“Think on These Things” is a column written by retired Creston pastor Ian Cotton
Final of the trilogy: “The other Prodigal”
Thus far in the parable, Luke 15, there is no discordant note to jar the joy; but Christ introduces another element. When the older brother came home from the field he heard music and dancing. Calling a servant he asked what was happening? “Your brother came home; and your father hath killed the fatted calf.”
He had not shared his father’s anxiety for his wayward brother and was angry at the joy his father showed. The rejoicing kindles no gladness in his heart. The favor shown the prodigal he regards as an insult to himself.
The older son thinks he has been wronged, after all, had he not slaved while his brother was partying? He does not acknowledge his brother but coldly says “your son.”
Yet the father deals tenderly with him. “Son,” he says, “you are ever with me, and all that I have is thine. All these years of your brother’s wasted life, you been with me.”
Everything that could minister to the happiness of his children was freely theirs. “All that I have is yours.” You have only to believe my love, and accept the gift that is freely offered.
One son had left home and gone deeply into sin, not discerning the father’s love. But now he has returned, and joy results. “This your brother was dead, and is alive again; was lost, and is found.”
Did the elder brother see his own mean, ungrateful spirit?
Did he come to see that though his brother had done wickedly, he was his brother still?
Did the elder brother repent of his jealousy and hardheartedness?
Concerning this, Christ was silent, for the parable is still being lived. It rested with His hearers to determine what the outcome should be.
The elder son represents the self-righteous who look with contempt upon those who they regard as sinners. Because they have not gone to great excesses in vice, they are self-righteous. Like the older son in the parable, they had enjoyed special privileges from God. They were working, not from love, but from hope of reward.
They saw Christ inviting publicans and sinners to receive freely the gift of His grace – the gift which the rabbis hoped to secure only by toil and penance – and they were offended. The prodigal’s return, which filled the Father’s heart with joy, stirred them to jealousy.
Heaven’s tender appeal to the Pharisees. “All that I have is thine” – not as wages, but as a gift. Like the prodigal, you can receive it only as the unmerited grace of the Father’s love.
When you see yourselves as sinners saved only by the love of your heavenly Father, not by any works, you will have tender pity for others who are suffering in sin. You will no longer meet misery and repentance with jealousy and censure.
Though the Pharisee will not welcome the prodigal, the restored one will have his place by the Father’s side and in the Father’s work.
He that is forgiven much, the same loves much. But the Pharisee will be in the darkness without. For “he that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love.” 1 John 4:8.
Adapted from Christ Object Lessons