Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey. (Zechariah 9.9)
You know, I wish I’d been born a horse. I used to say to my mum, ‘Mum, I wish I’d been born a horse.’ And she used to say to me ‘Shut up making such a racket, you’re a donkey!’. Where I grew up, there were some horses. They were kept in a field close by. I used to watch them – long legs, strong body, proud head. And when their owner came, well he was a soldier – long legs, strong body, proud head – they were suited to each other. He jumped on to that horse’s back and they rode off and all you could see was dust. I watched while my Master loaded more wood onto my back.
That was my job you see. My Master was a carpenter and he was working on this building site in a place called Sepphoris. Every time he had a job to do, beams for a ceiling, lintels for a door, frames for a window, the wood was loaded onto me and I had to trudge alongside him to where the wood was needed.
Whilst he was working I had a chance to talk to some of the other donkeys. Some of them had a terrible time, beaten, ill fed, left without water in the heat. Some were skin and bones, some had scars. I was lucky, my Master was lovely, he treated me well and fed me well – that’s why I’m a bit on the broad side, but as I said to a friend, more space to load the wood on to!
I heard them saying that to ride a horse shows your high status, if you ride a donkey it shows your humility. You see, that’s why I want to be a horse, to be proud, not a symbol of humility, not an object of ridicule and fun.
That’s how it felt until a few days ago. The day began with nothing to suggest that it was going to be different from any other day. And then from the house there seemed to be a load of activity. A young woman and an older couple arrived. My Master was busy getting things together, but not the normal load of wood. Then he came out and flung some bags across me, some skins of water, some skins of wine, I could smell some fresh baked bread. And then the girl appeared. She was wrapped up because it was winter, it was cold, and in the hills you could feel that it might just snow.
My Master came and helped her on to my back. You know, she was as light as a feather. Perhaps it was because I was used to being loaded with wood, I’d grown familiar to a heavy load. But this burden was easy, this burden was light.
The older couple waited whilst we set off. We headed south and I just walked. I didn’t know where I was going but my Master knew and he led me whilst the young woman sat there. They talked but their voices were gentle. I could almost hear an echo of some singing as I went – it must have been wind in the olive tress but it was as though from somewhere I could hear
on a dusty road;
got to keep on plodding onwards
with your precious load.
Since then we’ve been walking, my Master and me, and Mary, that’s the girl’s name, has been sitting there, carefully, gently on my back. She’s having a baby, I’ve heard them talking about that. So I’m carrying not one but two people. It’s not just she who is riding on my back but the baby as well. And I’m proud – don’t ask me why, but I feel as honoured as one of those grand horses, as important as one of those who pull a grand chariot, as though I too carry a king.
Perhaps the baby won’t need to ride a donkey again, or maybe the baby will – who knows.
I see some children playing by the roadside, pretending to be me – one at the front another at the back, a pretend donkey. They laugh and I laugh with them. Life is good.
Lord, help me not to want to be who I’m not
but to be fully the person
you created me to be.