25 “Now his older son was in the field; as he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he summoned one of the servants, questioning what these things meant. 27 ‘Your brother is here,’ he told him, ‘and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “Then he became angry and didn’t want to go in. So his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 But he replied to his father, ‘Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a goat so that I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’ 31 “‘Son,’ he said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
I am the younger sibling. Although my brother and I are only thirteen months apart, he will always be my “big older brother.” I took full advantage of my position in the family order. To avoid a chore or if I needed an excuse not to do something as well as my brother, I played the trump card, “She’s the baby of the family…” “She’s your little sister…” “She’s younger than you are…” I imagine my brother often felt like the older brother in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal—and rightfully so.
Today’s Bible reading gives us Part Two or the rest of the story. In yesterday’s text, we read about the prodigal son’s misadventures—squandering his inheritance and then becoming hopeless and destitute—and his humble return to his father’s home, expecting to be treated like one of the hired servants.
Many of us are surprised by the father’s effusive welcome. When most fathers would react in anger, express deep disappointment, or brandish an, “I told you so,” this father demonstrated compassion and love, offered joyful restoration, and ordered a celebratory banquet.
As the parable continues to unfold, we are introduced to the elder son, who refuses to join the party. His attitude is anything but one of joy and celebration. Unlike his loving father, his attitude and demeanor are caustic. He is angry and unsympathetic that “his father’s son” has returned home.
The elder son expresses exasperation. He declares his own self-righteousness and focuses on his brother’s sinfulness rather than on his newfound forgiveness. In doing this, he demonstrates ingratitude, he insults his father’s generosity, and he refuses to rejoice that the brother who was lost has now been found.
To focus our attention on the siblings is to miss Jesus’ point. He compels us to focus instead on the father’s love rather than on the sons’ sins.
In the father, we see the boundlessness of God’s compassionate love and longsuffering, which is far broader than the love of man. In the father’s interaction with his sons, we see that God is more merciful than many orthodox men and can effectively defeat the deliberate rebellion of the heart. God can and will forgive, even when man cannot.
You and I should become lost in the wonder, love and praise of a love like that. That’s why we sing, “How deep the Father’s love for us. How vast beyond all measure. That He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure.”
Questions to Ask Yourself
- With which Biblical character in this story do you identify? Why? Does your identification with him suggest a need for action? For example, do you need to extend forgiveness, grace, love and reconciliation to someone? Do you need to express gratitude to God for His long-suffering, patience, forgiveness and blessings?
- Envision God as Father—your Father. Is He patiently waiting for you to respond to some matter? If so, what will do you in response today?
- Does someone you know need to be celebrated or congratulated on an accomplishment? Write them a personal note of encouragement today.
Only a tiny portion of prayer and financial resources that go to missions worldwide are used to reach Unreached People Groups. Choose an unreached people to pray for today from the Joshua Project.