In Biblical Times, many people rode on donkeys. Even Kings rode on donkeys! Donkeys were, it seems, to be the choice of folks that did not want to bring attention to themselves while traveling. They were considered to be a very common mode of carrying supplies or people and most families owned at least one.
According to an Internet Bible reference there are 142 references to the donkey in the New International Version. Donkey references in New American Standard version, 140. The New Living Translation version has 147 references to donkey. There are 155 references to donkey in the New Life Version of the Bible.
Like most people, the donkey has gone unnoticed by me in Scripture. How did a creature, who was so present in very pivotal moments of Christ’s life, remain so common to me that I barely offered it a glance, in thought or appreciation? From today forward my heart holds a new space for the dear donkey, who so gently carried the tabernacle of God safely to where He needed to go, so that we may partake in the glory of salvation.
As we head into this Holy Week of Easter I have knit together a story of this under-stated creature, which is... part legend, part story-book lore (written by others,) and a sprinkle of my own added words mixed in. I do hope you enjoy it…and may you discover the hidden beauty of the under-stated in your own life as you head into the Easter Season. Is there joy to be found in what you most times consider common? Is there salvation offered to you in what has gone unnoticed?
Clip—clop—clip—clop, went Small Donkey’s hooves as he s-l-o-w-l-y climbed the last hill. Mary rode on Small Donkey’s back. Joseph walked by Small Donkey’s side. Mary and Joseph were very, very tired. Small Donkey was tired too. They had come a long, long way. From the top of the hill, O happy sight, they saw the lights of Bethlehem!
Joseph walked faster now. Clip-clop, clip-clop, clip-clop, hurried Small Donkey, down the hill, through the gate, into the little town, where they would rest and sleep.
At the inn, Joseph asked for a room. “We have no room,” said the innkeeper. “Is there no place where we can sleep?” asked Joseph. “Only in the stable. . . . “
Donkey didn’t mind sharing his sleeping quarters with the gentle man and his wife, who rode atop his back the entire way. He had grown very fond of them as they made this long journey together. He sensed the woman was very tired and in need of comfort. The straw would be warm for them all to rest upon and perhaps, if the child they spoke of during their journey to Bethlehem was born, there would be an empty manger in the stable to lay the newborn child in.
And when the newborn Child arrived that night, the common donkey could not imagine loving anything more.
The donkey knew the Heavens felt just the same as the brightest star (ever seen) shown down upon the baby swaddled in the manger. And all the animals in the stable bowed their heads down together when the gentle couple whispered for the first time the child’s name, “Jesus.”
One dark night when Joseph was asleep, and Mary was asleep, and Baby Jesus was asleep, an angel whispered to Joseph. “Get up quickly,” he said. “Take Mary and the Baby and flee into Egypt. The wicked king is trying to find the Baby to do Him harm. Stay in Egypt until I tell you it is safe to return.” The king was angry because the people were saying that some day Baby Jesus would be king.
Joseph got up quickly. He told Mary what the angel had said. He went to an area in the stable for Small Donkey. Mary wrapped Baby Jesus snug and warm. Joseph helped Mary on Small Donkey’s back. He handed her Baby Jesus. Clip-clop, clip-clop, went Small Donkey’s hooves as they went out through Bethlehem’s gate, and turned down the road toward Egypt.
Excerpt from, Etta Degering, The Story of Small Donkey (My Bible Friends)
A poor farmer near Jerusalem owned a donkey he had inherited, which was far too small to do much work at all. He felt that he couldn’t afford to feed a worthless animal like this, one that could do him no good whatsoever, so at the supper table he told his family that he was going to kill the donkey.
His children, who loved the little donkey, begged him to sell it rather than harm it. But the farmer said, “It’s wrong to sell an animal that can’t do a good day’s work.”
Then his oldest daughter suggested, “Father, tie the donkey to a tree on the road to town, and say whoever wants it may take it for nothing.” And the next morning, that’s what the farmer did.
Soon, two men approached and asked if they could have the donkey. “It can carry almost nothing,” the farmer warned them.
“Jesus of Nazareth has need of it,” replied one of the men. The farmer couldn’t imagine what a great teacher would want with such a worthless donkey, but he handed it over.
The men took the animal to Jesus, who Jesus seemed to have a strong affection toward, as He stroked the grateful donkey’s face and then mounted it and rode away. And both man and beast were grateful to God to be reunited, as they made an important journey together once again.
So it was on the day we call Palm Sunday, Jesus led his followers into the city of Jerusalem riding on the back of a small, common donkey.
The donkey so loved his gentle master that he later followed him to Calvary. Grief-stricken by the sight of Jesus on the cross, the donkey turned away but couldn’t leave. It was then that the shadow of the cross fell upon the shoulders and back of the donkey, and there it stayed. All donkeys have borne the sign of the cross on their backs since that very day.
Adapted version of an Excerpt from Sue Weaver, The Donkey Companion (Storey Publishing, 2008).
hugs n’ blessings as we endeavor to love The Master as much as the common little donkey this Easter Season!