No shame is too big for God. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the father was the one who ran to his errant son. The story is actually much more than a simple lost and found son. Notice how Jesus introduces the story in Luke 15:11: “there was a man with two sons…” The story is really about the father; an extravagant father.

One thing we might not be aware of when reflecting on this parable is a ritual called Kazazah. This took place when a Jewish boy had squandered the inheritance amongst Gentiles and tried to return to his community. He would be ceremonially banished – a clay pot would be broken at the feet of the offender to show him and everyone else that he had been publicly shamed and rejected forever. The mother could kiss the offender but the father was expected to stay in his house.

This is the context. This is what the returning prodigal would have been walking into. Is this why the Father ran? Did he run so he got to the boy first and prevent the villagers putting shame on the him? Even though the boy would have smelt of pig, an unclean animal to the Jews, the Father wasn’t afraid of getting the same stench on him. He wanted to take the shame on himself. He was not afraid of what others would think. Love over-ruled. The father took the shame in the same way Jesus took our shame!

Jesus used this parable to show the new way. The old way was law but his new way is love. This is how the kingdom does business. With Jesus, there is no first and second class; he lived for all and died for all. He killed shame by dying for it.

This post is part of a series called Towards a United Kingdom, which can be purchased in audio or video format here.