Today’s Word: “Donkey” as in… this beautiful poem by Mary Oliver about the donkey that Jesus rode into Jerusalem.
The story of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem at the beginning of Passover is thick with layers. No detail is too insignificant. For instance, the Gospels of Mark, Luke, and John each refer to only one donkey. In Matthew’s Gospel (21:1-11), Jesus specifically tells his disciples to “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me.”
Why two donkeys? Who knows, really. Except that just about everything that Jesus did had a deep connection to community. Nothing was done in isolation; travel in twos, where two or three are gathered, have them sit in groups, etc. So, we have this beautiful picture of “the donkey and the colt” being brought to Jesus. It’s an image of compassion. The journey through the streets of Jerusalem, with the throngs of people all around Jesus and the donkeys, obviously would have been much easier for the colt if the mother donkey were led together down the same road.
Perhaps even as this week begins, we’re being reminded that any journey is better taken together. Especially the journey into and through this week that we call Holy.
On the outskirts of Jerusalem
the donkey waited.
Not especially brave, or filled with understanding,
he stood and waited.
How horses, turned out into the meadow,
leap with delight!
How doves, released from their cages,
clatter away, splashed with sunlight.
But the donkey, tied to a tree as usual, waited.
Then he let himself be led away.
Then he let the stranger mount.
Never had he seen such crowds!
And I wonder if he at all imagined what was to happen.
Still, he was what he had always been: small, dark, obedient.
I hope, finally, he felt brave.
I hope, finally, he loved the man who rode so lightly upon him,
as he lifted one dusty hoof and stepped, as he had to, forward.
—With deep gratitude for Mary Oliver