In Sunday School last week, the story of the Prodigal Son was brought up. The leader mentioned how the people of the area would have viewed him. He insulted his father when he left, and went and lived among the gentiles, fed the pigs, etc. Upon returning to his father, he must have looked a mess. The people of his hometown surely would have rejected him, right?
I think it a little more intense than that. I think they would have wanted to stone him. He basically told his father he wished he were dead when he asked for his share of the inheritance before his father's death. Folks back then took a pretty harsh view of such actions. Not only that, but he made himself an outcast and unclean with the lifestyle he chose. So coming back was not an option, for those who welcomed him back would have made themselves unclean as well.
Just like God did when he bore our sins on Himself. So when Jesus tells us that we must die to ourselves and pick up our cross (daily), think of the prodigal. He came back to face death. He humbled himself, wishing only to be like a hired servant, knowing that he had no right of his own to be a member of the family again.
But the father took the shame on himself and welcomed him. He embraced him. Wow!