John and Bell made a great team. They lived together and worked together for many years before John passed. Bell lived for many more years before she was injured by a boar hog and had to be put down.
When I was born, the couple was already living on my granddaddy’s farm near Providence. There they labored tirelessly. Their pay was plenty to eat and a place to stay. Soon after my fourth birthday, Mama Playl died. We moved to a small farm on Laffoon Trail, at the edge of Madisonville, and John and Bell came to live with us. I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember John and Bell.
John would stand with his head over the gate that separated the barn lot, where he lived, from the yard and house, where I lived. I would climb up on the gate and onto his neck, grabbing a floppy ear or a handful of mane to hold on. John would remain with his head perfectly still and patiently endure my antics as I pretended to ride a racing stallion across the plains, like Roy or Gene or Hopalong.
Bell was a good worker, but she was never as patient with kids as John. When she stuck her head over and I started climbing up the gate, she immediately found something else to do.
Together the two mules had pulled plows, wagons, and other farming equipment, and after John’s death, Bell continued - with modified harness - to work for her room and board. Mr. Justice, who lived across the field from us, raised a garden on our land, and he preferred the mule to a tractor or roto-tiller. In my mind I can still hear him yelling, “Gee! Haw! Whoa! Giddyup heah!”
Just in case you didn’t know, a mule is the hybrid offspring that results when a male donkey, or jack, breeds with a female horse, mare. That’s the only connection between the mules in my story and the donkey in the account of Palm Sunday.
The donkey from Palm Sunday died about 2,000 ago, and we don’t even know his, or her, name, but he, or she, was an important character in a very important event. It’s important that the donkey’s owner recognized that Jesus needed a ride into town, and that owner practiced good stewardship in giving his donkey for the Lord to use. After all, God is the giver of all things, even donkeys, and the guy with the donkey was simply giving back to God.
He could have said, “The guy down the street has a better donkey,” or “I need my donkey to haul water today,” or “Why should I trust you with my donkey, this is my only donkey?” Instead, he recognized that the Lord needed to borrow his donkey, and he could do his part by giving back to God. Jesus could have used another donkey, but the guy who loaned his to Jesus would have missed a great blessing.
Also, it was important for Jesus’s ride to be a donkey, a humble beast. He was the King, but he was portraying humility, servanthood, sacrifice. Jesus came to Jerusalem that day as the Savior. He came to suffer and die for our sins. He came to save but was also worshipped.
The cries of “Hosanna” were words which recognized Him as Savior. His mode of transportation fulfilled the prophecy of Zachariah and demonstrated his humility. The palm branches and clothing showed the people’s worship of the Savior.
Where does Jesus fit into your life? What do you have that he can use?
-Steve Playl may be reached by email. firstname.lastname@example.org
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