POE, THE FAITHFUL
“There are men untying your colt. Come, they have released him.”
The teenage boy ran towards the gates of the town, “You! Wait! That is my donkey!”
The two men paused in their escape, “The Lord has need of it, boy.”
“Lord? What lord? We will have nothing. Nothing to give, nothing to offer as a sacrifice to OUR Lord.”
“This is your sacrifice. Make this colt available to the Lord.”
Exhausted, the boy sank to the dusty ground. Loss, heartbreak and failure flooded around him.
Out of breath the boy’s sister stood over him with question sparkling in her eyes. “Why are those men walking off with Poe? Where are they taking him?”
“I don’t know Imma, they said something about taking him for their lord, in need. I don’t understand why they think they can steal our donkey.”
“Maybe they will return him.” Dire circumstances facing her beloved donkey were still no match for the hopefulness living inside her. “That man is barely pulling his lead! No way they used the word sacrifice within earshot of him!” Never had she seen Poe so… obedient. Poe refused to enter the town gates moments ago, forcing Imma and her brother Simon to tether the donkey to a bush. Leaving him as easy prey for thieves on the out skirts of town.
“Well it won’t be long before they realize they stole the WRONG donkey!” Simon spat as he pulled himself up off the ground. “If they are expecting him to pull his weight in this world they are horribly mistaken. The muscular build was wasted on Poe who refuses any burden or direction! ” The first born male of the families hardest working donkey, Poe simply dismissed any and every order.
The long walk to Bethpage Imma and Simon split the weight of their carry; the last of the meager barley harvest draped in sacks. The family had no use for an animal that would carry no weight. Lucky for them, he fit the requirements for an offering to their God this Passover. Well lucky for Simon. Imma had a love for Poe; she fought viciously with Simon on sparing his life the days leading up to their travel.
The road became more crowded as they neared town, Imma looked enviously at those traveling atop their donkeys. Deliberate with his movements, rarely conceding once he slowly considered all options, Simon had no patience for Poe. Quirky and temperamental, Imma adored Poe. She loved the feel of his dusty fur between her fingers or sitting in the field as Poe grazed, milking in the peace he abided in. Poe was a different kind of animal, strangely intuitive holding an extra sense about situations and people. His kind eyes absorbed all that was going on around him. Attentive ears somehow seemed to lead to understanding beyond the average person let alone donkey.
Simon’s efforts to force Poe to obey and serious talks of offerings and altars produced major agitation in Poe, his constant hee-hawing transforming to more of a constant wail. Imma would calm Poe telling pleasant stories her mother weaved throughout her memory.
Oh how Imma used to laugh as her mother told the story of their Lord using a donkey to catch the attention of a prideful, silly man named Balaam. Balaam became a prophet of the Lord, blessing the Lord’s people and prophesizing of King David’s birth. None of this would have been possible had it not been for his faithful donkey. Long ago, Balaam the son of a soothsayer was summoned by the king of the Moabites to come curse a people surrounding his land, the Israelites. Balaam received the will of the Lord forbidding him to go the king. The mighty Israelites were a people blessed by the Lord. Balaam, wooed by promised silver, riches and power, climbed upon his donkey and plodded along to the king of Moab.
Three times an Angel of the Lord appeared on the road directly in front of the donkey. Always obedient, the donkey stopped in her tracks all three times; the final time crushing the leg of Balaam against a wall then falling to the ground. Two times Balaam beat the donkey. The third time Balaam raised his staff against the donkey she turned her head and SPOKE! “Why are you beating me? Haven’t I always been peacefully obedient to your commands? Can you not see the Angel of the Lord standing in our way?”
As the donkey proclaimed her life long obedience and faithfulness Balaam raised his staff higher for a more powerful blow. Buried in his own prideful agenda, failing to see the significance of the moment – a talking donkey, the Angel of the Lord finally opened Balaam’s eyes. Had it not been for the obedience and faithfulness of his donkey, the Angel of the Lord would have struck him dead right there on the road, leaving the good donkey to live.
Shaking off the loneliness Imma would repeat this story to Poe making funny voices adlibbing the thoughts of her dear friend. Always his deep kind eyes, set in the white glow of his fur urged her on. His methodical munch of barley hay and the permanent smile on his muzzle provoked Imma’s imagination and deep love.
The last few years had been heartbreakingly difficult. Imma’s mother died in childbirth, her infant boy survived only hours, taking his last labored breathes in Imma’s arms. The loss of her mother was a devastating blow to her family, unable to recover. Days after burying Imma’s mother her father crumbled under the loss of his wife. He disappeared into the surrounding wilderness. Every now and again he’d appear in tattered clothes, skinny as a stick and promising to return to the barley harvest. He would try, for a while, and then walk off one day for a time. A long time. In the years of neglect the family’s land became nearly desolate. Simon worked his body to the bone attempting to cultivate the once thriving barley harvest.
Standing in the road today, watching the men lead Poe away, Imma’s heart broke again, forced to say goodbye to yet another family member.
“Simon, let’s go after the men who took Poe. Let’s see where they are taking him. I have to know if he will be used as an offering or go on to live.”
Simon’s disappointment left him no energy to argue with his sister. They had planned to continue on with the masses to Jerusalem for Passover offering Poe to their Lord as the customary sacrifice. They would now follow suit only having nothing to offer.
Carried along in the flow of people now flooding toward the gates of Jerusalem, Imma searched for her beloved friend. Hope dotted her heart thinking of other possible fates for Poe. Serious Simon drudged along while Imma ran in and out of families traveling. Imma heard some news she knew would peak her brother’s interest. Jesus and His disciples had been spotted! He would be present in Jerusalem for the Passover! Imma knew this would light a fire under Simon. Simon too listened intently to mother’s words of their God. However, Simon was drawn to those stories proclaiming the buried promises of a messiah, healing broken hearts, setting free those held captive. The only time Simon had taken a moment away from laboring and harvesting the barley was when he traveled to a near by town and listened to this Jesus. Upon Simon’s return he was filled with a lightness and joy.
“Perhaps if we hurry Imma, we can get there before Jesus and find a place to hear Him speak in the temple.”
Yes, her plan worked! They were moving faster now, hopefully drawing closer to Poe. Not much farther! Perhaps she could give Poe one last loving pet running her fingers through his dusty mane if he was headed to the altar.
Crossing the gates into Jerusalem the crowd thickened, becoming difficult to navigate. She grabbed Simon’s hand as they were pushed and pulled. Excited, the sea of people began to call out, some waving hands in the air. “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
The energy from the crowd escalated, people around her began taking off their tunics and laying them on the ground. “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
Poked with elbows and nudged with hips, knocked from Simon’s hand, Imma turned in circles of confusion. “Hosanna in the highest!” She scanned the sea of bodies for Simon. Her eyes caught the familiar stare of another. Frozen in her fear the crowd parted as she stood in the path of…POE!
Simon yanked her back towards the crowd. Imma raised her arm, her fingertips grazing Poe’s shoulders as he passed. Her fingers ran over his soft familiar fur, then the coats and tunics laid upon his back. A man, Poe was carrying a man. Imma’s eyes received the most loving gaze of compassion. Imma stood in awe of Jesus, the Messiah, riding on Poe. Jesus smiled reaching his gentle hand for her fingertips. In the moment Imma saw all her pain, tears of loss for her family her loneliness understood and accounted for.
Poe was an instrument carrying out a prophecy spoken by men many years before her generation. Jesus, the Messiah rode on the back of a colt of which no one else rode. For a moment she saw meaning and purpose in every ounce of her life. The Lord her mother spoke of did not only live in stories but was alive and intricately, intimately involved in all her life.
Simon standing beside her was struck with a bout of laughter. Imma turned to him realizing it had been so long since hearing that joyous sound from him. “Jesus is riding on our Poe! Poe, who refused any burden before this. He is now covered in cloaks and the Son of David sits comfortably upon his back! Oh my dear Imma. It seems this donkey knew a bit more about his purpose than I.”
Poe passed; the crowd flowed in after Jesus. Stunned, Imma was unable to move as the people drew Simon into their wake. “Imma! Follow Jesus! Come with me! Find me in the temple!”
Imma filled with an unspeakable joy, regained her composure and attempted to push her way towards Simon. Her efforts were in vain; all the people in Jerusalem were eagerly rushing their way to one place at that moment. Hours later the crowd thinned, Imma spotted Simon in the distance and thankfully sprinted towards him. She saw in his hands a rope. Following the line of the rope, Imma found her friend Poe’s forever smile and twinkling dark eyes.
“Poe, He gave you back to us,” she breathlessly gasped.
Simon embraced his sister. Filled with energy, his words could not get out fast enough. “Yes, Imma. Jesus’ disciples, the same men who took Poe from where he was tethered, I recognized them. I went to them once Jesus had moved on. They thanked us for our offering of this good and faithful donkey, and handed me back Poe’s rope! Can you believe it Imma?”
“You mean we still have to place him as an offering?” Her heart plummeted as she tried to understand.
“No, no Imma. He was already our offering. What we made available and open to the Lord, to use for His will, His glory, His purpose. The disciples explained no more blood shed for sins. Jesus has come to take away the darkness in the world.”
As Imma let Simon’s words sink into her heart, her fingers traced the back of Poe’s neck. His soft spot, her favorite part where it looked as if a cross was branded into his fur.
“How, Simon, is Jesus to take the darkness of this world?”
“I don’t know Imma, but I believe.”