Benji the donkey

The Story Of The Palm Sunday Donkey by Joyce Smith

It promised to be a hot and sunny day as the early morning sunlight played on the little donkey’s face. Benji lazily opened first one eye and then the other, but although the sunshine was warm on his face, he shivered a little and huddled closer to his mother.  It was, after all, only yesterday that he had seen the old donkey who lived along the road being cruelly beaten by his master.
Benji’s mother gently nuzzled her son’s face and slowly licked one long ear followed by the other. Then, at the sound of their master’s voice, they trotted over to the edge of their field and had a long drink from the bucket of water he had brought for them, before turning to munch the hay which was piled up in the corner.

Even though their master was a kind man, Benji was still very frightened of the world outside his field and the scar on his mother’s back would always remind him of how cruel some people could be even to a donkey who had done nothing wrong. Sometimes, as Benji watched his mother carrying a person down the hill to the big city of Jerusalem, he could almost feel the pain of her scar and he longed to do something to help her. But the trouble was, whenever anybody asked for a ride on Benji, he was so frightened that he would begin to shake all over and no one wanted to ride him when he was like that. And so, in his short life, nobody had ever ridden on Benji’s back. But perhaps, just perhaps, today would be different……….

When Benji and his mother had finished eating, their master returned and, as he gently tickled their ears, he began to speak softly to them:

‘There will be lots of people going down to Jerusalem today
to celebrate the Feast of the Passover’ he said ‘and I think that
someone will need you to carry him today,  Benji, so I’m going
to get you both ready and I want you to stand quietly for me by
the house.’

Then, using a long length of rope so that the donkeys could still graze from the grass, their master tied them to the trunk of a tree and they began to wait to see who might come by.  They hadn’t been waiting long, however, when two men hurried towards the donkeys and, turning to their owner they said:

‘The Lord needs them’‘
That’s just fine’  said their master and as he untied Benji and his mother he whispered in their ears,
‘today will be your special day.’

The two men led the donkeys to the end of a dusty path and as they stood there, waiting, Benji turned his head and from where he was standing he could see right to the bottom of the big hill and all of the city of Jerusalem surrounded by big stone walls and lots of people, who looked as small as ants, hurrying around. Just then Benji’s gaze was arrested by a pile of rubbish outside the walls of the city and he began to tremble. He had often seen donkeys carrying rotting rubbish down to the tip and, sometimes, his mother told him, bad people were hung on crosses and killed there.  At that thought, Benji shook even more, but just as he was beginning to feel so weak that he thought he would fall over, he felt a hand on his head and a gentle voice saying:

‘Not today, little donkey, not today; the rubbish tip’s not for today.
Don’t be afraid little donkey, today I want you to carry me.’

Benji turned his head and found himself looking into the most understanding man’s face he had ever seen and suddenly his shaking stopped and he felt strangely calm.  Yes, he would be able to carry this man because he knew he understood and he gently nuzzled Jesus’ hand.  While his friends put their coats on Benji’s back, Jesus gently patted the scar on the older donkey’s back and this time she didn’t wince as she normally did, but she too, gently rubbed her head against him.

When they were ready, Jesus climbed on Benji’s back and began to ride down the hill towards Jerusalem.  To his surprise, with this man on his back, Benji suddenly felt quite strong and sure of himself. Somehow, being with Jesus, had taken away his scary feelings and now he really did feel that he could carry him all the way to Jerusalem. And Benji’s mother was just a few paces behind trotting along quite contentedly.
They hadn’t gone very far, however, when people started to come to the edge of the road and they began to cheer and wave palm branches as Jesus rode by on the little donkey.  People even spread their cloaks and more palm branches on the ground so that Benji had a very soft road to walk on. People then began to shout:

‘Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord

Hosanna in the highest’

‘Yes, Jesus must be very special’ thought Benji, ‘ but I could have told all these people that from the moment he first spoke to me.’  And as he continued to trot down the road he, too, felt special and so happy.

But as we know, donkeys are very sensitive and after a little while, amidst all the cheering, Benji’s long ears began to pick up some whispers from people at the back of the crowd, people who said they didn’t like Jesus and even that they wanted to kill him.  When he heard this, Benji began to shake again, but the man on his back gently patted him and said again; ‘Not today little donkey, not today.’
So, reassured once more, Benji trotted on right through a gate in the wall and into the city of Jerusalem, right up to the temple.

When they arrived there, Jesus jumped off Benji’s back, ‘ thank you, little donkey’ he said, ‘now you go back home with your mother and rest – well done little donkey, well done.’
Benji was so happy, he didn’t want to leave, but after rubbing Jesus’ arm with his muzzle one more, he turned and trotted back up the hill with his mother.

When he got home, he turned his head and looked at the city of Jerusalem once more and he wondered what Jesus was doing now. Then, as his gaze again took in the rubbish tip, a big tear rolled down his face and he heard that gentle voice saying ‘not today, not today, little donkey’ and he wondered what tomorrow might bring……

This story forms part of a series of reflections written by Joyce , ‘A Journey through Lent and Holy Week.’

Copyright Joyce M Smith 2021

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