Once there was a young donkey named Jacob. Jacob lived in the village of Bethphage, right next to Bethany, just east of Jerusalem. Jacob was an enthusiastic little donkey, a bit mischievous at times, but mostly he just loved to play. He loved to run around the stall kicking up his legs, jumping up and down and going “Hee-haw! Hee-haw!”
“Jacob,” his mother often said, “what am I ever going to do with you?” And she would gaze at her son with love and laughter in her eyes.
“Some day,” said Jacob, “I will grow up big and strong. I will be strong enough to carry a man on my back!”
“Yes you will, son, yes you will,” his mother replied, proud of her growing boy.
One day the village grew busy. Crowds of people arrived in great numbers from all over the land. “Mother,” asked Jacob, “where are all these people coming from? Why are they passing through our village?”
“They are going to Jerusalem for the great feast,” explained his mother. “Every year at this time the people come from far away places to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. It is a time of great rejoicing and celebration as they remember how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt so many years ago.”
“Can I go to Jerusalem to see?” asked Jacob. “Oh please, Mother, please, please, please, please, please . . .”
“No, Jacob,” his mother answered, laughing. “We can’t go to Jerusalem. But . . . we can go to the village border to watch.”
So off they went, Jacob’s eyes shining with excitement. He watched in astonishment as the people streamed through the village on their way to Jerusalem. He marveled at their bright and colorful clothing. He tried to guess what was in the many packages they carried. He cocked his head, lifted his ears and listened intently to the noise of chattering voices, clicking wheels and a whole chorus of animal sounds. He sniffed the air, and caught the scent of the many goats and lambs being led through the village. He wondered why the people were bringing so many of them into the city.
Distracted by so many new sights and sounds Jacob wandered away from his mother and accidentally crossed the village border. One of his owners spotted him and chased him down. The owner brought him back to the village, took a strong rope, and tied Jacob and his mother to a post.
“Rats,” thought Jacob. “I hate being tied down.”
Suddenly two strange men approached him. “Look, there he is!” one of them cried out in an excited voice.
“Yes,” shouted the other man. “It is just as the Master said.”
“Are they talking about me?” Jacob wondered. Apparently they were, for they came right up to him and started untying him and his mother. Jacob wondered what was happening. He felt an excitement stirring in the air, and his curiosity grew even stronger.
Just then his owners appeared. “Why are you untying our donkeys?” they asked.
“The Lord needs them. He will send them back to you shortly,” answered the men.
“Then you may take them,” the owners replied. And so the strange men began to lead Jacob and his mother away from their home.
“Mother, what is going on?” asked Jacob.
“I don’t know son,” replied his mother, “but do not be afraid. I am with you.”
The men brought Jacob and his mother outside the village. They put their coats over Jacob’s back. “Is someone going to ride me?” Jacob wondered. “I have never carried a man before. I hope I will be strong enough. I will do my best.”
He was also a little worried about the person who was going to ride him. He had seen some pretty mean people ride the other donkeys before. Sometimes they yelled at the donkeys or even hit them with a stick.
But all of his fears vanished right away when he met the rider. The other men called him Jesus. Jesus smiled kindly at Jacob and stroked his back with his big, strong hands. “Hello, little donkey,” he said. “You will carry me into Jerusalem today.”
Jacob’s heart skipped a beat. “Jerusalem!” thought Jacob. “Jerusalem! Whoopee!!! We are going to Jerusalem after all!” Jesus mounted on Jacob’s back and off they went.
As they approached Jerusalem the excitement in the air continued to build. Jesus sat on Jacob’s back, and Jacob’s mother walked beside them. Large numbers of people lined up along both sides of the road. Some of them lay their coats down in the road for Jacob to walk across. Others cheered and waved palm branches back and forth. Some of them even bowed low to the ground as he passed by. Singing, shouting and rejoicing filled the air around him. Jacob did not understand all the words, but he heard the people shouting things like, “Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“I must be the most important donkey in the city,” thought Jacob, “perhaps the most important donkey in the whole world!” And so the little donkey held his head high as he marched strongly and bravely into the city carrying Jesus on his back. It was the proudest moment in Jacob’s life.
It was already late when they entered Jerusalem. Jesus slipped off Jacob’s back and disappeared into the temple. “Come,” said Jacob’s mother, “we must find shelter for the night.”
They found a small stable where Jacob’s mother tucked him into the straw and kissed him good night. “You have had quite the exciting day, my little one,” she said. “I am so proud of you. Now go to sleep — you need your rest.”
Jacob tried to sleep, but he could not stop thinking about the amazing things that had just happened to him. He kept running through the events of the day over and over again. “All those people cheering and shouting . . . for me!” he thought with excitement. “I can’t wait for tomorrow! Perhaps there will be even more people. Perhaps they will honor me with presents and gifts this time!” Jacob finally fell asleep in the straw. He dreamed about parades and music and people cheering.
He woke up early the next morning. His mother was still sleeping, but he couldn’t wait. “I must go into Jerusalem,” he thought. “The people will be waiting for me.”
So off he ran to the marketplace. Large groups of people were already up and about. Jacob marched proudly down the center of the road waiting for the people to start cheering. But they didn’t make a sound. They didn’t even notice him!
“Hey, hey, everybody! It’s me, Jacob!” he called out. But to the people it only sounded like he was saying, “Hey, hey, hey-haw, hee-haw,” and they just kept right on working. No one waved any palm branches. No one put any coats on the ground.
Jacob went to the area outside the temple. “Perhaps they will notice me here,” he thought. Once again he called out to the people and even ran around and kicked up his heels. But no one paid any attention to him. It was almost as if they didn’t recognize him. One mean old man even yelled and threw a piece of fruit at him.
Jacob ran back to his mother crying and confused. He found her and threw himself upon her, just sobbing and sobbing. “I don’t understand it, Mother, I don’t understand,” he wept. “I thought they all loved me. Yesterday they treated me like a king! And now they act as if I wasn’t there. One of them even yelled at me! I don’t understand! Why are they treating me so differently?”
Jacob’s mother looked sadly and lovingly at her poor sobbing son. She leaned forward and kissed him gently on the forehead. “Foolish donkey,” she replied, “don’t you see, that without Him, you are nothing?”
Original story by Wayne Hill; Re-told by Ray Fowler