The non-prodigal son


 

Lots of people know the story of the Prodigal Son.

Even many non-Christians.

But what of his brother?

In Luke’s Gospel, the parable of the Prodigal (lost) Son is 22 verses. Only five of them are about the “other” brother.

I can’t help but wonder though –
isn’t this like so many other instances,
where we remember one portion of what’s in the Bible,
and pretty much ignore the rest of the message,
even though it’s just as important?

In case you need a refresher – here’s the complete parable –

The Parable of the Lost Son

Lk 15:11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
Lk 15:13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
Lk 15:17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
Lk 15:21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
Lk 15:22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Lk 15:25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
Lk 15:28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 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. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
Lk 15:31 “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”

I feel like I can relate more to the “other brother”. So many angry years.


I was thinking last night – maybe this is why I tend to write the things I do. I read others’ posts about the wonderful things that God is doing for them. And He does. But when it comes to me – more often than not I seem to end up writing for the “other brother” – the ones of us who believe in God – even believe Him and try to follow Him – but still keep our distance from Him.

With my background, that’s hardly surprising. Sort of. Even as a little kid in grade school, I was fascinated by the concept of a Father who loved me, like it says in Luke –

Lk 11:11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

All these years, I have wanted that so much. But it’s hard to believe. Especially when things don’t go well. But then, that’s the danger of an incomplete message, isn’t it? Eventually I learned – Jesus never promised life would be great and wonderful. We never hear that in some churches – but it’s certainly in the Bible. And then we wonder – why isn’t life better? And we feel like He’s just as disappointing as our own earthly fathers.

But that is so wrong!

So I really think that’s what my message is really about.
We need to read / know / understand the whole thing.
Not just the “good” parts. All of it.
Otherwise – we end up like the “other brother”.
Myself included.

So – back to the “other brother”.

He’s upset. Because his younger brother took his inheritance, left home, wasted all of that inheritance, came back home, and their father celebrated the return of his lost son. By the way – celebrating in a way that he never did (apparently) for the brother who remained home all that time.
To make matters worse – the brother who wasted his inheritance was willing to come back as one of the men working for the father. Pretty much what he deserved right? Maybe not even that much, since he’d already proved himself untrustworthy.

The older brother’s complaint is summed up in three short verses –

Lk 15:28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 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. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

He’s so mad, he doesn’t even call his brother “his brother” – but tells the father that it’s “his son”. Reminds me of when I used to get in trouble, and my father would come home – then my mother would ask him if he knew what “his son” had done.

And then the father replies in two even shorter verses –

Lk 15:31 “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”

And even in those two verses, one of them is actually about the younger brother – the one who wasted his inheritance.

The one key verse about the “other brother” is this one –

Lk 15:31 “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.

Look at that.
The “other brother” had been with his father the whole time.
Everything of the father’s was his as well. At least, it could have been.

But the “other brother” didn’t realize what he had. What he could have add all along.
He didn’t have it though. Because he chose not to have it. He only listened to his father’s commands. No more. No less.

Doesn’t that sound so much like the difference between the Old and New Testaments.

The Old Testament is seen as being all about following the rules. Obey the commandments.

The new Testament brings us Jesus – and “all of a sudden” – God seems to want to get to know us “up close and personal”.
He sent His son – Emanuel – God with us.

It’s like this was something new.
Something the Old Testament people could not have had – because they never had the chance. All they had was commands.
They are like the older brother.

Then the young brother comes along – the lost one – and Jesus is calling to “him”. Calling to the lost ones to come to Him.

But wait.

What about Adam and Eve? The “original” Old Testament characters.

God actually walked with them! In the garden of Eden.
How much more “up close and personal” can one get?

And later, when God led His people from slavery under Egypt – just before giving the ten commandments –

Ex 19:9 The LORD said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the LORD what the people had said.
Ex 19:10 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes 11 and be ready by the third day, because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. 13 He shall surely be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on him. Whether man or animal, he shall not be permitted to live.’ Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they go up to the mountain.”

So God wanted the people to go up the mountain – after they consecrated themselves – and after they received the signal.

Then the ten commandments were given.

However, right after giving them the ten commandments –

Ex 20:18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

Yes – there were commandments.
But God also wanted to be with the people.
However – the people didn’t want to be with God.

Not unlike Adam and Eve. They made their choice to be “like” God – rejecting Him, and not wanting to be “with” Him.

Not unlike the older brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The older brother actually was with the father. But he wasn’t.

Conclusion

So what’s the real conclusion of the Parable of the Prodigal Son?

We’re all prodigal sons.

Most of us just don’t realize it.

To illustrate this, let’s look at another sequence of verses – where you surely know the first statement from Jesus, and probably even the one at the end, but how many remember the ones in the middle?

Jn 14:5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jn 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Jn 14:8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jn 14:9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Like I said – the first one – I am the way and the truth and the life.

And the last one – You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

But what about this one from the middle – 12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

Do you remember that one?
Do you believe that one?

How many of us can “even” do what Jesus did – let alone do even greater things?

Not me. No one I know either.

So, did Jesus lie?

Or are we just like the “other brother” – being with Jesus – but not really being with Him?

We truly are all prodigal sons and daughters.

It’s time to realize it –
admit it –
and run to Him –
because He’s sure waiting for us.

Please leave a comment - it's nice to hear from you