‘Bring me a donkey,’ he said to us. A donkey? I stared at him—‘Jesus, you can’t afford to buy a donkey. You can’t afford to rent a donkey. You don’t have any money. You don’t have a house. You don’t have even a change of clothes. And you want us to get you a donkey?’
‘It’ll be tied up in the village,’ he said. ‘Go, bring it to me. If anybody tries to stop you, just tell them I need it.’
It was like that with him. He did the strangest things. Sometimes it was too much. It was like he was forcing you to choose. You could walk away, or you could take a deep breath, believe him, and go one more mile along the road. We often wondered who was taking the bigger risk, the ones who left, or the ones who stayed.
Anyway, Jesus was waiting for an answer. So I shrugged. Made my choice. Again.
‘Okay,’ I said.
On the way to the village we practiced our lines—‘Nice donkey you have there, Mister. We’ll take it now. No, no, really, it’s okay, we know it’s your donkey, but Jesus needs it.’
On the way back with the animal in tow, I kept asking myself, ‘Why does he need a donkey? He walks everywhere. I’ve never seen him ride.”
Later, after everything was over, his mother reminded me that he had ridden once before, when he was a baby, the night the angel told Joseph to take Jesus to Egypt to protect him from Herod.
People say that Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem to signal peaceful intentions. It’s true—he wasn’t a conquering hero. He believed meekness was more powerful than violence. He was a servant, not a king. But after Mary told me about that time they fled into Egypt, I wondered if he chose the donkey as a kind of course correction.
Maybe on the back of the donkey, in the midst of all the street theater that day, he was thinking, ‘I escaped back then. This time I won’t get away.’
This time no angel-dream would save him in the nick of time. No mother keep him warm at her breast. No father protect him from the tyrants and the sword.
This time he wouldn’t ride away from trouble. He would ride straight into it. On the donkey. On the carpet of coats and shawls. Through all the shouting and the palms.
Image: Entry into Jerusalem, A. Flandrin