On Palm Sunday, God led me to read and teach on one of the stories in my upcoming Parables in the Pages book. All of the stories will be based on the Bible, from the hardened warrior marching to battle Jehoshaphat, to a servant girl turned apostle, to this one: the most blessed donkey in history. Each story will follow with reflections on the spiritual principals contained within. Though still in draft form, God has placed it on my heart to release this particular short story early…in honor of Jesus on this weekend of Palms and Passover.
Hosanna in the highest heaven!
The Blessed Donkey
“Papa! Papa! Come see!” A young girl rushed excitedly into the house, her bare feet covered in dust from the field. “A baby! A baby! Miniah had a baby!”
Her father stood up, glancing at his wife in surprise.
“Miniah? You found her?”
The girl was breathless and excited. “At the watering hole! When the flock gathered, she came from the wilderness and followed my voice home!”
“I thought a wild animal got her,” Mama said. She dusted the flour off her hands. “Come now, Hanna, show us. Miniah disappeared almost a year ago. That is a long time to be out there on her own. We need to make sure it was not a neighbor’s donkey that followed you.”
“It is her!” Hanna insisted as she started toward the door. Papa strode after her as mamma fixed her shawl and then followed.
“I could have used her last harvest,” Papa grumbled as he followed. Miniah was their only donkey. She carried supplies to town for trading and couldn’t have disappeared at a worse time. He couldn’t afford another one yet. His lips pursed as he realized the decision that would need to be made.
“See? I brought her in the paddock,” Hanna shouted as she ran ahead and jumped on the fence rails. “I know her face!”
“Ahh, that can only be Miniah,” Mama said in relief when she saw the spot of white on the brown donkey’s forehead. She touched it tenderly. It was what remained of a scar from early in the donkey’s life. Their neighbors left her for dead as a young foal. When Papa saw her in the field all alone and still alive, he brought her home. Then when she survived, he offered a trade of services to the owner in payment. Miniah was like another member of the family until a dreadful harvest storm made her buck and flee last year. Lightning had struck the ground near where she and Papa were working. Both were knocked off their feet, but by the time Papa got back up, she was completely gone.
Hanna giggled as the little foal sucked her fingers and nudged close. “Look, Papa, just look how pretty he is!”
The father stared at the white foal in deep thought. Donkeys were seldom this color. Brown and grey were typical. The foal could fetch a handsome price when grown and trained, but that would mean feeding, caring for, and training him this whole year. He pursed his lips. The foal was also Miniah’s first and would need to be redeemed.
“What a little blessing you are,” Hanna crooned as she lavished affection on the foal.
“Bennett,” Mama said aloud.
Hanna looked back. “What?”
“His name should be Bennett. It means ‘little blessed one’.”
“Yes! Bennett!” Hanna shouted excitedly as she passed through the fence rails and hugged the little donkey.
“Deborah!” Papa spoke in a hushed tone as he turned aside. “We haven’t even discussed what to do! You cannot give the foal a name and spark such hope in Hanna already!”
“God delivered Miniah from the wilderness back into our daughter’s hands with a white first born colt in tow. I think you know what decision must be made when we are so highly favored. Do the right thing, Shem.” Deborah squeezed her husband’s arm in love and then turned and walked back to the house.
Shem glanced back over his shoulder at his daughter playing with the young donkey. Another beast of burden would be greatly beneficial during the harvest, but under the Mosaic law, the donkey would have to be redeemed or killed. All first born were consecrated to God. There was a moment of contemplation as Shem wondered if he should ignore the law in this case. Miniah was not in his possession when she was bred or when she birthed. He glanced warily over at his small flock of sheep that Hanna shepherded. There were so few lambs this year. To sacrifice one in the donkey’s place would cut into future income and prosperity. The only remaining option would be to take the donkey into the priests and ask for a redemption price, but this was not a feasible option. The white animal would fetch a premium much too high for a poor farmer to pay.
Shem sighed and turned back to Hanna. She had an especially soft hand with the animals and was already known in the local community for her devout care and protection of the family flock. There already seemed to be a bond between the foal and her. He relented.
“Watch over Bennett as you watch over the sheep. He will work beside Miniah when he is old enough.”
Hanna laughed and pet the beautiful foal’s ears. “I knew you were special when I first saw you. Papa has chosen life for you. You are redeemed in our Lord’s eyes. And soon we will teach you how to become a part of our family.”
The late winter waxed into summer and Hanna kept Miniah and Bennett with the flock. Everyday they would walk out to the pasturelands and watering holes. Bennett brayed and ran with the lambs in playful jubilation. Often he wasn’t even noticed by others among the white sheep. Hanan began talking to him daily. He would lay in the sun beside her on a hillside and she would lean against his side and scratch him behind the ears.
“Someday I will be in charge of a herd like that,” Hanna pointed into the distance where a seemingly endless trail of sheep moved slowly along. “A few more years of good birthing and we will swell in numbers.”
Bennett simply breathed beside her, his eyes half closed in contentment as the morning sun warmed his body. He never responded, but Hanna kept saying how he was the best listener. She leaned forward and grabbed a smooth rock that caught her eye, and then turned the grey stone in her hand, examining its size and weight for a moment before placing it in her pouch.
“That one is definitely a keeper,” she remarked. Her skills with the sling had driven off multiple predators. Every year she got better. There were no losses this year. She turned and patted Bennett. “No losses because of you, brave stallion! The wolves are scared by your awful braying.”
Hannah laughed and continued to talk to the colt as she watched over the flock. Summer passed swiftly and soon she noticed that Bennett was no longer a foal. The colt was almost as big as his mother. Fields of wheat were coming to head and harvest season would soon be upon them.
“And so ends your lazy life,” Hanna joked. But when the time finally came, it was no longer a joke. The peaceful sweet Bennett that she had raised in the fields turned into a nightmare overnight. No one could tame the thing. Even Hanna felt helpless when she tried to help her father accustom the animal to wearing packs. Bennett reared and struck if they came close. He nipped and took off if he was loose, yet he was powerful enough to drag both Hanna and her father across the dirt if they tried to hold him still. When his head was lashed tight to a post, Bennett folded and contorted his body to the point of hanging himself. He would not allow a person or pack to touch his back. Miniah brayed incessantly and Hanna cried out and stood between her angered father and Bennett.
“Stop! Stop, please!” Hanna wailed as she threw her arms around Bennett. “He doesn’t understand! Papa! He’s not ready!”
Shem tossed the packs to the side in anger. “I gave one of my lambs in place of this beast and he cannot even carry a pack for me! He is more than ready at this age!”
Hanna quickly undid the halter while her father ranted. Bennett’s strangled breathing stopped and he leapt away, trotting back beside his penned mother as he shook his head and snorted his displeasure.
“It has been weeks of this with no progress,” Shem continued in anger. “He goes to town with us tomorrow and I will sell him! His coloring will bring a fine price regardless of his stupidity. Make sure that colt is locked in his pen tonight, Hanna.”
There was no arguing. Tears rolled down Hanna’s cheeks as she sullenly walked back over to Bennett and placed him with his mother. To say a word against her father now would be disobedience. Papa had reached his limit.
“Now why did you have to go and do that?” Hanna sniffled as she locked the pen. “There’s no coming back now. Papa has decided in his heart.”
Bennett cocked one ear to her, but didn’t respond otherwise. He seemed oblivious. As long as he was left alone to do as he pleased, his temperament was perfect. The moment anyone tried to teach him how to work, he turned into an uncontrollable beast.
“We are such a small farm,” Hanna said softly. “Everyone must work. If you can’t work, Bennett, you can’t be here.”
The colt ambled away, as if he had set his mind on the decision too. The next day seemed dark even though the sun shone brightly. Miniah was loaded with food to sell, and followed the lead of Shem. Bennett followed behind on just a halter and Hanna walked with her mother in the rear. They would be staying with Shem’s brother at the end of town so they could be near to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. It was usually a time of high spirits over visiting family and bringing much needed income and trades into the household, but Hanna felt nothing but disappointment the entire time they walked. It was only a couple hours journey to get to the village, but by then Shem was even more angered. His fist was tight on Bennett’s lead line as they worked through increasing crowds and the tighter he held, the more agitated Bennett became. By the time they reached the house, Shem was at his final limit. He tied the colt tightly to an outer post.
“You want to live a lazy life?” Shem said in breathless anger as he made sure the animal’s head was lashed tightly. “Then you will reap a lazy life. No food. No water. See what you think about carrying your fair share by tomorrow.”
Hanna swallowed uneasily when she heard the terms and looked at the still rising morning sun. There was no shade for Bennett. She bowed her head and followed inside the house to help unload. There was nothing she could do. Her father had spoken. She helped to unload Miniah and bring all their provisions inside the home. After she had unloaded the last of the packs, she eyed something strange through the window. Several men approached Bennett, looking and discussing. One pointed at the house.
“Papa!” Hanna called and motioned to the door as she peeked out. She peered behind her father when he walked to the door. By now the men were untying Bennett.
“What are you doing loosing the colt?” Shem called to the men. “Is this really an attempt to steal a poor man’s donkey on the eve of Passover?”
One man bowed his head respectfully. “No sir, the Lord has need of it and he is sending it straight back to this place.”
Hanna looked up at her speechless father. He had stumbled over the words and glanced back as his brother approached in great interest. Uncle Levi placed his hand on Shem’s shoulder.
“The teacher, Shem. Haven’t you heard? He’s making his way to the temple!”
Shem breathed in amazement. The great teacher Y’shua who healed everyone who came to him, taught with such brilliance, and had crowds following him wherever he went was coming to Jerusalem for the Passover. The one who declared he was the son of God wanted that worthless untameable donkey. Even now the colt pranced and reared in haste. Shem wanted the colt to stay tied to learn a lesson, but something deep inside of him broke. He yearned to see this son of God for himself.
“You won’t get far with that wild thing,” Shem finally replied as he stepped forward. He waved his daughter out. “He will need to be led by his mother and my daughter Hanna. Come Hanna, take Bennett.”
Hanna took Bennett’s line and finished untying it. The colt immediately pulled her over to Miniah; he was upset to be seperated from her. The disciples surrounded them as they walked out of town together, talking about wonders and fantasies that didn’t seem like they could be true. Leprosy healed in an instant. Sight given back. A disabled and mute boy who grew strong and articulate just from this incredible teacher rebuking a spirit. And even people raised from the dead. Hanna felt excitement grow in her chest as they approached a great crowd. Men and women together, all congregating around one man in the center who was waiting with perfect patience. He seemed no greater than any other man, but the moment he smiled and took the halter of Bennett, Hanna and Shem both knew there was something indescribably powerful within this person. The white donkey stared adoringly at the teacher, as if he had never seen anyone like this man, Y’shua. Cloaks were thrown over Bennett, then Y’shua sat on his back. Hanna gasped and clasped her hands over her mouth. Shem reached out to grab the halter and shout a warning, but Y’shua only smiled once again and bid the donkey forward. And Bennett moved along as though he had been born for this moment.
“Surely this man is the son of God,” Shem exclaimed when he witnessed the impossible. Bennett was leading Miniah, not the other way around. The donkey placed his hooves gently and carefully over cloaks and leaves, flowers, and branches laid down. Songs erupted from the crowd.
Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord:
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David:
Hosanna in the highest!”
All the way to Jerusalem the songs and praise continued. And Benett never faltered a step. Hanna found herself filled with joy and she sang with the people around her. She grabbed her own branches and placed them in front of this wonderous person who could only be God in human form. She could feel it in her very being. The deepest parts of her soul were touched indescribably. Even her father began dancing beside her, singing and uttering such joy. Hanna had never seen it before. There was almost a sadness when the procession ended and Y’shua handed the donkey back. He turned to one of the men close to him.
“A worker is worth their wages. Give them the bag.”
There was indignant surprise on the money changer’s face. “The whole bag?”
“The riches of my Father’s house will be released in just a few days’ time,” Y’shua answered. “Give Sheminiah the bag, Judas.”
And before the poor farmer could get over the shock of Y’shua knowing his name, before he could protest what was happening, an entire bag of money was placed in his trembling hands and the teacher had disappeared in the crowd.
Shem turned to his daughter with tears in his eyes and hugged her. Then he rubbed Bennett’s head in complete love and adoration. “I understand now. You were chosen from birth. May neither pack nor person ever touch the blessed back of the donkey who carried the Son of the most high God on his back.”