Stories Behind The Songs, Unreleased Vol. 3: Prodigal

This was another favorite that didn’t make the record. In fact, it was one of the songs that led me to the title of this record, which I do not believe has yet been announced. So I guess I can’t explain too much more about that. So let’s just jump to the song.

The story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) has always been a favorite of mine. Obviously, I’ve already written one song from this text, Still Here Waiting from the Grace record. But I have grown much more fond of this parable after reading The Cross and the Prodigal by Kenneth Bailey. He is a scholar in Middle Eastern peasant culture, and so he reads the Bible with a different background than most. I really enjoyed his insights and it brought this story back to the forefront of my thinking.

The song specifically deals with three moments in the story: the son’s choice to return home, the son’s journey home, and the son’s arrival at home. In the first couple of verses, I dug into some of the thoughts that might have been going through his head, some of the feelings he might have experienced while deciding to go home and while traveling home. I tried to look at it through his eyes, but also through mine and yours since we have all walked this road of regret.

But today I want to look at one thing specifically. In the bridge, we get to one of the most powerful things I found in The Cross and The Prodigal. Dr. Bailey says this, “First century Jewish custom dictated that if a Jewish boy lost the family inheritance among the Gentiles and dared to return home, the community would break a large pot in front of him and cry out “so-in-so is cut off from his people.” It was called the Kezezah ceremony. The son had betrayed his family and his community by losing their wealth to others, specifically Gentile “others”. So when Jesus’ story happens to mention a pig farmer, he was very intentionally pointing out that the inheritance was lost among the Gentiles. So when the son returned home, he would be mocked, berated, abused, and publicly cast out, all before he ever actually got home. As soon as someone saw him, the village would turn out against him.

But the father is looking for his son. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” I don’t know how to phrase this delicately… have you ever seen an old man run? It’s usually not attractive. Especially when the old man is wearing robes and has to hike them up over his old wrinkly knees to run down the road. Shame was coming upon the son. The kezezah was coming. The village would cut him off. But before that could happen, the father shamed himself, running down the road, not acting respectably, not making the prodigal return in shame. The father ran down the road and embraced him. He declared him as a son, putting a robe on his back and a ring on his finger, before anyone could cut him off. The son deserved the shame, but the father shamed himself, so the son could return to the family. Such an amazing picture.

I’ve already moved on to other books by Dr. Bailey, but you should start with this one. And maybe you’ll even hear the song someday.


Long, so long have I wandered far from home
Hard, it’s so hard to lay my pride down and turn around

But You say You’re waiting for this prodigal son to come home
But I hesitate till I see You running down the road to me

Far, so far have I fallen from where You are
Scared, I’m so scared that You won’t love me when I get there

But You say You’re waiting for this prodigal son to come home
But I hesitate till I see You running down the road to me

Calling out my name, taking all my shame
My humiliation turns to joy
The prodigal’s embraced, my excuses all erased
By an overwhelming, unrelenting love
Your love

And You say You’re waiting for this prodigal son to come home
But I hesitate till I see You running down the road to me

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