Text: Luke 15:1-2, 11-32| Listen to Message
Two Ways of Rejecting the Father
Spoiler Alert: The Parable of The Prodigal Son is not exclusively – or maybe even primarily – about the prodigal son. In fact, Jesus himself introduced the parable this way: “There was a man who had two sons…” (Luke 15:11).
Yes, the first son Jesus tells us about is the infamous younger brother who left home and squandered his inheritance partying with prostitutes. But the story is only half done. And Jesus’ emphasis is arguably on the second son – the elder brother who stayed home and always tried to please his father.
The two brothers are a fascinating study in comparisons and contrasts.
The younger brother was a licentious rebel. The elder brother was legalistically righteous.
The younger brother walked the path of self-determination. The elder brother walked the path of moral conformity.
The younger brother spurned obedience for the sake of freedom – and ended up a slave. The elder brother spurned freedom for the sake of obedience – and ended up disobedient.
The younger brother tried to be his own lord and savior by being very, very bad. The elder brother tried to be his own lord and savior by being very, very good.
But as different as the two brothers were, their hearts were nearly identical. Neither loved his father; they both loved – and were living for – self. Both were simply using the father to get they life they thought they wanted.
In a sense, this parable is Christianity 101.
First, Jesus teaches us that living for self is the sin beneath all sins. And if our righteousness is done for self, it’s just as displeasing to God as our unrighteousness.
Second, Jesus is showing us that we are lost apart from the Father’s love. We may have a pile of money, a pile of freedom, a pile of friends, or a pile of good works, but if we don’t love God and rest in His love for us, we have nothing.
Third, salvation is not taking bad people and making them good. It’s taking dead people and making them alive.
Finally, Jesus hints here at what kind of elder brother he would be toward us – by giving us a brother who did the opposite. The elder brother in his parable wasn’t about to pursue the prodigal to a distant land. He had no interest in sharing even a penny of his own inheritance, should the prodigal return home and be reconciled to his father. So when the prodigal did return home – and repentant nonetheless – the elder brother couldn’t find it in his heart to celebrate. He was angry and despondent.
But Jesus pursued us to a distant land – coming from heaven to earth to bring us back home to the Father. In essence, he ran to get us and he shielded us from the scorn and rejection and wrath our sins deserve. He reconciled us to the Father. Jesus readily offered to share his deserved inheritance with us, the undeserving. And he rejoiced over us lost sons and daughters who’d been found by grace.
This is the message of Jesus: We’re all broken and lost, but we’re all loved, and we all need to respond to the grace of Christ by turning from our sin and self-righteousness in order to rest and trust in his love.