I had always been the smallest in my family and the youngest. Three big brothers and a big sister. Jacob, they called me. I think it is a compliment from papa, but a name that means laughter is not a kind thing to do to a runt.
Uncle Benjamin had invited us to come into town to see if we could meet that traveling evangelist everyone was talking about. Mama really just wanted to see something spectacular. Uncle Benjamin had always been odd, so I didn’t expect much. But when you live in the country, you never miss an opportunity to go into town.
It was a hot day and we couldn’t afford sandals, so my feet felt hot on the ground. It would be worse when the sun got to its highest later in the afternoon. There were some clouds in the East, maybe some merciful shade or, Adonai willing, rain. The crops could use it.
As we entered town, I started looking for other kids my age. The adults were all distracted so I could maybe have some fun. There was a crowd over by the gate, but I didn’t care. I normally would have left it alone except I heard Uncle Benjamin talking loudly (he was often loud). I walked over to see what he was saying.
“Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” he yelled.
Oh, adult stuff. Not for me. I walked past the crowd looking for some fun.
A man in the crowd looked right at me.
“Son, come over here.”
He had a kind look in his eyes. It was like the look that mama gets when I’ve done something she thinks is funny. It was like laughter mixed with sadness. I got the feeling he was laughing about something and sad about something too.
I walked over to him. He squatted on the ground and pulled me onto his knee. A hand mussed my hair and a smile, a deep and genuine smile, broke his face. I giggled. He was nice. I like this man.
It was funny too because he leaned and whispered in my ear, “Now watch all those grownups have to lean down to see us.”
He was right. There were several Teachers of the Law there and they were having a difficult time seeing him and they had to yell at the people in front of the crowd to get down. It really was funny to see them in all their pomp having to make grownups kneel to see and hear the man.
I looked into his eyes. it was mostly laughter now. Like a joke that only he and I were in on. I didn’t even know his name and I really wished he would stay with me. What a nice man.
The man spoke softly, the sadness in his face returning.
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Wow, drowned in the sea. That’s scary. I snuggled in close to him. It was safe there. No one would drown if they staying with him. I looked into his eyes again and the happiness was returning. He leaned in one more time, “See the looks in their eyes. You taught them an important lesson today. Jacob is a good name for you. You make me laugh.”
He then put me down and kissed my forehead.
Wait, how did he know my name is Jacob? I never told him my name.
Since then, I have really liked being called Jacob.