A few years ago I stumbled across Scot McKnight. I don’t know how but since then I try to read all his books. You may not always agree with him but he writes with great clarity, depth, simplicity, and insight. He is in my top three favorite authors. I have just started reading his most famous book The Jesus Creed. Every page I have highlighted some thought, carefully crafted phrase, or insight he shares. On pages 29-30 he gives this amazing insight on the all too familiar story of the prodigal son.
Some Bible scholars observe a Jewish custom between the lines: when a son disgraces his father through sinful behaviors, runs away from him, and then later returns, the elders of the city take the young man to the village center and break a pot at his feet. The broken pot is a legal act of banishment. These scholars also think, in this parable, the Abba (his father not the singing group) runs to his son so that he can prevent the really awful event he fears: others banning him from the community if they reach him first. So, the Abba sprints to the son and announces, “Quick! Bring the best robe”.
I love this. Think about how this impacts the story. The father is looking for the son day after day because he longs for him to be with him. As the son is on his way home if he is spotted and recognized people will come to take him into custody and ban him from the community. The broken and repentant son will now be cut off from everyone. The father loves his son and wants to save him from this doom. When he sees him, the father is in a race between him and any who may want to condemn the boy. When he arrives he immediately does what it takes to forgive and bestow upon him son-ship. He doesn’t even let his son apologize because he must restore his son to his place in the family and community before others can cast him away and ban him.
This is an amazing story of love and this little extra piece of cultural history helps it become even more amazing. As an added bonus f you love knowing the story behind the story one of the best I know at this is J. Duncan M. Derrett.