PLEASE READ LUKE 15: 27-32 FOR THE CONCLUSION TO THE STORY JESUS TOLD ABOUT THE LOST SONS.
Don’t forget the other brother there were TWO sons. The younger one earlier in the story went off to a “far country” (Jordan and Syria were pretty close by.) If the kind of harsh judgment and cruel intolerance existed in the ancient Middle East then as it does today, probably Iran or Iraq would not have been first choice for a young stallion who was a footloose, fancy free, eligible bachelor in search of a good time. Perhaps Egypt, or one of the countries along the Mediterranean coast, where the “jet set” hung out, was where he headed.…As long as the money lasted; he lived it up & lost a small fortune along with the last shred of his self respect. The other brother stayed home. The real “hero” in the story is the man German cleric and theoligian Helmut Thielicke called “The Waiting Father.”
Instead of walking around singing under his breath: “I’ll be glad when you’re dead, you old rascal you,” straight up, straight out: the younger brother asked for his inheritance. Both sons got their inheritance. (15:12). The Prodigal immediately cashed in his chips and then high-tailed it out of town a “far country.” Jesus didn’t say where that was.
It doesn’t take too much imagination to figure out how the younger brother felt. He may have just gotten bored. He was young. Selfish. Impatient. Cocky. Immature. Irresponsible. “I want what I want when I want it” was about the highest level of his social achievement at the time. And when he got some money, it sounds like he quickly and completely became one ‘wild and crazy guy.’
In the last couple of studies, we got a picture of how the younger brother “messed up.” And what triggered his desire and determination to “come back.” When he finally hit “rock bottom” he also came to his senses and came home. In a beautiful word picture, Jesus shows what Biblical repentance is about and how glad the Father is when his son returns.
But that doesn’t paint the picture in its entirety.
When the father threw a spontaneous “welcome home son” party, the older brother was so upset and angry he wouldn’t even go into the house. In this light, his true character surfaces as self-righteous. Judgmental. Petulant. When he got his ‘nose out of joint, he pouted and acted like a spoiled brat. Sibling rivalry took the form of enraged jealousy. (15:28 -29)…”All these years (we do not know how many) I worked for you like a slave.” Does it come out now what a sweet, loveable, loving son he is? All the time, he’s been secretly resentful of his Father.
When he stayed outside the house, I couldn’t help wondering if this weren’t sort of typical of his conduct. Perhaps he often took to standing over there in the shadows… eavesdropping on conversations. Rifling through mail and personal, private belongings. I’ve seen the type. Sneaky. Resenting his brother. He was so upright and uptight. He was at home all the time, but was simply doing his duty, expecting recognition and reward and resenting his brother. If word ever leaked back about the ‘T.P.’s’ wild shenanigans, you can almost imagine the Older Brother saying: ”I knew he’d never come to anything good. Let him rot in the pig pen or the penitentiary…Why should I care? “ I can almost hear him defending his callousness saying like Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And I want to tell him: “Nope. But you are your brother’s brother!”
He should have been happy his brother was back, if for no other reason than just for the fact it made his Dad so very happy. He resented the brother for returning. He clearly deeply resented his Dad for welcoming him home. His attitudes are always near the surface: Self-righteous. Self-seeking, self-serving.
He automatically assumed the worst of his brother. (15:30) Even though the father had officially given his sons the money, the older brother said: Your Son Wasted all of YOUR money on prostitutes. The Bible doesn’t’ say that; it merely says he wasted his substance in ‘riotous living.’ Have you ever noticed how some people automatically assume the very worst in others? And sometimes that gives you an insight into how they think . . . who they really are behind the mask they wear. . . what they themselves would do, if given the opportunity. They’re the kind who accuse others of the dark secrets and skeletons concealed in their own lives. “O.B.” unloaded on his father and revealed that he thought the worst of his brother: His dad, almost delirious with joy that the ‘long lost son’ had finally returned, went out to see what the problem was. (15:30) The older brother spoke of him as his son of “Yours”…didn’t even address him as “my brother.”
The younger one went out and had himself a rip-roaring good time! Don’t forget that while the younger brother was away, the other brother got to live on the farm rent-free. Room and board were provided. He had a steady job and a sense of security and well-being. No great risk or sacrifice was involved, apparently. It seems to me he was ‘making out like a bandit.’ And it still wasn’t enough for him. Have you noticed how selfish, greedy people never have enough? They want theirs and yours. Sibling rivalry is as old as time. From Cain and Abel to Dickie and Tommy Smothers…It seems an undercurrent of jealousy runs in some families. Sometimes it can become dangerous. Occasionally, even deadly.
Do you know what? Can you face a harsh fact of life? Let’s suppose you found yourself in the role of the “younger brother” and have had a lapse of your faith. For whatever reason, you left ‘home.’ “Messed up,” maybe big time. Finally realized what it had cost you, came to your senses, and decided to return to God. Return to Christ. And His Church. The truth of the matter is this: Some of your siblings (and, sadly, religious professionals aren’t exempt from this weakness) will not be delirious with joy at your return. That is their problem, not yours. So long as the Father welcomes you home (It is, after all, His Church), you can rejoice that you made the right decision.
Rejoice in the fact that HE WILL ALWAYS WELCOME YOU HOME.
And it IS HIS HOME. AND YOU ARE HIS CHILD!
God’s servant, your friend, brother and fellow student ~donkimrey
RANDOM AFTERTHOUGHTS: The younger was probably the more likeable of the two brothers. You’d have enjoyed hanging out with him. He was the life of the party.
This is my final posting on The Prodigal, one of God’s ‘COMEBACK KIDS.” The studies for the next few weeks will concentrate on the birth of Christ. Again, the questions for which I’m seeking answers are: (1.) Why did God choose this place for the entrance of His Son into earthly history? (2.) Why did God select the cast of characters? to play out their roles in this drama. (3.) Why did He decide on this particular time in world history? Wouldn’t it have been easier, say, if He’d done it in our time with instant international access and exposure through the internet?
IN PREPARATION for future postings, I have been considering: Simon Peter, King David, Samson, Jacob/Israel, and others. I believe it’s a pretty common occurrence in Scripture, for someone to fall or fail, or get knocked off stride. . . and then triumph over adversity and return to a place of service. My study of Sripture has convinced me it is not a study of “man’s quest for God.” That is not the case at all. In most instances, I feel the opposite has been true. Man, by nature, rebels, resists, defies, denies God and goes to all kinds of clever ruses to elude Him. The reality is that G OD IS THE ONE WHO DOES THE SEARCHING, THE PURSUING. THE RESCUING. THE FINDING, THE CLEANSING, FORGIVING AND RESTORING OF THOSE WHO WERE LOST. He never gives up on His “sheep,” even when they stray away and stay away.