23 June

The Carriage Horses. Behold: Jesus And The Pharisees In New York City

by Jon Katz
Jesus Was A Carriage Driver
Jesus Was A Carriage Driver

When Jesus lay suffering on the cross in Jerusalem, his father could not bear to witness his son’s pain. He heard Jesus beg him not to forsake him, and he responded. God left a body on the Cross but transported his son far ahead in time and space, to New York City in 2014 A.D.. There, he told his only son, “you will be safe from harm.” He sent Jesus’s beloved little donkey along with him, he told him that any man with a donkey or a horse will have good work to do, earn an honest and secure living.

A working animal, his father said again and again, was worth more than gold.

God decreed that this journey always be a secret, even from the prophets writing the Bible.

Jesus was bewildered at first by the chaotic life he found in New York City, he could not believe the rents or the price of bread,  but he was not as shocked as one might think. The streets of Jerusalem were filthier and much more dangerous and crowded than New York with horses, donkeys, carts, goats and sheep, wild dogs,  raw sewage, farmers and peasants and Roman soldiers.

Jesus  found himself Central Park with his beloved donkey, his father had told him to look for the horses, they would guide him. His father told him this was not like the Roman Empire, it was a free place with no Kings or Emperors, people were free to live as they choose as long as they abided by the laws. The drivers of the horses knew him as one of theirs,a free spirit, perhaps a troublemaker, a lover of animals. They took  him in instantly, he felt at home with them.

According to the legend of the donkeys’ cross, as recounted in “The Donkey Companion,” by Sue Weaver, a poor farmer near Jerusalem had owned this donkey of Jesus, he was far too small to do much work. He told his family he was going to kill the little donkey – in those days, as in these, animals who did not work did not live long –  but his children, who loved the donkey, begged him to sell it.

It was wrong, they told their father, to give away or harm a donkey just because he might not be able to work hard. They believed in the right of animals to survive. The farmer tied his donkey to a tree down the road and soon, two men approached and asked if they could have the donkey. It can carry nothing, the farmer warned them.

“Jesus of Nazareth has need of it,” replied one of the men, and the farmer handed the donkey over. They took him to Jesus, who stroked the poor creature, then mounted it and rode away. Jesus rode the donkey every day for the rest of his life, into Jerusalem and all around it. On the day called Palm Sunday, Jesus led his followers into the city riding on the back of his small donkey, who he came to love and who served him faithfully and well and who had no trouble carrying Jesus and his worldly goods.

The donkey so loved his master he followed him to Calvary. Grief-stricken by the sight of Jesus on the cross, the donkey turned away but would not leave. It was then that the shadow of the cross fell upon the shoulders and back of the donkey, and every donkey in the world carries the sign of the cross to this day.

Jesus was grateful to have his donkey in New York. An outsider, a free spirit, someone who loved nature and the outdoors, someone who loved giving pleasure to people, Jesus was drawn to the carriage trade, the long chosen work for the free spirits of New York, the sons and daughters of immigrants, the ones who could not live in tiny cubicles, who need to be with people and outdoors and who loved working with animals. Just like Jesus himself. And people loved the donkey. Children came over to touch him, young lovers wanted to ride in his cart, the people in the cubicles came out every day to touch the donkey and smile. Jesus put flowers all around his cart, a plume on his donkey’s forehead, bells on his collar.

The donkey was too small to pull many people in a carriage, that was the work of the big horses, but he could pull a cart filled with vegetables, he could give rides to children. Jesus put a sign on his cart that read: “King Of The Donkeys” and he went to work in the park every day, just like the carriage drivers did.

Jesus was different from the other food vendors in the park. He gave his sweet fruit and candy to children, and to the poor. Each morning, he met the disabled in the fountains of the park, and he and his donkey worked to heal them. He gave the homeless his cloak on cold nights and he sometimes went to beautiful hotels and museums and chastised the the rich, scolding them for ignoring the poor and destroying the natural beauty of the world, his own father’s creation.

Jesus was soon enough beloved by the ordinary people, the working people, the poor and the young. He continued his work begun in Jerusalem. He began to preach on behalf of the poor, provoked the rich for being selfish and heartless, challenged the greed of the real estate developers who were, he said just like the rich and lazy priests of the Old Temple. People called him a radical, a socialist, marked him as dangerous.

As loved as he was, Jesus was still Jesus, he was always an outsider brought into the world to give the poor reason for hope. His only friends were the carriage drivers, they were troublemakers too, for the most part. They did not care for the rich or powerful either.

Jesus was at peace. He knew his father was smiling down on him, gratified by his good heart and charity and good work in the park with his donkey.

When the demonstrators came, Jesus first thought they must be pilgrims seeking prayer. He went to greet them and offer them some fruit, but they spat on him and shouted at him and called him names like “murderer” and “abuser” and “cruel,” they yelled at him to go home, to stop abusing his donkey, they shouted at the children and the poor to stay away from him, they broke into his stable at night and set his donkey free, but his loyal donkey would not run away.

He turned to his donkey and said, “look, the pharisees are here too.” He well know the self-righteous, angry and hypocritical sects.

The police came, and told  him his donkey could not work all day, could only carry a handful of apples, he could not give rides to children, it was cruel to the donkey. They said he must have a blanket and could not work in the rain or snow. They said he had to have five  weeks of vacation a year, rest after every two hours of work, and Jesus was incredulous, he had never known a working animal to have more than a month off of work. In his world, it was the working animals who kept people alive.

But no one listened. The pharisees grew louder and angrier and more cruel. People drove by in cars and shouted false and hurtful names at him, they claimed they saw photos of his donkey working on something called Facebook, don’t you know, they shouted, that is cruel for animals to work? His donkey, they said, should be in the wild, roaming free in nature. They said his ribs were showing, he must be starving. They said his head was down, he must be said. They said he brayed in the morning, he must be lonely.

Jesus could hardly believe what he was hearing. He wanted to the other cheek, but the people confused him, made him a little crazy, although he tried not to be angry.  “Have any of you ever seen a donkey before?,” he shouted before asking his father for forgiveness.  The children begged him to start a blog, defend himself on Facebook, but he refused. Jesus kept his donkey in a horse stable, in a stall where he could be dry and warm and rest.

“Do you know what it is like out there in the wild?,” he would ask the pharisees, but they would never listen or respond. They refused to speak with him, they treated him as if he were something other than human.

“My little donkey would be eaten by wolves or starve to death in the desert!,” he once shouted out loud. He was changing, he never grew angry in Jerusalem, never yelled at people.

A powerful political leader in New York named Stephen Weinstein-Gutierrez-Carrino- McDonough, who came from a tribe Jesus came to know as Brooklyn,  came to the park every Sunday and shouted at him that his poor donkey was lonely, and need to socialize with other donkeys and have dinner with them every night. “Can’t you see?,” shouted the pharisees, “he is depressed, he is chained to your cart, it is his prison, his cell! He longs to be free in nature?” Where, Jesus wondered, has a donkey ever been kept, but tied to a cart, in a stall, in the history of the world? They made fun of Jesus’s beard, and his sandals, they laughed at his teeth, made up chants and songs to ridicule him.

“Have these people lost your minds?,” wondered Jesus, whose father had sent him all kinds of books when he moved to New York City. “DId Sancho Panza’s donkey Rucio have dinner with other donkeys and socialize with them?,” he would shout.”He rode all over Spain with his donkey, just as my donkey and I rode through Jerusalem and Platero rode all over Europe with Jose Jiminez and won a Noble Prize! And what about Shrek?” My donkey, he said, eats with me every night.

Every day the police came  at the behest of the pharisees with new regulations, the number of protesters grew.  People called reporters came to him, mocked him, asked him to defend his cruelty and abusive ways. They called him a thief, a cheat, a callous and unfeeling man, things Jesus had never been called in his life. They shouted at him to go home, never imagining where home really was.  He could not imagine how working with a donkey could cause such trouble and hatred. It had never even happened in Jerusalem, where he was hated by many, where no one had ever  complained about the donkey. There were thousands of them, they worked all day everywhere, everyone knew how much they loved to work, the donkeys and the horses were more precious than money.

Jesus grew wan and fretful, he lost weight. This world made little sense to him. He became anxious, angry, sometimes the pharisees came to stone him, the park was filled with angry pamphlets accusing him of crimes. They claimed he beat his donkey, starved him, overworked him to death, confined him in small spaces where he could not move or lie down. They said his donkey was dangerous, his waste was filled with germs, he could get frightened and kill a human at any time. The children were suddenly afraid to see him, the poor fled from him, the office workers were warned to stay away or they would become associated by him. He asked to speak to the pharisees, to the leaders and prophets and high priests of the city, but no one would talk with him or meet with him.

One day the protesters came and they were joyous, emboldened. The rich pharisees, the owners of land, the wealthy leaders of the city had chosen a new Emperor, and he said the first thing he would do when he began to rule would be to ban Jesus and the donkeys and the horses from the city. They would be banned forever.

In particular, he had asked that the man who called himself “The King Of The Donkeys” be  brought to him at a place called City Hall, where his fate would be decided. This was all too familiar to Jesus.

The carriage drivers came to warn him that he was soon to be banished from the city, or worse,  that his beloved donkey would be taken from him and sent to a farm where he would never be allowed to work with people again, see children, do anything but eat and drop manure. And the little donkey would never see Jesus again,  no more fruits or vegetables, no more working with children and the poor, he could not choose his work or live his chosen life.

Was it true?, Jesus asked the carriage drivers, that Jerusalem was a freer place than New York City in 2014?

Jesus pondered this news, he and the donkey went to the quietest part of the park, he meet with the children, the lovers, the tourists and the poor and he knelt down in prayer and cried out aloud, “O Father, why have thou forsaken me? Get me out of here.”

And the trees shook and the sky turned dark and the birds were silent and the children and the poor and the people of the park heard a great booming voice asking “are you sure? Do you know the fate that awaits you?”

“Yes, father,” said Jesus, ” I do.  I’ll take my chances with the Romans, father. There is more than one way to be crucified.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Email SignupEmail Signup