Part 3 - Father Sprints to ProdigalPart 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
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.