Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

The Older Son

This week, we are exploring Luke 15 as a congregation. This chapter includes one of the most popular parables in Scripture. Along with the Good Samaritan, this story is one of the most familiar of Jesus’ stories. As we think about this story, we are reminded that we serve an extravagant God. Jesus describes the father as undignified, running to meet his son. The father’s compassion drives his lavish forgiveness and reinstatement of the wayward son’s position in the family.

While the parable is certainly pertinant to the wayward, the obedient are also challenged in this story. The pig slop covered son is invited back into he house. He is given a robe, shoes; his status of sonship is fully restored. But the story does not end with this reunion. Another aspect of the story challenges those who have been mostly faithful. The older brother hears the music and wonders why the commotion. He asks a servant; the response is shocking.

(Luke 15:27 NIV) ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

The older son is furious. He refuses to join the party. But he is not left alone in his exasperation. We might overlook the action of the father at this point.

(Luke 15:28 NIV) So his father went out and pleaded with him.

The father is equally passionate about the older brother. Notice who takes the initiative. The father goes out to meet the older son also. While the text does specify how fast he is moving, I could imagine at least a slow jog. The father’s plea is heartfelt.

(Luke 15:31–32 NIV) ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 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.’

The older son is displeased with the action of the father. He feels shortchanged. The wayward son’s reinstatement may have decreased the older son’s inheritance (he now has to share it). But his aggravation seems to be rooted in jealousy. It appears the wayward son is getting more. Yet the father reassures the older son of his advantage. The older son had the joy of remaining with the father. The father’s love and resources have not be taken away. They have merely been extended.

We may struggle like the older son. As church people, we may feel resentful as God includes the unlikely. Yet we are challenged by the father’s love. It is not limited. It does not leave us as it extends to others. May we continually open our hearts to God’s redemptive work in the world. May we eagerly join the party instead of sulking like the older brother. May we not miss out on the fun.