I Wish You, Dead! (part 3)
Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
Luke 15 has a third scenario hidden in the mist of the story. The account of the oldest son and his perplexing attitude towards his father, accompanies the contempt he holds for his younger brother at his return. The prodigal son tries to work for his father as an hired servant and tells him he doesn’t deserve to have his place restored in the family after what he has done. The loving father shows true forgiveness by having the best robe placed upon him, a ring put on his finger and shoes brought for his feet. He prepares the fatted calf in celebration of his lost son coming home. This symbolizes sinful man trying to work his way to heaven. The unregenerate sinner doesn’t realize that God’s grace and forgiveness cleanses him from all sin and makes him an heir with Christ for eternity. This act of love is not because he deserves to be an heir of Christ’s or that he can work his way to heaven. It’s because of God’s great love for sinful man that He paid man’s sin debt on the cross. A true believer is saved by the free gift of the grace of God which makes him no longer a slave to sin, but an heir through Christ.
Let’s take a look at the older brother and see what his life teaches us. He is a dutiful son, a harding working son in his father’s fields. He willingly stays with his father when his younger brother takes his inheritance and leaves all to fulfill his sinful desires. The Pharisees are seeing the older brother as the good son, the son that did what was right, not disgracing his father or their Jewish heritage. But, as we continue the story, we see that the older brother becomes angry when his younger brother returns home and he, the older brother, refuses to join the homecoming celebration. In fact, the oldest son has no real relationship with his earthly father which we see in the way he speaks to him and his refusal to participate in his father’s great joy. This older brother’s reaction is a picture of the Pharisee, the hypocritical religious person, who stays close to other religious people but has no relationship whatsoever to the Father, and no interest in repenting sinners. A religious hypocrite will not recognize his own sin and repent as we have seen in the elder son and his self-righteous behavior. This son’s behavior was more socially acceptable than the younger brother’s outward sinfulness, but it was equally shameful.
The Pharisees were consistently angry about Jesus associating with sinners, and embracing them, that they wouldn't go near them or speak to them. Here in this passage they meet themselves. This is the very attitude that they showed back in chapter 5 when they asked the disciples why in the world does Jesus eat with such wicked sinful people. This is the same attitude they had in chapter 19 when they grumbled again because Jesus went to the home of a man who was a sinner, namely Zacchaeus the tax collector. They were continually outraged by the conduct of Jesus associating with sinners, which indicated they had no idea of the heart of God.
We have learned that the father in this story is God in Christ. The father is the loving, life-giving Redeemer of sinners, the Savior, the reconciler who forgives those who repent and believe. The sons are sinners. Some sinners are irreligious and blatant and some are religious and hidden. But they are both sinners who are void of a relationship with God. The amazing reality of the story is that God loves sinners religious or irreligious, moral or immoral, outward or inward. He loves them both. He offers them both grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, sonship and eternal life whether they are extremely wicked or extremely moral, which these two sons illustrate.
Thought: The older son has no love for his father and no interest in his father’s love for his younger brother. He doesn’t see his need of anything. He fews himself as perfect and requires no repentance. Inwardly, his heart is wicked and blind to spiritual reality but he is seen as moral on the public front, outwardly good, and obeying all the rules. Unfortunately, he has no relationship to God and no understanding of grace.
The younger son was overwhelmed with his father's grace and immediately confessed his sin, confessed his unworthiness and received instantaneous forgiveness, reconciliation, and sonship. He entered into the celebration of the father's joy, which is eternal salvation. The older son was shown, the same tenderness, the same mercy, and was offered the same grace, but reacts with bitter resentment, towards the father.
I’m not sure where you see yourself in this story, but we're all there. Either you're the open sinner living in rebellion against God or the hidden one concealing your sin from man. I pray you will come to the Father who has borne your shame, leaving his throne in heaven to take your place on the cross. He is a God who delights in mercy and finds His joy in forgiveness.