Week 28: The Older Son
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” Luke 15: 25-32
Last week we covered the beginning and most well-known part of the parable known as “The Prodigal Son.” The younger son rebels against his father and finds himself at rock bottom. He comes to his senses and comes home to try and earn his way back to his father’s provision. But the father demonstrates grace in not only welcoming him back home, but celebrating the return of his lost son.
And that’s where we pick up the parable this week. There is also an older brother that isn’t so excited about the father’s lavish love poured out on his undeserving younger brother. Now, the key to understanding the older brother is really found in verses one and two of Luke 15. It says…
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him (Jesus). 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
That is the context in which Jesus shares this parable. He will equate the attitude and actions of the older brother with the hard hearted self-righteous Pharisees. The older brother, as well as the Pharisees, really believe that because of their moralistic behavior the father owes them something.
The grace that has been lavished on the older brother for his entire life isn’t seen as grace at all. The older brother here is tripping all over his own robe of self-righteousness. Man-centered religion will puff up. Man-centered religion will condemn. Man-centered religion leads to a sense of entitlement.
This attitude of the older brother leads to anger and isolation. Notice, he cannot celebrate the miracle that his brother has come home because he can’t see past himself. Also, notice that he doesn’t even call his brother, “brother,” but instead he refers to him as “this son of yours.” And the crazy thing is, that the older self-righteous son doesn’t realize that the same grace offered to and needed by the younger brother is being offered to him.
Jesus tells us that the father goes out and “entreats” the older son to come into the party. The word entreat would have implications of begging and pleading. This would have been humiliating for a first century man of this stature to beg his son to come into the party.
The details are a bit different, but the grace poured out towards the rebellious son is the same grace poured out towards the religious son. That father wants a relationship with each of his sons. And maybe the saddest part of the parable is that the older son never enters into the party. His own pride and his own self-righteousness lead to isolation from the father.
And the scary thing is, is that the longer that we are believers in Jesus, the more likely we are to evolve into the older brother. If we’re not careful to constantly remind ourselves of the gospel, then we can begin to think that because we’ve been in the kingdom of God for a while that God owes us something.
And one of the quickest ways to see if this is happening to you, is to ask if you still rejoice and celebrate each time one of God’s lost children come home. Are you constantly aware that YOU need the grace of God daily? Do you ever feel like God owes you something or are you constantly overwhelmed by His grace upon you?
I pray, that as a church we would be continually overwhelmed by God’s grace upon us and by His grace that we may continue to DEEPEN our relationship with Him.