“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But it was fitting to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
(This story is a continuation from yesterday.)
The older son has been in the field during the time of reconciliation. As the manager of the property, he wouldn't really "work" so much as sit in the shade and make sure others did their work to his satisfaction. No one comes to get him for the party, and he was so far away on the father's large estate that he knows nothing about it. Rather than going in to see what is going on, he is suspicious and asks a servant what is happening. He is told that his father has received his brother back safe and sound and is throwing a party to celebrate his joy.
The older brother is angry. and refuses to join the party. Finally a character appears with whom the Pharisees can agree! The younger son was sinful, dishonored his father, and deserved shame rather than restitution. The father shamed himself by agreeing to divide his estate and improperly welcoming home the son. But this older brother with his righteous indignation is the kind of guy they can get behind.
Growing up I thought the older brother was the good guy. He stayed and did what the father expected. But I know now that the older brother is the Pharisees. He outwardly completed "good deeds" but inwardly had no love for his father or his brother. He judged his brother, but clearly he also did not care about his father's joy. All he wanted was to keep what he thought was his by birthright and certainly not to share it with his sinful brother.
All people are sinful. We may be the irreligious overtly sinful younger brother or the religious hypocritical older brother. Most of us fall in the middle of the spectrum. But no matter which we are, the Father loves us and longs to offer grace, forgiveness, and love. He longs for a relationship with us that will bring glory to him. Good works are worth nothing in the realm of salvation and forgiveness. But thank God that he saves us by his grace through our faith!
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9