Part 3 - Father Sprints to Prodigal

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The son now knows how rejection feels. In the far country, when he was hungry, no one gave him anything -- no stranger, no friend, no family. As he heads back to his village, he's aware on some level of how hurtful his actions must have been to his father. And as much as he fears facing his father, he knows that his father is his only chance of getting something to eat. Dr. Bailey indicates that on entering his village, the prodigal will face the Kezazah, literally “the cutting off.” Any Jew who loses his money among foreigners and then tries to return was ceremonially banished, where a clay pot filled with burnt beans was broken at the feet of the offender as a visual symbol that the community rejects him forever.

The text says, “But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” Bailey indicates that in the Middle East, it was considered a humiliation for middle-aged man to run and to lift his robe exposing his legs as he ran. Yet the father ran. The Greek word used is dramon, a term used for a footrace in a stadium. Further, the father repeatedly kissed the son. The Greek word katephilesen, means kissed again and again.

Having experienced his father’s lavish love, the prodigal's planned speech melts away. He's overwhelmed by grace. His father’s love had always been there, but he never saw it. His rehearsed speech is transformed into a heart’s cry. Then the father publically restores his son, (1) giving him his best robe, (2) providing shoes for his feet -- slaves were bare-footed; sons wore shoes, (3) placing a ring on his finger, likely a signet ring which would give him power to transact business in the village. There will be no Kezazah. The father would make sure of that.

Bailey says that in these related parables, Jesus is redefining repentance to mean “accepting being found.” In the Old Testament, repentance, the Hebrew word shub, is defined by an individual turning from his/her sin then returning to God. The responsibility is on the individual to stop sinning then to return to God.

In the New Testament, however, Jesus takes on this responsibility -- with joy, says Dr. Ken Bailey. He goes out to find the lost individual and then he carries him/her home. To get a visceral understanding of this, see the related parable of the lost sheep.

When one feels responsible for one's own repentance (like the Pharisees), there is a tremendous self-imposed pressure to be “good,” to pay-it-back. The inherent problem with this approach is that when one focuses on being “good” one measures one's self and those around, losing focus on God's uncondional love. It's when when one realizes that God has taken the responsibility for the finding and restoring, one discovers freedom. One experiences life.

Click here to see Part 4, Older Brother

Bible Text - Part 3

Luke 15: 20 – 24
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

But the father said to his servants, "Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found." And they began to make merry.

Dr. Ken Bailey

PDF transcript of Part 3.

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Picture of Grace

To clearly paint the picture that it's God who does the finding and restoring of prodigals, Jesus told the related parable of the lost sheep. Dr. Ken Bailey indicates that when a sheep realizes that it's lost, all it can do is bleat, cry out. In the time of Jesus, it often took two-to-three days for a shepherd to find and restore a sheep. Even when a shepherd has found it and calls to it, it won't move because it's too terrified. The shepherd must pick up it up and carry it home. A sheep in those times typcially weighed between 40 and 75 pounds. So what's the response of the Shepherd in the lost sheep parable to this difficult task? ...Joy! ...Really?

Just as a sheep can't restore itself neither can the prodigal restore himself. It takes the efforts of a shepherd to find and to restore a sheep; it takes the loving efforts of the Father to find and to restore each of us. It's not our will, not our efforts, not even our faith that saves us. It's Him.

Click here to see the Lost Sheep parable explained.