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.

What Was Jesus’ Purpose

Don’t we all just want to know why? Have you ever met some one who never asks why? They are the ones whose parents always answered the question, “Why is the sky blue?” with a loud “BECAUSE!”

Poor folks.

Okay, I am being silly. Everyone wants to know why Jesus. Right? Still silly? Well here is why Jesus did not come to earth…

  • To make people rich
  • To heal everyone
  • To get rid of all evil in the world
  • To create political movements
  • To develop a world religion that would spawn the crusades
  • To teach love and kindness
  • To be a great teacher
  • To free the Jewish nation from Roman rule
  • To be a great prophet
  • To associate with the “right” crowd

Nope, none of that stuff. Jesus did not come to earth for any of the reasons men have made up.He came for His Father’s personal agenda not for any man’s agenda. Because He did not come to this earth to fulfill preconceived notions of his purpose, He made a lot of people mad.

He made some people very happy though. Not everyone hated Jesus. They loved him because of his purpose. He gave people something they did not have. He met needs. He came with a mission.

The mission from the mouth of Jesus himself as recorded by John an eye witness.

“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.”Father, glorify Your name ” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” John 12:27-28

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this (AW)to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. John 12:32-33

I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.John 12:46

Jesus said many other things about why he came. These sum up his mission well. He came for the hour of his death on the cross to draw all men to himself that they might believe in Him and ultimately the one who sent him. He came first and foremost to save humankind.

John would later write in 1 John,

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:9-11

Propitiation is just a big word that means Jesus’ death satisfied the need for our punishment for our sins.

Jesus attracted huge crouds and followers because he took care of their needs. Not just their physical needs but the most important ones. He took care of their sin.

You know what? He still takes care of our sins. Even today.

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.