The Prodigal Sons: The Lost Older Brother
It has been my unhappy lot to counsel many, many families who have had wayward children. This “waywardness” ranges all the way from smart aleck language and responses to one family I counseled where a sibling actually tried to kill another sibling. I cannot imagine the heartbreak of losing a child to a premature death. I also cannot imagine “losing” a child to disobedience and rebellion against God. The heartbreak of the father in the story of the Prodigal Son is clearly seen as he watches faithfully for the return of his selfish son. But, what does this all mean? Remember, the parables are like onions in that they have many meanings, interpretations and applications as we peel back the layers. We have already noted that this parable has to do with Jews and Gentiles. Now, let’s unpack this parable further and see other interpretations and applications.
Monday…Narrowing our “Jews” and “Gentiles” interpretation, we come to the Pharisees and the “goyim.” “Goyim” was, and is, a term of derision that Jewish people apply to other people. The Pharisees looked down on virtually all people who were not as “holy” as they were. This brought about the wrath of Jesus on several occasions. In the parable, the Pharisees are likened to the older son. This older son obeyed the letter of the household rules (the “haustefeln”), but lacked compassion and love for both his brother and his father. Proverbs 16:18.
Tuesday…Buffalo Springfield was a popular band in the ’60s. A line from one of their songs says, “nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.” Obviously true. As you read the parable of the Prodigal found in Luke 15 (you have read it, haven’t you?), you will be stuck by the fact that BOTH sons were wrong. Yes, one repented and came to his senses and returned home, but both sinned against the father in this: they wanted what the father had more than they wanted the fellowship of the father. God is not a genie who exists only to give us what we want. God wants to bless us, yes, but God also wants our love and fellowship. Isn’t that an incredible thought? Luke 10:27.
Wednesday…We live in a ‘me’ society. Recently, I had the opportunity to witness to a man who was opposed to Christianity. Very opposed. The absolute bottom line for him was that he wanted no one and nothing to tell him anything that had to do with his behavior, thoughts, preferences, etc. He was, in fact, his own ‘god.’ In the story of the Prodigal Son, each son made the same mistake in that they were adamant that they would have their own way. Had the prodigal not returned, what would have happened to him eventually? If the older son merely waited until the father died and then received his own inheritance, what would he have gained since it is obvious that he had little respect for his father and none for his younger brother? Jeremiah 5:31 partially says, …”what will you do in the end?” Ah, yes…that is the question isn’t it?
Thursday…One of the most difficult concepts for mankind to grasp is this: we are all sinners. See Romans 3 and Isaiah 61 for confirmation of this obvious fact. A corollary to this is obvious: we all need a Savior. And this is why Jesus came. Those who are like the older son in the parable cannot see their own sin and that is precisely the problem with us all to one degree or another. The cure: boast only in the cross of Christ.
Friday…Notice how the ‘bad guy’ in the parable…the younger son…is fully restored. The father lovingly brushes aside the canned speech the younger son is prepared to give, and actually starts to recite, with the wonderful statement that the son has returned and will now be restored (after a big party, of course). Great news for all of us since every single one of us has, at one time or another, gone into “the far country” and acted foolishly. Yes, grace is indeed amazing! John 3:16 (you cannot read this verse too often).
by Dale Holzbauer
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