Is That Beef Brisket I Smell?
There is an interesting word used in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) that has truly captured my attention. The word is "metanoia." It is made up of two greek words, meta and nous. When these words are combined the meaning of metanoia literally means to come to your senses; to come into your right mind; to intelligently understand. The prodigal son parable has also been referred to as the parable of the "lost" son.
The story is about the youngest of two sons making the decision to ask his father for his portion of the inheritance. Once he receives it he packs his belongings and heads off into a distant land where he wasted his substance on riotous living. When a famine became evident in the place where he was living he eventually ran out of money and in order to survive he got a job feeding a farmer's pigs. As his hunger began to over power his desire to be where he was all of a sudden, the scripture says, "he came to himself."
Coming to one's self has got to be one of the most challenging experiences we encounter as humans. It would seem that once we have it in our minds just what we want to do, and that desire usually has to do with what pleases us the most, we simply strike out on our own to accomplish our desires, at least that's how I have encountered my own stubbornness. I was determined to please myself even though I didn't think at the time that that was what I was doing. What's so strange about this stuff is how well I disguised it in religious talk. As long as I convinced myself that it was okay with God well, you know, it was okay to move forward.
As I have examined this parable there are some very striking things that have surfaced for me. Perhaps as I reflect on them they will inspire you to delve even deeper into the amazing truths found in this story. As I thought about this lost son it occurred to me that once he came to himself he began to think about where he came from. I suppose if he had been at home in the pig pen he wouldn't have entertained the thought of leaving. He thought about his father and the abundance of resources he once enjoyed while living there. Then he began to put together a story of his ideas about being unworthy to be his father's son. "Just make me one of your hired servants" he said to himself thinking that will at least get me something to eat.
I imagine he practiced telling this story to his father all the way back to his father's house. The way the story is told he didn't make it back to his father's house before he was greeted on the road by his father. Think about that for a moment. If we think that our poor decisions and down right rebellious decisions have discolored God's opinion of us then we don't know the father very well. According to the story the son's father was evidently watching for him in hopes that he would return home. The father didn't wait for him to arrive home. Instead, he ran to meet him. Can you just imagine what this young man must have smelled like? That didn't seem to bother the father in the least. As a matter of fact it is recorded that he embraced him and kissed him.
The father didn't even listen to his son's cockamamie story about his ideas of not being worthy to be called his son. The way I heard what the father said goes something like this, "Get this young man cleaned up with a new robe and sandals. Put a ring on his finger and Oh yeah, kill the fatted calf we're going to have a barbecue for this my son was dead and is alive again."
To often in my life I have had the tendency to write off those who seem to come across as being undesirable. Their behavior would often cause me to think they are just lost. The best disovery I have made regarding this parable comes from the Mirror Bible when it was noted that you can not be lost unless you belong! The lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son never once lost their identity or their value. The celebration has begun and if you listen you just might hear the music and the dancing and the joyful sound of fellowship between the Father and his son. Is that beef brisket I smell?