A fictional story about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as told by a donkey.
|The Animals Knew Him
By Marilyn Mackenzie
A fictional story about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as told by a donkey. Third place winner! (In a contest that no longer shows up here. Oh well.)
"Hee-haw, hee-haw," said the donkey, the ass, the beast of burden. Yes, he was a beast of burden. He was tired of carrying heavy loads.
Last week, though, there had been that special parade. That was fun. He imagined that the people were happy to see him, that they were celebrating his arrival in town. But it wasn’t really so.
The people celebrated the arrival of the man he carried on his back. That man, they said, had performed miracle healings. That man, they said, wandered the countryside, teaching people about God. That man, they said, might even be the Son of God.
The man he carried seemed concerned about him. He shifted his weight ever so gently and patted him and, for the first time, the donkey felt love. He thought it was love, but he didn’t really know. It felt good, though, to be touched by one who seemed to care. The man made sure he got a drink too, so he didn’t mind carrying him through the streets while the people shouted, "Hosanna!" And now that same man was to be hung on a cross.
The donkey was talking to the sheep. A shepherd had stopped near town with his charges, and the donkey’s master had left him nearby. The donkey said to the sheep, "I know that man they are going to crucify. Yes, I carried him on my back last week during the parade. But I knew him even before that. I knew him when he was just a baby."
The sheep shouted "Baa" in unison.
The donkey acquiesced. "Okay, okay. We all know I haven’t lived that long. But it seems as if I met this man when he was just a baby. His birth is something we beasts of burden speak of often. One of my kind was right there in the stable where he was born."
The eldest sheep answered, "We know the story well. One of our ancestors was there too."
The donkey had hoped to impress that group of sheep. Sheep weren’t usually that knowledgeable about things like this. Usually, he could impress other animals with what he learned while walking with man and carrying his load. He had forgotten the part of the story that said there were shepherds at the birth of this man. Of course there would have been sheep there too.
He wandered into town. No one was paying any attention to the lonely ass wandering alone, and he was glad. He didn’t want to carry anything. He only wanted to find the place where the hanging would take place. He wanted to watch, to try to understand why they would make this man suffer that way. The man was kind to animals; he had become a legend in the animal kingdom because of that.
A man so kind to animals must have been kind to humans as well. The donkey wondered what the man had done to anger those same humans. He wondered how they could want to kill such a kindly man. And so, he tried to get closer so he could try to understand.
As he got closer to town, the donkey noticed the growing crowds. The doors of a nearby building opened, and out tumbled three men. The crowd grew, people came from everywhere it seemed, and they shouted, "Kill him! Crucify him!" Just last week, the people were rejoicing at seeing this man. They were eager to touch him, to see his face. And now they wanted him to die. The donkey just didn’t understand.
As the three men struggled up the hill, the donkey followed the crowd. If there was ever a time when he would have volunteered to help a human, it was today. They carried heavy crosses up the hill. The man he knew stumbled and one of the guards told another man to carry the cross. The donkey was glad.
Blood poured from the man’s head where a crown of thorns had been placed. People taunted and jeered at the man. The donkey kicked up his heels and wished he could kick every one of the jeering townspeople. Why had they changed so quickly from adoring this man to hating him so?
The donkey noticed that a few people seemed to care. They stayed at the back of the crowd, as if they were trying not to call attention to themselves. Still, they wept and moaned. The donkey was glad that someone besides him cared that this gentle, kind man was being hurt.
He heard those few followers talking of the man, calling him Jesus. The donkey wanted to remember that name so he could speak of this day, could brag about his having been there at this historic event. Even he knew this was a historic event, though he knew not why.
For the donkey, time flew, but he knew, for the humans it might not have been so. The men were placed on their crosses and nails were hammered into their hands and feet. They screamed in agony and pain, screams unlike any the donkey had ever heard.
On one side, the cross’ occupant still mocked the man they called the Son of God. On the other side, the thief looked into the eyes of the Son and knew Him, and the Son knew him as well. Jesus told that criminal that he would see him in Heaven.
Jesus said, "Forgive them Father. They don’t know what they do." The donkey didn’t know this Father about whom the man spoke. He didn’t understand how the man could be so forgiving of those who hurt him. The donkey couldn’t be that forgiving. When someone whipped him, trying to make him go faster or to make him carry his load longer and not want to rest, his reaction was to want to bite or kick. He marveled at the patience and kindness of this man Jesus, and still wondered why the people scorned him and wanted him to die.
As those thoughts raced through his donkey mind, he heard Jesus speak once more. It sounded as if he were asking that same person, that Father, why he had forsaken him. But that couldn’t be so. Jesus seemed to love that Father, whoever he was. While he pondered that, Jesus said his last words. "It is finished." And then his body went limp.
Just as quickly as the people had gathered, they began to wander away. The only ones left were those who mourned him, the ones who wept.
Hiding quietly nearby, the donkey noticed some people he hadn’t seen before when the crowd was there. One was a shepherd. It must have been his flock the donkey visited. Another was a man in fine and fancy robes. Even a donkey could notice the difference in the simple garments of the shepherd compared with the elegance of those the other man wore.
The donkey crept closer, not wanting them to stop talking. He heard, "Yes, I was there when Jesus was born in the stable. I was only 6 years old, just learning to be a shepherd."
The finely dressed man replied, "I was not there, but my teacher was, and he told me of the miracle. Why can’t these people see that prophecy was fulfilled? He was born in a stable in Bethlehem, of a virgin. I’ve heard how he walked the countryside, performing miracles. Why can these people not see? This man was the Messiah." The donkey wondered what that meant.
The donkey didn’t want to work, and now that the crowds weren’t there to hide him, he quietly left and hid just outside of town. He stayed there for a few days, finding a few scraps to eat and wondering if he should try to find his master.
Just three days later, as his stomach wished for more food, the donkey noticed one of the women who had mourned the death of Jesus. The donkey watched from his hiding place as the woman approached a cave. A large stone lay nearby. The woman entered the cave, then ran out crying. "Where have they taken my Lord?" she asked of no one.
A man appeared, then, a man in glowing white robes. The donkey recognized him right away, but the woman did not. She asked the man where Jesus had been taken. The man called her by name. "Mary," he whispered.
Mary’s eyes opened wide in surprise, then she bowed before the King of Kings. Jesus told her to go and tell the others that he was risen from the dead, just as he had said he would.
As Mary ran from there, shouting, "He is risen, He is risen!" The donkey followed behind, but not too closely, running as fast as his donkey legs could carry him.
The donkey knew that coming to life after dying wasn’t a normal event. He had seen his own mother and father die, and they never came back to life again. This was a miracle that needed to be shared, and the donkey wanted to be the first to tell his animal friends. Those sheep thought they were so great because they knew about the birth of Jesus in the manger. Wait until they heard all about his death on the cross and that he arose from the grave. This was a story that would be shared on into eternity.
As the little donkey ran down the road, he realized how ironic this situation truly was. Having been close to humans, he knew that men often treated their women just slightly better than their beasts. Yet here they were, a woman and an ass, ready to tell the world about the Good News. "I wonder if the "doubting Thomases" will ever believe us," he wondered as he ran.