So we have in front of us the classic parable of these two brothers. Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees who just attacked him publicly for “eating with sinners and tax collectors.” The charge amounts to the Pharisees making it known that Jesus must himself be sinful because of the company he keeps. If the Pharisees can convince the people of this, maybe they can convince them to ignore Jesus and look to them once again for religious leadership.
Jesus starts off right where the Pharisees want him to be. There’s a rebellious son who basically says to his father. You’re better off dead and “I can make it on my own.” He would have had to make a case not that he was going to squander it but that he was going to bring honor to the family. So he disgraces his father with his words. Then he does end up squandering it all further disgracing his father’s and his families reputation with his actions. Finally, the son is living and working with the pigs envious of how well the pigs eat and he decides to go home. By this point the word has spread of what has happened and the son is not only an embarrassment but he could fairly be killed by anyone around for his disgraceful actions. It’s so bad that it would have been lawful for the neighbors to avenge the father and kill the son who ran off.
At this point you know the Pharisees are just about cheering on this story. They already believe they know how it is going to end. The son tries to come home and is either killed on the way by people with allegiance to the father or the father has him killed once he gets there. The expected ending would vindicate the Pharisees by talking about just how far and deep sin goes and effects and just how serious it really is.
Now this is where we often find ourselves, in this first son. Our heavenly father creates us and gives us skills and abilities and all kinds of gifts and asks us to love him and serve him. Then we get out on our own and we don;t take care of our bodies, we neglect our family members, we put wealth and possessions above the people that God gives us to support our lives. All too often there we are, just like this son who wanted money more than his father, and squandered everything he had been given disgracing the father in the process.
So there we are dead in our sin. There we are, the sinners the Pharisees are talking about and then the son returns in repentance. He goes home and the father runs out of joy and forgiveness and love but also, to save his life and make sure he meets the son before the neighbors get him and kill him. Then before his son can choke out an apology (or his plan), the father embraces him in joyful celebration. In spite of the stench of his body and the filthy rags of his clothing, the father held him tight. He then gave him gifts like he was never gone. The sin is forgotten. If you’re feeling convicted today as the younger son, this message is for you, You are loved. Your sin is forgotten. God welcomes you with open arms. Jesus gives his life in embarrassing disgrace for you. You have been reclaimed and God is again showering you with gifts in this world and the next.
Now remember Jesus is speaking to the pharisees!! They would have not been convicted by the story of the younger son. The younger son in this way becomes a minor character that sets up the main point. The older brother is the Pharisees… and he is introduced last. The Older brother is smug “i've never disobeyed” He is dishonest. And he is not concerned for the younger brother. He holds a grudge. The older brother describes his work for the father not in joy or duty but as a slave! The older brother refers to his younger brother as “your son” not “Sam” or “my brother” It’s in the older brother that we see where pressure from the proud perfect older brother could push out the younger on his own in a way only a brother could.
Maybe you’re the older brother. Maybe you do everything right. Maybe you keep a perfect budget and look down on the friend who gets wrapped up in debt. Maybe you keep your house perfectly clean and look down on the coworker whose desk is always a mess. Maybe you’re here in church every Sunday and roll your eyes when someone walks in after a while. What’s your response to your brothers who are in trouble? “Lazy” “unkempt” “ignorant” “ugly” “failure” LIke siblings can get under our skin and know us like no one else, all too often so many of us are the older brother.
When the father holds the banquet and the older brother stays outside in protest the father goes out to meet him too. In front of all of his guests the father degrades himself, yet again to go out for another son who is in the wrong and beg him to come inside. If you’re feeling convicted as the older brother, this message is for you today, You are loved. Your sin is forgotten. God welcomes you with open arms. Jesus gives his life in embarrassing disgrace for you. You have been reclaimed and God is again showering you with gifts in this world and the next.
Looking at this Prodigal Son text, we don’t want to be either brother, but we are. We don’t want to disgrace God and we don't want to influence others into sin in a way only we can. Either brother is a bad place to be. The message today is in the action of the father. The Father NEVER stops looking. The father never puts his own pride and life ahead of the children and our heavenly father does the same for you. In fact all we know of the father is that he loves, he gives, and he will stop at nothing to reclaim his children. So he sends his son to be our brother not to influence us to do bad things but to point us back to the loving God. He humiliates himself onto death to bring you life and he never ever stops pursuing you.