Reading the Word
Luke 15:25–32 (ESV)
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.’ ”
Understanding and Applying the Word
Yesterday, we looked at the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The parable is titled based upon a son who took his inheritance, left home, and wasted all he had. The son returned home and was welcomed in celebration by his father. That is the part of the story we remember and focus on, but that is not the end of the parable. The story has two sons.
The father had another son who was older and who never left home. He stayed and served in the family home by working in the fields with all of the servants. When the older son heard that his younger brother, the one who had gone away and wasted everything, had returned home, he was not happy. His brother did not deserve a party after all he had done! He said to 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.”
To feel the full force of this parable, we must understand this older son. The first son represented the tax collectors and sinners who were drawing near to Jesus (cf. Luke 15:1). They were hearing the teaching of Jesus and repenting of their sins and turning to God. The older son represented the Pharisees and scribes who were angry that Jesus was spending time with sinners who did not deserve such attention (cf. Luke 15:2). You can almost hear the Pharisees saying, “Why are you spending time with them? We are the ones who deserve the attention. We are the ones who have kept all of the rules, but you do not spend any time with us!”
The father in the parable tried to get the older son to go in and join the celebration, but he would not. He was too righteous to join in with his brother, so he remained outside. The same could be said for the Pharisees. Jesus’ teaching invited them to repent of their sins and enter into the kingdom just as the tax collectors and sinners were doing, but the Pharisees would not. They were too righteous to join in with such sinners, so they remained outside.
The gospel calls us all to repentance. We must acknowledge our need of forgiveness and turn to Jesus. None of us deserve the rewards of the kingdom, but God is a gracious and forgiving Father waiting for us all to return home.
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