Today I’ve chosen to write about two characters instead of just one. The couple is typical of the time of Jesus’. The woman tends to all the domestic needs of the home, while her husband provides a living for the family. In this case, he has raised donkeys for that purpose. Donkeys are perfect for use as pack animals, because they can carry a heavy burden and they usually respond well to their owners. Remember that most of the characters I’ve written about are fictional, but Jesus actually did send disciples to bring back a donkey and foal for his use the next day. Today, we meet Joel and his wife, Miriam. Both of them are approaching the end of their lives, but must continue to make a living. Their children have taken over the duties involving livestock, but Joel tends to a few remaining animals which he uses himself and sometimes rents out to others when they need to carry a great load. The story is from the perspective of Miriam who has watched her husband’s health deteriorate and is deeply concerned for him, but like most Jewish wives she speaks her mind from time to time.
MIRIAM & JOEL – KEEPERS OF DONKEYS
It was a day like any other. Poor, Joel struggles with the small herd of animals that remain. We’re under the thumb of the Roman empire and must continue to pay taxes, feed ourselves and provide for our physical needs. We also do our best to tithe to the Lord for the blessings He’s bestowed on us. Our family has dwindled to just two of us. All seven of our sons have started their own businesses in various parts of the country. They prosper at what they do and often send us extra money when they can, but they have families to care for now too.
I worry about the man I married. His hands are gnarled with arthritis from handling the animals for so many years. His back is often bent and his knees have suffered from all the lifting and bending he’s had to endure. Occasionally donkeys are known to be stubborn, but strong bodies can quickly bring them to submission. I’m afraid time has taken its toll on my husband and he may soon be with the Lord. With each passing year, even the task of feeding the animals has become a burden. Yet we continue to trust God for provision.
It was a typical evening in Bethpage. The sky was filled with stars, so much so that there was no need for street lights. We lived in house in town now with a small barn. It was the perfect place for us to spend our final years. Still we had to watch out for robbers and other criminals that roamed the streets at night. It was much different than life out in the wide open spaces. I’d prepared a nice stew for Joel from vegetables from my garden and the remaining meat of a lamb we slaughtered. There was always an abundance of bread, freshly baked. I enjoyed cooking for Joel, because he never complained about what we had to eat. He was used to the bare necessities, since he was raised on a farm as a boy. As I looked out the window, I caught a glimpse of him, tying a donkey and foal to the post in front of the gate. Perhaps he was just too tired to put them in the barn. I didn’t think much about it until we were sitting down to dinner and I heard the animals braying loudly. I looked out the window to see that some men were looking at them. My first thought was that they were going to steal them. I urged Joel to go out and confront them, but as soon as he opened the door, I regretted doing so. He had no weapon with him. He was physically unable to fight them off. I was concerned for his safety, but there was nothing I could do.
They talked for a while. I thought Joel was arguing with them at first, but then it seemed they had come to some sort of agreement. I sat down again, relieved yet still a bit unsure about what had just happened. Joel came through the door. He walked with confidence. His back seemed to have instantly straightened out.
“Did you get a good price,” I asked.
“I didn’t take any money for the animals,” he replied. “They are to be used to carry a king.”
“You didn’t take money for those animals? They’re the best donkeys we own. How could you be so foolish?”
“What I did was not foolish, woman. The animals are to be used for a good purpose. One that will glorify God,” he said.
Joel continued to tell me what happened in those few short moments. The men had come at the request of their Master. The Master was the Rabbi who preached at the Mount of Olives. Jesus needed the animals as a means to carry him into the city of Jerusalem for His triumphal entry. Joel felt compelled to give them freely. To have such a small part in an event of such great magnitude, filled my husband’s heart with joy. I soon joined in his contentment, We were being used as instruments in the greatest story ever told in history. This man, Jesus, was a King – the King of the Jews, our Savior and our Messiah. Each part of the story was an element in the plan God had devised thousands of years before when he set the wheels of salvation into motion.