I have a better appreciation of God’s love for us after reading a book by John MacArthur. The following is a part of his explanation of the Father running to the Prodigal Son. (Read the story here first if you are not familiar with this famous teaching by Jesus. I also have links to other language translations.)
“The image of a respectable, wealthy, honorable man such as this running seems so out of place in Middle Eastern culture that Arabic Bible translators have traditionally been reluctant to translate the phrase without resorting to a euphemism such as ‘he hurried,’ or ‘he presented himself.’ Kenneth E. Bailey an evangelical Bible commentator who lived in the Middle East and made careful studies of the language and culture there, wrote:
“‘The reluctance on the part of the Arabic versions to let the father run is amazing. . . .For a thousand years a wide range of such phrases were employed . . . to avoid the humiliating truth of the text—the father ran! The explanation for all of this is simple. The tradition identified the father with God, and running in public is too humiliating to attribute to a person who symbolizes God. Not until 1860, with the appearance of the Bustani-Van Dyck Arabic Bible, does the father appear running. . .’
“… His action of running toward the son and intercepting him on the road suggests he had something terribly urgent and immediate on his mind. That’s why I am convinced that what moved the father to run was a deep sense of empathy in anticipation of the contempt that was sure to be poured on the son as he walked through the village. The father took off in a sprint in order to be the first person to reach him, so that he could deflect the abuse he knew the boy would suffer.
“This is indeed a fitting picture of Christ, who humbled Himself to seek and to save the lost—and then ‘endured the cross, despising the shame’ (Hebrews 12:2). Like this father, He willingly took upon Himself all the bitter scorn, the contempt, the mockery, and the wrath our sin fully deserves. He even took our guilt upon His own innocent shoulders.”
The above quote is from pp. 113 – 116 of John MacArthur’s A Tale of Two Sons. John MacArthur quotes from Finding the Lost Cultural Keys to Luke 15 by Kenneth E. Bailey (p. 146)
Jesus Took Our Shame by Sus Schmitt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.