Tackled

Draw Near, Part III

Heightened emotions produce over-the-top expression.  Like March Madness!  But at least college basketball fans who paint themselves in their team’s colors are indoors-unlike their counterparts in the fall who brave the freezing elements to display their college football loyalty on their bodies.

I have to admit that I’ve never painted my face for any sports team, but the emotional moment when a defensive player picks off a pass and the crowd goes wild draws me into a game, I wouldn’t otherwise care about.  It’s like that when I at last see through a familiar story in Bible into an over-the-top emotional scene.  I’m drawn in, and I get it.  Just last week, in re-reading Luke 15 for the gazillonth time, I was pulled in… and I got it.

Jesus told three stories in Luke 15, full of pathos and passion describing how the Father actively searches for-draws near to-each of us.  The Lost Sheep and The Lost Coin build to the third.  The lost sheep is found and brought home on the shepherd’s shoulders, the center of a celebration.  The lost coin is the object of an intense search, and the finding is also an occasion for much rejoicing.  But in the story of The Lost Son, Jesus reveals the Father’s heart for every one of his children.

While the younger son, who had all but spit in his father’s face by demanding his inheritance and then wasting it all, was far off in the distance, his father ran to him.  He must have been watching for him-probably every day since his son left the estate without so much as a glance back at his old man.  Yet, when the father saw his son, he didn’t go back to his business and wait for his grossly guilty son to slink into the house, find him, and grovel at his feet.  He RAN out to meet him when he is still a long way off and embraced him!

This story includes many pictures of our Father’s love for us, but I’m captivated by this one moment.  The father ran out of his manor, and with less than the accepted decorum, TACKLED his son!  The NIV translates his response as “embraced”, but there are several Greek words combined in an idiom that literally mean, “to fall upon the son’s neck”.  One of the words in the phrase can also mean “to collapse, to fall, to go from a higher position to a lower one.”   And since he was running, he would have had momentum building to the point of contact.  When I read this verse (Luke 15:20) I picture the scene like an epic drama in slow motion-robes fluttering, dust flying, faces with so much joy tears flow freely.  Until, at last, the father collides with the son, sending both of them into the dust clinging desperately to each other.

In the first century Jewish culture in which those in a worked-up emotional state tore their robes in grief, shouted from the rooftops in their joy, and greeted friends with a holy kiss, a simple embrace, or even a bear hug seems out of place.  The Winter 2010 Olympics ended a few weeks ago, but many poignant scenes of victory are still fresh in my memory.  Remember the athletes who were so excited when a teammate won that they charged across the snow, grabbed him or her by the neck, propelling both onto the snowy ground?  When emotions are charged, that’s how it happens.

The father was most definitely emotionally charged.  He had been watching for his son, longingly waiting for him to return.  And when he did, the father covered all the ground remaining between them at a run, then tackled his son.

Draw near to God, who is waiting and watching …. and prepare to be tackled!

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~ by cathyhowie on March 24, 2010.

One Response to “Tackled”

  1. It’s interesting that the running of the father would have culturally taken the son’s shame upon himself… the book Prodigal God just rocked my world.

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