Hi Friends! Here’s a reminder of where we are and where we’re going with the Lost Series from Luke 15: Lost Part 1: The story of the Lost Sheep. Lost Part 2: The story of the Lost Coin. Lost Part 3 Introduces the Return of the Lost Son. Lost Part 4: The Younger Son. Click these links to catch up on anything you missed!
Today’s post, Lost Part 5, picks up on the account of the Older Brother. We’ll finish the series next week with Lost Part 6, The Father. I’ve put the relevant section of scripture in each post. Here we go with some insights about the Older Brother:
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’ 28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’ 31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’ ” (Luke 15:25-32 NLT)
Last week I told you about a season in my teens when my attitude and behavior was much like that of the younger son! I was selfish and my behavior was hurtful and embarrassing to my Mom and Dad. But they were patient and I grew up and things got better! However, in the sixty-plus years since that season, I’ve often been tempted to be more like the older brother in the story!
Keep in mind that the very specific reason Jesus told the “Lost” stories, the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son, is the reaction of the Pharisees and teachers of religious law to his acceptance of, and willingness to associate with, “tax collectors and other notorious sinners”!
1 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. 2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them! (Luke 15:1-2 NLT)
Jesus told the stories of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin to try one more time to help them understand that God loves everyone! Jesus told the story of the Lost Son to try once again to help them understand that God loves Pharisees and teachers of religious law and God also loves tax collectors and notorious sinners! It’s not either-or! It’s not one or the other! It’s both!
When I think about the older brother and how he reacted when he heard that his younger brother was home (“your brother is back!”), and how he got angry at his father and wouldn’t even acknowledge his brother (“this son of yours”), I start to get all judgmental about him and want to make him the bad guy. In reality, so many times I’m just like him. The Father isn’t mad at either of his sons. He loves them both! He’s so glad they’re both home, under the same roof. And he wants them to love each other just as he loves both of them.
There is no “bad guy” in the story of the Lost Son.
• The Father loved his responsible stay-at-home son who worked hard every day and who had everything he could possibly want! The entire estate belonged to him and he enjoyed the privilege of being with his father all the time.
• But the Father also loved his irresponsible, run-off-and waste-it-all son! He missed him, he grieved for him, he watched for him, and when his son came home he ran to him and welcomed him with open arms, no rebukes given and no questions asked!
The younger son didn’t appreciate what he had until he lost it! That’s a hard way to learn! But his older brother didn’t appreciate what he had because he felt that he deserved it—that he’d earned it! When we think we deserve the blessings we have and the privileges we enjoy, we really don’t appreciate them any more than the younger son did. And we feel resentful when people we think don’t deserve the blessings, the privileges, the acceptance, and the favor, get them anyway. We think they don’t deserve what they haven’t earned!
On this glorious day of celebration and rejoicing, the older brother was miserable! He wasn’t willing to go to the party because he was filled with resentment at his brother for being irresponsible and at his father for forgiving him and accepting him back into the family. That’s a tough place to be in, friends: to be angry with your brother for not being like you, and to be judging your Father for being merciful!
The Older Brother had lost his joy! He was resentful. Suddenly all the blessings his Father had given him meant nothing because he was filled with resentment at both his Father and his brother!
I know! It sounds crazy doesn’t it? But it was true. It’s what the Older Brother was experiencing at that very moment. His Father begged him to come in and share in his joy that his Lost Son was found. His Father invited him to be glad that his Lost Brother was home and safe. But he just couldn’t do it! Like the Pharisees and teachers of religious law who couldn’t be happy that “God so loves the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life”, he couldn’t rejoice that his irresponsible brother, who wasted his share of the inheritance, had been forgiven, accepted, loved, and celebrated by his Father!
If he wanted to get his joy back, he’d have to let go of judging his brother and judging his father. He’d have to release his resentment and self-righteousness and be glad about what his Father was glad about! He’d have to forgive his Father for being merciful!
Here are some very important “Older Brother” things to think about, friends:
• The Older Brother had everything he could have wanted. The entire estate belonged to him. He had meaningful work to do that he enjoyed and was good at. He was with his Father every day. But when he saw his Father’s mercy to his Younger Brother, he lost his joy. He became resentful at his Father and his brother. He had everything, but he could no longer enjoy it when he saw his brother forgiven and accepted.
• If we, like the Older Brother, become resentful at God for accepting people we judge to be unworthy, notorious sinners, or despicable people, we lose our joy. We can have all the blessings and all the privileges, but we won’t be able to experience joy until we can be joyful about what God is joyful about!
As long as we’re angry with people who aren’t like us because they’ve been accepted by God, and angry with God for accepting people we don’t approve of, we’ll never be able to fully enjoy the grace and blessing lavished on us.
Let’s rejoice that Our Father is merciful and loves Younger Brothers and Older Brothers alike! And let’s join Heaven’s celebration when those who are dead come back to life and when those who are lost are found!
Next week, Lost Part 6 – The Father! I’m really looking forward to sharing with you some insights into the most exciting part of this story! Thanks for reading!