The Older Brother

In the parable of the Prodigal/Lost son, Jesus intends to teach a very important lesson to the Pharisees and scribes. Remember they were the ones grumbling about Jesus associating with sinners. He saves the best for last in this parable and lets em have it. They are supposed to relate to the older brother. First lets take a look at what Jesus says.

“Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. “And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. “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.’ “But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. “But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ “And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. ‘But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.'” Luke 15:25-32

When the younger brother left, the older brother stayed at home. When the lost son came home, we find the older brother out in the fields. He was doing what he was supposed to do. Responsible, reliable, and a part of the family. Every father’s favorite son. Or was he? Something was dark lie under the surface.

We see the problem come to the surface when the lost son comes home and the Father welcomes him back into the family. The lost son has gotten restored back to the family. He has received grace. But this makes the older brother very angry. So angry we see him yelling at his father who comes out to try to reconcile with the older brother.

But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’

I find it interesting that the older brother is not really mad at his brother. Don’t you. He is mad at his father. His words blame his father.  He points out that the has served the father, never neglected a command of his father. He complains, “you never”, “this son of yours”,  and “you killed the calf”. This older brother is mad at his dad. He also seems to be very jealous of his brother.  Jealousy was killing him.

Jealousy is an emotion and typically refers to the negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something that the person values, such as a relationship, friendship, or love. Jealousy often consists of a combination of emotions such as anger, sadness, and disgust. Jealousy differs from envy in that jealousy is about something one has and is afraid of losing, while envy refers to something one does not have and either wants to acquire or to prevent another from acquiring. Wikipedia

Jealous of losing the affection of his father? Envious of his younger brother’s feast and grace. Jealous because he was the good son and he did not want to lose that.

The older brother has a serious heart condition. I think Jealousy is only one of many problems the older brother has.  Here is a nice list I hope you do not relate too.

  • Jealous of the love his father showed his brother.
  • Bitter about the years of work unappreciated.
  • Angry about the injustice of forgiving his brother after all he had done.
  • Ungrateful for all the care and provision his father had been giving him.
  • Unsatisfied with his own choices. Probably thinking, “Oi! I should have gone too.”

The pharisees wanted Jesus’ attention. They were so confused. They probably thought if this really is God’s son he would accept us, not pushing us away. They were the good guys. They had been serving and sacrificing everything to obey God. They were fasting, they were studying the scriptures, they were not sinning. They were the ones eagerly awaiting the Messiah. They just could not understand why Jesus was always picking on them. Jesus told them he had come to save the lost. Jesus came to teach us all that God wants to save people not condemn them. This thought echoes in the words the father speaks to his son at the end of the parable.

‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. ‘But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’

The pharisees had the law. They had the Kingdom and God’s promises. They were careful to do everything right. They were sure they were perfect and they pushed anyone who was a “sinner” away. What they missed completely was LIFE. They had no relationship with God. They did not know him or what he really wants. They were so careful to do what they thought was right they did not have time to listen to what he really wanted. They did not take any time to live in God. To enjoy his grace. To ask for a gift to share. They never realized that they were in the family and had all the benefits of being in the family and that everything God had was theirs.

Instead what we see are a lifeless bunch of religious leaders. To sum up,

  • They were cold and heartless
  • Had a major heart condition
  • They thought observing the law made them righteousness
  • They did not understand Jesus’ purpose
  • Even though they had a relationship with God, but did not understand how much God loved them
  • They ere good people, but were so full of hate and jealousy
  • They had created laws that ultimately separated them from God
  • Came to church, made their sacrifices, tithed but had forgotten why
  • They had no idea they needed Jesus too
  • Could not recognize the sin in their own lives

The pharisees did not understand that they were with God all along. Everything He has was theirs. They did not understand that God’s desire was that all Jews would come to his son. They had the promises. They had the Kingdom. BUT. They did not realize it and they missed the whole point. Ultimately they would miss Jesus all together.

The message to us is the same. Do you realize as a Christian, God says the same to you.

‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. ‘But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’

God loves you so much he gave everything to keep you in the family. He is still seeking the lost and bringing them to him. No one deserves to be in the family. Let us all rejoice and be glad for all who are added to the family.

God bless.

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The Prodigal/Lost Son Context

Context tells us the back story. What is going on when Jesus told the parable of the lost son. Why did he tell the parable. Without it we might miss the point.

Jesus was attracting large crowds of people to him to listen to his teaching. Everywhere he went people followed. In Luke 15:1 we find a very familiar scene.Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.” WOW! Jesus was attracting the people he came to save. People who were not in a right relationship with God were attracted to Jesus. I bet there were good reasons why. (More on that in another post.)

Now in this particular situation, tax collectors and sinners were not the only ones coming to Jesus. Luke 15:2 tells us, “Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.'” We see the good people listen to Jesus too. Other people in the crowd were the religious faithful. The ones who through self-control, self-denial, and self-righteousness had elevated themselves above the fray. Respected religious students, leaders, and experts in the Law. Jesus attracted a lot of attention.

There is a problem though. Luke tells us the “good” people were grumbling. They did not like Jesus associating with sinners! They had problems with it. Jesus, being Jesus, takes the opportunity to try to teach an important lesson. Before he tells the parable of the lost son, he starts to lay some ground work in 3 parables starting in chapter 14.

The Parable of the Banquet Luke 14:16-24

Jesus tells a story about a man having a big dinner. He invited many people. When the dinner was ready he sent his servant to tell all the invited guests the dinner was ready. However, all the guests had excuses and did not want to come to the dinner. The man giving the dinner was furious so he went out and invited the poor, crippled, blind, lame, those on the highways and along the hedges. He concludes by saying, “For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.”

The Parable of the Lost Sheep Luke 15:4-7

After the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble about Jesus and the sinners, He told them a story about a shepherd with 100 sheep. He lost one of them. So he left the safe sheep and went looking for the one. After he found it he had a celebration. In verse 7 Jesus said, “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

The Parable of the Lost Coin Luke 15:8-10

Next Jesus told them a parable about a lady who lost one of ten silver coins. She searches her whole house until she finds it. When she does she invites over the neighbors for a party. Jesus again tells the people listening, “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Whenever Jesus taught large crowds gathered. One group of people were the ones Jesus came to save, the sinners. Another group was made up of those who thought they were saved but refused to acknolege that Jesus was God’s son. The Pharasees and Scribes were not happy.

From the three parables Jesus told before he told the parable of the lost son we find Jesus telling us, those who were invited to the dinner were not comming. The Pharasees and other Jewish leaders did not accept Jesus. They refused to come to him and eat. And we also find Jesus telling us, turning from sin is paramount. Those who do not need to repent are all well and good. However, when one does repent, lets celebrate for the one who is saved.

Jesus uses the parable of the Lost Son to emphasize these two themes. And tries to teach us another heart lesson.

God bless.

The Prodigal/Lost Son

I have been studying and reading the parable of the lost son, better known as the prodigal son, for some time. In fact this web site is named after the older brother from the parable. In my blog you will find many posts about the older brother. You can check out my You might be an Older Brother series. However, in all my writing and study I have neglected two very important parts of this parable. The younger son and the father. I want to dive back into this parable.

This parable is fascinating to me. It is one of Jesus’ longest parables. Because Jesus does not explain the parables’ meaning, the parable lends itself to many lessons. On a more personal note, I am the older brother in my family. I have a younger brother and we like most brothers had our sibling rivalries (healthy I assure you). I love this parable.

I hate this parable because I found truth about myself I do not like in it. Through Jesus’ teaching I have from time to time found myself wanting. I don’t necessarily identify with the good guy in this parable. No, I am the older brother. I am learning, so don’t be to hard on me. I hope you are too. Remember the words of Jesus, “He who has hears let him hear.” Matt. 13:9

To understand a parable you have to start with the back story or the context. After you understand why Jesus told the parable you examine the characters. Then from the facts try to draw some conclusions. Maybe even see parallels to you own life and learn some lessons too.

I want to examine this parable again. I hope to draw you into one of my favorite stories Jesus ever told. I think you will be amazed at the love of God and his patience with humankind.

God bless.

The Rest of the Story: The Older Brother

Let me borrow one of Paul Harvey’s favorite phrases and tell you the rest of the story about the prodigal son. I know you have read or heard the parable before. If not you can read it all at biblegateway.com in Luke 15:11-32. I have also posted several other posts about this parable. This is one of my favorites.

Basically, the little brother asks his father for his inheritance (before his father is dead). He takes the money and hits the road and starts living the good life. He has lots of food, fun, and friends. That is until his money runs out. Just so happens when he hits rock bottom he comes to his senses and remembers how good it was living with his father. So he decides to go home and apologize. Because he no longer considers himself worthy of being his father’s son he decides to ask his father for a job. When the son gets close to home, his dad sees him and comes running. He welcomes him home enthusiastically and seems to completely forget of all the wrongs the son committed. He forgives him. Of his return home the father says, ‘this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’

Most of the time this is as far as anyone gets in the parable. However, this is not the point of the parable. It is an important part. We need to see ourselves as the prodigal son because we all are; however, in the context of the scriptures, the parable is really about what happens next.

You see, Jesus is telling this parable to the people gathered around him in response to the Pharisees accusation that Jesus accepts sinners.

Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  Luke 15:1-2

Jesus was trying to teach them a lesson. So he told 3 parables, the parable of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and finally the Parable of the Lost Son. All three about looking for something lost. God is looking for those who are lost. They are who He is after, who he loves. (Okay, he loves everyone so by default that means he loves sinners.) And in all three the people celebrate finding the lost item. That is until Jesus gets to the last parable of the three, the lost son.

Someone was not happy. More than that, he was ready to give up on his daddy. Out in the fields, after everyone else was celebrating was the older brother. Remember him, he stayed home. He did what his dad asked. He worked hard and never asked his dad for anything. Now he was angry. How could his father let this no count brother come back? Not just come back but celebrate his return?

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

” ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” Luke 15:28-32

As far as the Pharisees were concerned, “sinners” were not going to take any part in God’s kingdom. Only the Pharisees were going to be saved. Because they were the good people. They suffered and gave up things for God. Everyone else was having all the fun, not them, they were strict, disciplined, and outwardly perfect.  I love this parable because Jesus really gets in the Pharisees’ faces and preaches.

Do you hear the message? Here is one.

Stop thinking you are suffering for Christ when you do not live like the world does. Stop condemning those who have chosen to ignore God and face the world alone. Clean off the welcome mat outside the door of your heart and get ready to welcome some folks home. Home is so sweet and so warm. Everything in it is Yours, get ready to share.

God bless.

What the Lord Has Done

“Remember these things, O Jacob,
for you are my servant, O Israel.
I have made you, you are my servant;
O Israel, I will not forget you. I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me,
for I have redeemed you.”

Sing for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done this;
shout aloud, O earth beneath.
Burst into song, you mountains,
you forests and all your trees,
for the LORD has redeemed Jacob,
he displays his glory in Israel. Isaiah 44 :21-23

God saves. He has always done all to protect and love his people. Isaiah prophesied hundred of years before the birth of Christ. When Jesus was eight days old his parents took him to the temple. There they ran into Simeon.

 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”  Luke 2:25-32

God’s plan was to send his son into this world to save it. Jesus knew his target was the cross. On it he redeemed Jacob and he bought for himself Gentiles who come to him too. God has done this wonderful thing because He loves us.

God bless.

Flashlight Fetish

I have a deep personal love affair with flashlights. Not sure when it really took hold, probably when all the different LED flashlights came available. I really think they are neat. Everyone should have 3 or 4 around the house. I actually carry one with me all the time.

It may be genetic. My Grandfather, Papa, always carried a flashlight too. This Christmas I gave a Craftsman LED equipped Ball Cap away in our family free for all. I put a little card in the package that said, “In loving memory of “Papa” who’s light still shines in all of us.” I have so many fond memories of us giving him a hard time about having a flashlight all the time.

In another way, because he was a good Christian man, his Christian light shines through us too. His dedication to Christ has lead many to know Jesus, especially his Grandchildren. Papa never mentioned a spiritual connection to his love of lights so I will.

“Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”- Luke 2:28-32

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness. John 3:19 says the world loved darkness instead of the light. I hate sitting in the dark at work when the power goes out. I hate sitting in the dark of my sin lost spiritually too. We do not have to be in the dark.

God bless. Turn on the light.

Live the Truth

Oh, the political winds are a blowin’. It is getting to be the time for elections, debates, commercials, speeches and so much  politicking. I for one do not enjoy it all. I find much of what I see, hear, and read boring and bothersome. Not to mention down right deceptive.

I do not want to be so down on Politicians. It is just hard not to believe truth is hard to come by when a group of people want a vote. I know this is not a new problem. Jesus wagged his finger at the rulers, lawyers, and religious leaders of his day. He really liked to pick on the Pharisees, those who new the religious law the best.

Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. Luke 12:1-3

Wikipedia defines hypocrisy as, “the act of condemning another person for an act of which the critic is guilty.” The whole article is a good read. I especially liked this section in the Psychology section of the article…

Also, some people genuinely fail to recognize that they have character faults which they condemn in others. This is called Psychological projection. This is Self-deception rather than deliberate deception of other people. In other words, “Psychological hypocrisy” is usually interpreted by psychological theorists to be an unconscious defense mechanism rather than a conscious act of deception, as in the more classic connotation of hypocrisy. People understand vices which they are struggling to overcome or have overcome in the past. Efforts to get other people to overcome such vices may be sincere. There may be an element of hypocrisy as well if the actors do not readily admit to themselves how far they are or have been subject to these vices.

In my opinion, there is no greater sin than hypocrisy. Here is a list of the reasons why,

  1. Inability to sympathize or more importantly love – characterized by hatefulness and bigotry
  2. A hypocritical person is self-righteous – this means they do not need God, in fact they think they are God.
  3. Judgment not mercy comes from hypocrites -they do not sin, their actions are not wrong, yours are.
  4. Spiritual blindness keeps people from knowing God –  inability to see the truth no matter what reasoning
  5. People have died because of lies hypocrites tell – Jesus saved the adulterous woman brought to him by the Pharisees. How many others died?

I get so fed up with people wagging their fingers about child pornography, homosexuality, lying, and stealing money all the while practicing the very thing they condemn. WAKE UP! How long do you think you can keep your sins hidden? Jesus said, “what you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight.” Can you handle that?  Just this last week,  self important  people have been arrested for the very crimes they condemned.When we live in a culture where everyone is living a lie how will we ever find peace and love? When we are so afraid of people really knowing who we are, there is no peace. When we believe that our sins are too hideous to acknowledge we will do anything and tell whatever lie to prop up our facade.  It gets even scarier when someone with real power will stoop at nothing to keep you and I believing their lie.

I think Jesus was on to something here. Watch out for that yeast. It spreads around. I propose the start of a movement of truth telling. Get real. And to the politicians, lawyers, and religious leaders who continue to hide in the dark to commit their sins, your time is coming where we will know. Stop sinning.
Sorry about the rant. God bless.