Monday, March 25, 2013

Jonathan's Donkey

“Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5 “Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” (Matthew 21:1-9)
Isaac, the town rabbi was puzzled, even a little disturbed to see it. He had seen these two before. He recognized these Galileans coming for the Passover. In years past when Jesus had come to Jerusalem, these two were there, and always close to Jesus. He confided in them, and entrusted tasks to them. Now they walked into town and started untying Jonathan’s donkey as if it belonged to them. He almost said something himself, but he was paralyzed and awestruck with the calm manner they went about unhitching the donkey. Then he saw Jonathan talk to the men.
“Hey! What are you doing with my donkey?”
It was Jonathan’s only donkey, his livelihood really. He used it to collect fire wood, and carry goods to market in Jerusalem. Without it, his income would be greatly reduced. It’s doubtful he would even be able to pay the taxes the Romans would require of him, and then he would be beaten and tortured and held for ransom as the family begged and borrowed to find the means.
But the disciples of Jesus just calmly looked at him and said, “The Lord needs them.”
It was uncanny how Jonathan let the donkey go at that. Almost as if he was hypnotized. “The Lord,” this was bad. These Galileans used the term as if it meant perhaps a bit more than the way peasants would commonly refer to their superiors. When they used it to refer to Jesus you could almost hear hints that they thought Jesus was not just their lord, but “The Lord,” the creator of the world, the one who led Israel out of Egypt. Oh, this could go bad. But then had he not heard rumors that this man had just raised a friend from the grave? Yes, rumors were floating about that this Lazarus had been dead quite some time when Jesus had finally showed to pay respects, but then after uttering some blasphemy to a local tart, Jesus told Lazarus to come out of the grave, and he did. The whole thing is preposterous. But the masses were clamoring to it. The messianic fervor was rising to dangerous pitch. And now these disciples were referring to Jesus as “The Lord.” This could not do. It had to be stopped before more blood was shed. Pilate had already just murdered a group of pilgrims not a week ago as they made sacrifice in the temple. And now these disciples referred to this Galilean upstart as Lord.
Did Jonathan believe this nonsense too? Didn’t he know how dangerous it was? He couldn’t fathom it. Jonathan had to be in a trance, how could he entrust his whole livelihood to this Jesus of Nazareth? How? It certainly took some faith. Jonathan wouldn’t let his childhood friend use that donkey, and now he had given it over to a man claiming to be “The Lord.”
But what use could “The Lord” have of his donkey? Why didn’t he take the publican’s horse over there! I mean if he has all these special powers, it only makes sense that he would take a horse, and from someone who can spare such a thing from his vast wealth. Taking the publican’s horse would be far less detrimental to the publican than things would turn out for Jonathan should something happen to his donkey.
But there was no time for that. People had begun to move, and he could hear shouts beginning to echo off the canyon walls and the valley floor in the Kidron below, the very stones seemed to be crying now. What was this commotion? He began to make his way to the people.
He could see Jonathan now. He was in the midst of the crowd. He had taken off his coat, and was shouting with joy. You could see his the jubilant shouts rise as vapor from his mouth in the cool air. Others were ripping leaves off the Date Palms. It was unrulely, this vandalism. Didn’t they know they were endangering that man’s crop? Then he saw the owner of the palms doing it with them. All the while, this same monotonous mantra echoed: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
The Son of David? They were greeting this Jesus with Hosanna. Did they really think it was within the power of this man, riding on a donkey to save them? This man and his twelve disciples? This messianic fervor was going too far.
This Jesus passed, and the crowds closed in behind him, Isaac found Jonathan as he followed his donkey up to the temple. “Why would you give him your donkey to use like this, Jonathan? You don’t really think this could be the messiah do you, riding your donkey? Jonathan looked at Isaac with bewilderment, “But of course he is the Messiah, the king, who else can raise men from the dead? Who else can have this power over death? Look, Isaac, Behold, Daughter of Zion, your king comes to you humble and mounted on a donkey.”
Isaac saw it then. So that was the game. “The King coming to the daughter of Zion.” Playing off the prophecy of Zechariah, is he? Power over death? We’ll have to see about that I suppose. Anyone can ride a donkey, we’ll see if he brings righteousness and salvation, and just what power over death this man actually has.” Just then he saw the other rabbi’s looking on in astonishment. “Look brothers, how the world has gone after him!”

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