The Worthless Colt: A Palm Sunday Story
This little story has been in the works for several years, swimming around in my head. It was only until tonight that I forced my stubborn self to finally write it down! Having ridden mules, donkeys, etc. and becoming frustrated with their frequent stopping, starting, biting, and hee-hawing, I’ve always been bemused by God’s apparent love for donkeys. A donkey carried Mary to Bethlehem and carried Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, as well as many other Biblical accounts of donkeys. Even though they are stubborn and rather unpleasant animals, they nevertheless hold a special place in God’s heart! In a difficult economic time, perhaps this will show that we draw our worth not from what we do ourselves but what God does in us.
A long time ago, a merchant lived in a small village on the outskirts of a very large city. As a businessman, the merchant measured everything he owned according to its monetary value. He meticulously examined the value and expense of each piece of his inventory to every animal in his barn. Among his most valued possessions was a strong female donkey; for years, the merchant rode upon her back to faraway destinations and she carried his many purchases back to the village. Because of the donkey’s strength and endurance, he became one of the most well-traveled and prestigious merchants in the land.
Much to the merchant’s delight, the donkey gave birth to a colt. The colt was larger than most newborn donkeys and within days he could stand on his four legs and trot around the stable. The merchant was so pleased with his donkey’s dividend that he generously fed the growing colt. Although he spent more money than he would ordinarily allocate for animal feed, the merchant presumed that once fully grown, the colt would more than make up for the expenses. Even though food and other niceties were lavished upon the colt, the merchant was not gentle with his animals and so the colt feared his master. Even if a hen did not produce eggs within a given week, the merchant would pluck and roast her! Many times the colt watched his mother being whipped by the merchant if she was slow from weariness after a long journey. As a result, the colt’s once-strong mother gradually weakened after so many whippings! This went largely unnoticed by the merchant, since he placed so much hope in his soon-to-be grown colt.
The time finally came when the colt grew large enough to be ridden upon and carry cargo. The merchant wished to debut his strong colt at a famous bazaar, so he loaded the colt with packs of his finest inventory and a beautiful embroidered saddle with a tasseled harness. When the merchant mounted the saddle and gave the animal a small kick, but the colt did not move. The colt still did not budge after a second and harder kick. After kicking with all his might and yelling “let’s go!” the merchant only felt the colt’s muscles tighten even more. The merchant realized that donkeys are naturally stubborn, but how could an animal be as stubborn as this?
After several more attempts to move the colt, the merchant dismounted, went inside the barn, and returned with his whip.
“Let’s see if this will unfreeze you,” growled the merchant as he lashed the whip across the colt’s back in a quick solid stroke.
The colt felt the sting of the whip and reared onto his hind legs. To relieve the pain, the colt bucked back and forth. Still feeling the pangs, the colt forgot about the cargo on his back and rolled onto the ground. The packs burst open, and the merchant’s vases were crushed and the white fabrics became stained with mud. The colt had ruined over a half of the merchant’s inventory! Meanwhile, the villagers gathered around the scene and laughed at merchant, who grew more livid by the second.
“So much for your exotic voyages,” shouted one neighbor. “This useless animal won’t even take you across the street!”
“Useless?” shouted the merchant. “I will show you all what this colt is worth! Such a magnificent animal simply needs to be broken! You’ll see, I’ll make up for this spoiled merchandise twice fold!”
The next morning, the merchant sent for a stableman who was known to have broken the wildest of animals. Even with a sharper and longer whip, the stableman could not push or prod the colt to move a single inch. Soon, the word had spread that the famed stableman, who had never before failed, could not prevail against the merchant’s colt.
A few hours later, a renowned animal doctor arrived at the merchant’s door. She was known to have sedated wild dogs and drawn milk from dry cows. The animal doctor prepared an elixir especially for this difficult case and she guaranteed that she could move the stubborn colt. She forced the elixir into the colt’s mouth, but the taste was so bitter that the animal bit the doctor’s hand and bucked back and forth. Rubbing her wounded hand and ego, the doctor stormed out of the town while cursing the merchant.
“You wretched animal,” shouted the merchant. “I have spent a quarter of my savings on you, and yet cannot carry anyone or anything. Even worse, you have ruined my reputation as well as my most expensive goods! Since you are a completely worthless and nobody would dare buy you, I will simply kill you!”
By then the sun went down and the merchant remembered that it was the beginning of the Sabbath. Since the law forbade him to perform any labor on the Sabbath, the merchant resolved the kill the colt in two days. Dejectedly, the merchant took a rope and tied the colt to a plank outside his hut. For the next day, the colt anxiously awaited his death and wished that he could have had a chance to say goodbye to his mother. But he was a worthless animal, the colt thought to himself, so how could he possibly face his mother?
That following night, the colt could not get a wink of sleep. He stared into the darkness and watched for the traces of the early morning sun as he listened to his master snoring inside the hut. The villagers awakened and the street slowly came to life. They were more talkative than usual this morning, as there was chatter about a great king making a splendid entrance into the nearby city.
Amidst the throng of talkative townsfolk, two strangers wandered into the village. One of the men whispered into the other’s ear while pointing at the colt. His stubborn reputation had spread far and wide, thought the colt to himself! The two strangers moved towards the hut and the other man began to untie the colt’s rope.
As the stranger was working at the rope’s knot, a crowd of villagers gathered around and laughed at the two men.
“Why are you doing this?” asked a few townspeople.
“Haven’t you heard that this stubborn colt is completely worthless?” asked another woman.
The colt had no idea why the men were untying the rope. Perhaps the merchant had sent for these men to come and kill him!
After the strangers finally loosed the rope, they turned to the crowd and answered, “The Lord has need of him.”
The shorter of the two men gently pulled on the rope and the colt rose to his feet and followed. The chortling crowd grew quiet in amazement. It was ironic that the merchant was still asleep inside the hut while the impossible was happening!
After leading the colt for about a mile, the two men confidently moved through a colorful crowd of strangers and presented the colt to a wiry young man. The colt looked at the man and he felt relaxed. There was something authoritative yet gentle about this man, so unlike the merchant, the stableman, and the animal doctor. The colt also recognized weariness in this man, similar to his worn and whipped mother. This was a man who needed to be carried by a strong and gentle animal.
A couple of other men in the party approached the leader and asked, “are you sure this is what you wanted, master? There are thousands gathered at the entrance of the city- shouldn’t you want a horse instead?”
The young man stroked the colt’s mane as he said, “Behold, your king is coming to you humbly, and mounted on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
The young man’s companions simply nodded and they laid white garments across the colt’s back. Out of habit, the colt’s muscles stiffened and his hair rose. Then, the colt felt the man’s slight body mount his back and gently pat his neck. And the colt moved.
The colt took long and confident strides towards the city gate. He noticed a crowd of thousands waving palm branches and shouting praises. Perhaps they were gathered to greet the king about whom the villagers had spoken. But why was the crowd clearing the way for this worthless colt and his humble rider? And why were the people bowing and shouting “Hosanna” to the young man?
Later that afternoon, the merchant rubbed the sleep from his eyes and stepped outside his hut. He turned to the colt, which he had tied up the day before.
“I had almost forgotten all the trouble you caused me, you worthless animal! How am I to get rid of you?” asked the merchant.
Before he could answer his own question, a crowd of villagers descended upon the merchant’s hut. Nearly a hundred people were shouting at him and waving money in his direction. “How much for the King’s colt?” they asked.
A few years later, the merchant had sold all of his goods and stopped his travelling. After all, he always had to welcome visitors who wanted to see for themselves the famous donkey that had carried the King to His glory!