It’s hard to think about Fall Festivals near the end of March, but I’m asking you, just for a moment to imagine that it’s autumn. It’s a beautiful fall day in October. The leaves were golden and orange and speckled with brown. A somber reminder that their time on the branch is coming to an end. The leaves quiver and rustle with every breeze curling their ends and tugging them loose. The sky held a thin, white blanket of clouds and at the same time showcased a stellar blue canvas. It was a gorgeous day for a festival. Around the edge of the parking lot, the pumpkins and gourds boasted extra colorful splashes against the weathered, decorative stalks and hay bales. There were bright red and yellow bouncy houses, a snow cone machine and carnival games. Children held balloon animals and stuffed their prizes of wrapped candy into their boots as they waited in line for the cake walk. Parents kept an eye on the kids while talking and laughing with one another. They balanced a plate of barbecue in one hand and held a water bottle in the other.
The golf course first tee was to the left of the parking lot. There were not many golfers there that day because the tree covered walkway that led to the tee off was blocked. It was lined with all kinds of animals from a local petting zoo. That’s where I found my teenagers. They had no interest in the festival food and games. They were away from the crowds, petting the animals and loving them as if they were old friends. With dirt on the bottom of their jeans my kids took turns moving around the animals. They sidled up next to sheep, llamas, goats, ponies, bunnies and a Scottish Highland Cow named Divot. They hugged the ones that would allow it and pet the ones who didn’t. But there was one animal that stood out that day and it’s the reason I wanted you to think about Fall Festivals at the end of March.
Have you heard about the legend of the Donkey?
I’m in my mid-forties and raised Christian my whole life. I’ve never heard the legend before that beautiful day in October at the Fall Festival. The story made such an impact on our family that I’m sharing it with you now, just before Palm Sunday. According to legend, all purebred donkeys are born with a cross on their back. The marked fur on the donkey is a gift from God. It’s powerful symbolism is used as a reminder of the humble donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem.
I mean. Chills.
How amazing and beautiful is this story?
I took pictures of the donkeys while my kids and I listened to the owner of the petting zoo recite the story. When we returned home, I had to find out more and this Bible verse appeared on my screen.
“Rejoice greatly O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem: Behold, your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey; on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9 ESV)
The Bible verse is clear - “Coming to you....humble and mounted on a donkey...” The donkey signified arriving in peace. Jesus came into the city in the most modest, non-threatening, ordinary way. He rode upon a lowly donkey instead of a magnificent steed.
The legend goes on to say that the Donkey loved Jesus so much that he followed Him to Calvary. Grief-stricken by the sight of Jesus on the cross, the donkey turned away but could not leave. He wished to stay until the suffering was over because of his love and loyalty. The image was forever committed to the donkey as the shadow of the cross fell upon the shoulders and his back. Lore tells us that ever since that day, all pure bred donkeys have this distinction. The donkey carries the cross as a sign that the love of God carries a reward for all to see.
Do you see how beautiful and complete this story is? That a donkey carried Mary to Bethlehem and a donkey brought Jesus to Jerusalem? Palms waving and falling at his feet, the crowds acknowledging the prophecy of the Christ, shouting, “Hosanna in the highest.” The donkey represents the ironic beauty of God’s love. Pure and unpretentious. The King of Kings as humble as a servant.
This is why I’ve been saving this blog post since last Fall. There is so much symbolism in the changing of the seasons, the excitement of the carnival atmosphere, the ebb and flow and cycle of life. Months ago, a donkey at a festival showed us the beauty of a legend which reignited our faith. It was a gift of deeper understanding and glorious symbolism of Palm Sunday. The Lord is the the Alpha and the Omega. The beginning and the end. The donkey was with Him in the beginning and a donkey was with Him in the end.