“Papa!” I burst through the door. “There’s a man untying Barley and Copper.”
My father lumbers to his feet and strides from the house, just in time to catch the thieves leading our donkey and foal down the road.
“Hey!” Papa’s voice booms. “Where do you think you’re going with my beasts?”
“The Lord needs them,” the taller of the two says, without even a hint of shame. The Lord? I have tried a couple of excuses on Papa myself, and I know that one won’t make the grade. Yet, to my surprise, he merely nods mildly and waves them on.
“But Papa, what about…”
“Didn’t you hear the man? The Lord needs them.”
“Stop arguing Reuben.”
I like Copper and didn’t even get to say goodbye to her, so—once Papa is back inside—I make a decision. I will follow the thieves and try to get Barley and her foal back. I rush down the road, only to find myself in a crush of people.
“What’s going on?” I ask a young man, who is busy straining his neck to see somebody at the centre of the crowd.
“It’s Jesus.” He looks at me as if I am an ignorant fool who just crawled out of Israel’s backwaters.
Jesus? Never heard of him. However, he and this riff raff now stand between me and the thieves escaping with my favourite foal, so I push and duck between the bodies blocking my way.
Suddenly I bump into a mount. “Barley!” I grab her short mane, and she gives a little neigh of recognition. The two thieves are just ahead of her, leading Copper.
And on Copper’s back sits a man.
I hadn’t intended to come this close to them, and for a moment I wonder if I should slip back unseen into the crowd. However, I realise with a start that the man on Copper is looking at me. Those dark eyes seem to be summing me up, seeing my thoughts and intentions. He knows that I think he and his men are thieves.
“Hosanna!” The loud shouting draws me away from his intense gaze. “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
The Lord? Again? I glance at the faces around me, so filled with devotion, and then back at the man on the foal. Are they talking about him? Could this be the Jesus that young man mentioned? Is he a thief and a king?
People are now running ahead and spreading their cloaks on the ground, and others are waving palm branches around us as they shout.
I look at the man again. He doesn’t look like a king. He catches my eye and his smile tells me that for a second time he knows my insolent thoughts.
There is something heady about being in the centre of a crowd of cheering people, and—clinging to Barley—I allow myself to be swept along, without a thought to Papa and the fury awaiting me at home.
It is only near the Mount of Olives, where the road starts to drop towards Jerusalem that I realise just how far we’ve come, and I feel a prickle of anxiety. It is then that I notice that the man called Jesus is weeping. The crowd must have seen it too, for a hush comes over them. In the quiet, I hear the soft words that Jesus speaks, and they fill me with a strange dread. He speaks of Jerusalem being torn to the ground because she has not recognised the time of God’s coming.
Just inside the eastern wall’s Golden Gate, Jesus dismounts and hands me the reigns of the donkeys. It is a long, slow walk back to my hometown and, as I lead Barley and Copper, I have plenty to occupy my mind. I think about the man who rode on Copper, whose eyes—filled with light and joy and sorrow all at the same time—looked so deeply into mine. I think about the snippets of conversation that I heard all around me; people telling how lame men walked and how dead men rose, all at this Jesus’ touch. I think about what the crowd was calling him—the Son of David. I must remember to ask Rabbi Enoch just what that means.
Most of all, I think about mighty Jerusalem being torn apart stone by stone. Could a city that great really be destroyed? It’s difficult to imagine. And I wonder just when God had come to visit her and how blind everyone there must have been not to realise it. I mean, what sort of a fool did you need to be to walk next to God and not recognise Him?
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)
The Triumphal entry (Palm Sunday) account is told in Luke 19:28-44 (also in Matthew 21:1-11 and Mark 11:1-11)