For the longest time, I have been surprised that the
parable of the Prodigal Son did not end with the restoration of
the prodigal to his father. Why did Jesus go on to tell about the
prodigalís good brother who had always remained with the father?
Then I realized that this parable is really not about the prodigal
and his return to the father, it is about the brother. The story
of the prodigal himself is simply told to set the stage for what
Jesus needed to say about the brother. In fact, the story of the
prodigal was the third step as Jesus set the stage to tell about
this brother. Look again at Luke
15:1-2. This story was told to teach the Pharisees and scribes
not to grumble that Jesus was eating with tax-gatherers and
sinners. But Jesus did not go directly into the story of the
prodigalís brother. He first told about a man who lost one sheep
out of a hundred. When he found the sheep, what did he and the
neighbors do? They rejoiced. Then Jesus told of a woman who lost
one silver coin out of ten. What did she and her neighbors do when
she found it? They rejoiced. Of course, these things had to do
with livelihood. The Pharisees and scribes would certainly be the
foremost to rejoice when a lost sheep or a lost coin was found.
But a lost person? Oh no, we do not want them to be found, they
are sinners. How dare anyone even seek the lost and try to save
them. But of course, that was Jesusí mission (Luke
19:10). Thus, the true thrust of these three stories is to
draw the stark contrast between the Pharisees and scribes
perspective and Godís perspective. Examine this second half of
the prodigalís parable to learn the proper perspective we must
perspective on our responsibilities.
is quick to point out all the commandments he has followed in his
years of service. And yet, he is not so quick to follow the
entreaty and encouragement of his father to rejoice at the return
of his brother. The older brother had forgotten that his years of
service did not leave him responsibility free just because he did
not like his fatherís approach to some issue.
Pharisees had the same problem. They were so caught up in all the
lines they kept they believed there were some issues they did not
have to follow like mercy (Matthew
We must not
make this same mistake. We must not forget the commitment we have
made to our Father when we submitted in baptism. Remember the
statement of Jesus in Luke
9:62. Once our hands are on the plow, they need to stay there.
We must keep up our responsibilities and our work in the kingdom
of Christ. Hebrews 4:3-11
demonstrates there will be a day when we rest from our labors
here. But, no matter how old we are, no matter how tired we are,
no matter how busy we are, no matter what happens to us or around
us, we must continue to work and fulfill our responsibilities in
this life. We do not have the right to say, ďThis is too much. I
will not do this.Ē We must continue our commitment to God,
wherever that leads us. We must understand that it leads us to
want even the worst of sinners to repent and to accept them and
rejoice when they do.
perspective on our service.
brotherís mistake was forgetting that all he had came from his
father. Just like the prodigal, this older brother was a recipient
of the fatherís grace. By focusing on his time out in the field,
the older brother neglected to realize that his time working did
not entitle him to all of his fatherís possessions. He felt a
sense of arrogant entitlement.
Pharisees and scribes had this problem. They thought their good
works made them better than everyone else (Luke
18:11-12). They did not recognize their own unworthiness and
their own need for Godís grace. They seemed to believe that the
Father owed them something.
never make this mistake. We must never begin to focus on all that
we have done for God. He doesnít need anything from us (Acts
17:25). Rather, we are, and have been all our lives, the
recipients of His life giving grace.
The proper perspective on our relationships.
The older brother could not see anything more in this young
man who had returned than a person who had spent his fatherís
money running around with whores. He did not see who this person
really was. But the father saw. This was not just some nameless
sinner. The prodigal was a son and a brother. He said to the older
brother, ďThis brother of yours was dead and has begun to
live, and was lost and has been found.Ē The father essentially
said, ďOf course I killed this fatter calf. What do you expect?
Our closest kin is back from the dead. Why wouldnít we
The Pharisees had this same problem. They looked at people
and all they could see were tax-collectors and sinners. They did
not see brethren in the nation of Israel. They could see the value
of a lost sheep being found. They could see the value of a lost
coin being found. But they could not see the value of one of their
brethren being found.
We must not make this mistake. I am sure you have heard
people speak of the brotherhood of man. We need to have that sense
of kinship with all men and women. We have all descended from the
same ultimate parents from Noah back to Adam and Eve. Further, we
are not different from any of those around us. We have all chosen
to sin and we all need the salvation and grace the Father offers.
God loved these people around us so much that He sent Jesus to die
for them (John 3:16; I John
2:2). We can see this proper perspective in Jesus in Matthew
9:36. We need to see how important these souls around us are.
Finally, how much should we rejoice when the person
repenting is not only a part of the brotherhood of man but is a
part of the brotherhood of Christ who has fallen and now returned?
perspective on our blessings.
older brother had a mistaken perspective regarding his own
service, he also had a mistaken perspective on blessings. He
deserved blessings and the younger son deserved punishments. How
dare the father give this younger, unworthy son, a feast. But the
older son neglected two very important realities. First, the
blessings belonged to the father and he had the option to bestow
them on anyone he wanted, for whatever reason he wanted. Whether
the blessing was a feast of the fatted calf or the bestowal of all
his property to another, all that both of these sons were around
belonged to their father. It was his to do with what he wanted.
Second, the father had blessed this older son and was going to
bless him further. Perhaps he had never had a feast in his honor,
but everything that was the fatherís was his. He was going to
receive his inheritance as well someday. That sounds pretty
blessed to me.
Pharisees had this same problem. Because they thought their
service was so great, they thought they were the only ones worthy
of receiving attention from a teacher of Jesusí magnitude. They
had such a problem with this that they decided Jesus must not be
all that great if He would spend time with these sinners instead
of with them.
never make this mistake. First, we must never forget that
everything belongs to God (Psalm
50:12) and He can grant blessings to whomever He wishes (Romans
9:15). Second, we must count our blessings. Ephesians
1:3-12, is a great summary of the wonderful blessings we have
in Christ. Further, we must never forget the ultimate blessing
that awaits us, reserved for us in heaven (I
Peter 1:4-5). We are blessed and look forward to more
blessing, let us not be envious just because our God is merciful
and generous (Matthew
What kind of perspective do we have? No doubt if someone
lost their favorite pet and then found it, we would rejoice with
them. Surely, if someone lost their purse or wallet with a hundred
dollars in it and then it was returned to them, we would rejoice
with them. How much more when our Father has lost one of His
children and that child returns to Him, either becoming a
Christian or being restored to the faith, how much more ought we
to rejoice with God and the angels in heaven? But we will only do
so when we maintain the proper perspectives on our
responsibilities, service, relationships and blessings. What kind
of older brother are you to others in the world?
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ