glee and ran to Him. Laughing, He picked her up, squeezed her tight, and then sat her on His lap. The rest of the children crowded close, all of them talking at once. His disciples and the children’s parents were less than pleased, and they tried to shoo the children back. “No, no, don’t do that, my friends. Let the children come to me. Having them near is like being in Heaven.”
His gaze took in the whole group, one at a time. “I want you to remember something. These children are precious in the sight of God. It would be better for you to have a millstone tied around your neck and be thrown into the Great Sea than for you to prevent them from coming to Me, or to harm one of these, My little ones.”
Sarah’s heart warmed. So He really had said that.
Bartholomew, who had at the last meeting had seemed reluctant to keep his wife’s baby born while she was in slavery, reddened. He took the child from his wife’s arms and brought her to Jesus.
Jesus stared at the young man for a moment. “Will you accept this little one, Bartholomew?” He asked, taking the baby from the young man.
“Yes, Lord. I’ll love and care for her as my own.” Bartholomew’s Adam’s apple bobbed. As if on cue, the infant looked at Jesus and Bartholomew and beamed a large baby smile on them, wriggling and squirming like a happy puppy.
Jesus looked at the smiling child in His arms, then at Bartholomew. “That would be wise. Remember, this child is also Mine, and you shall treat her as such.” He handed the baby back to Bartholomew.
Sarah wondered if they should move back into the crowd, but as though He knew what she was thinking, He raised His eyes to hers and she knew they should stay.
Jonas brought Ezra and Zillah to Him. “These children, too, were born during my wife’s slavery, and they are very dear to her. I want You to know that they are also dear to me; indeed, they have found their way into my heart.”
Jesus nodded. “Yes, I can see that. Mariah is doubly blessed.” He looked up. “Dathan,” He said.
When he didn’t move, Sarah nudged Dathan closer. He stared at his feet, his brow furrowed.
Gently, Jesus drew Dathan to his lap as though Dathan were also a small child. He put his arms around him and held him close. Dathan resisted, his back stiff at first, then collapsed on Jesus’ shoulder, hugging Him back.
Jesus patted the boy’s back and lifted his chin, looking into his eyes. “Dathan, you’re no less loved because you now have a new brother and sister. Your father and your mother love you just as much as before your mother was stolen away. Their love for you is not decreased by their love for these two little ones. And these children will need a big brother who can help them grow up to be as fine as you’re growing to be. Will you accept that charge?”
“Yes, Sir,” Dathan said. He stood and held out his hands to Zillah and Ezra, who trustingly put their hands in his to be led back to their parents.
Sarah watched as one family at a time brought their children to Jesus to be blessed. With each, He admonished the families to be patient and loving with each other, especially those with children of slavery. He called each of them by name, parents and children alike, and gave each of them words that spoke to the deepest part of each heart.