December 3, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ ‘The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.’”—Luke 15:25–28 (NIV)
Although I’m the youngest in my family, I’ve always identified with the older brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. I personally felt he never received the recognition he deserved other than being labeled the “hater” in this story. I understand the dedication it takes to be obedient, disciplined, and respectful of authority. I was your proud 4.0 student who made a huge deal whenever I received a grade lower than an A+. In fact, there was a time I had an hour-long spirited discussion with my college professor for grading one of my papers a 99 when there weren’t any red markings on it. He even wrote “Perfect,” but sadly he kept to his philosophy of never giving out a 100. I don’t know why, but that really bothered me and I had to, respectfully, let him know about it!
I’m also the not-so-proud sister of a prodigal son who has made multiple trips back home with the intention of going back out. It’s not difficult to stop believing in the homecoming when the departure happens over and over again. Growing up, I felt like I had to overcompensate for my brother’s transgressions, and so, it was MY duty as the ideal daughter to make my parents proud. It was a lot of pressure to take on by myself, but it was a sweet victory to witness my parents’ relief when I didn’t disappoint them.
For those like me and the older brother in this passage, our hearts can often become hardened towards our siblings, and as a consequence, towards the lost and anyone who sins against us. We become a version of the self-righteous Pharisees, keepers of the Law, parallel to the beginning of this chapter (Luke 15:2). When we don’t get the reward of our obedience, the bitter reaction comes out of nowhere and it embarrassingly exposes the ugliness and over inflation of self that has been residing in our hearts for all those years (Luke 15:29). Jesus makes it clear He will shamelessly rejoice over the ONE—and so should we (Luke 15:7)!
If a servant was the one who informed the older brother about the celebration, it’s implied the older brother wasn’t invited or he was too busy working in the field to receive the invitation in the first place. His intent to earn his father’s love through his work is theologically flawed, but how common is it for even us seasoned believers to fall into a works-based faith in order to receive a little earthly recognition?
Just because Jesus will rejoice over the one doesn’t mean He doesn’t love us faithful ones any less. Jesus is simply reminding us that it isn’t our job to judge the sincerity of the lost, but to extend our arms and welcome them home.
There’s a reason the story doesn’t end with the big homecoming of the younger son but with the earnest appeal made by a father to his older son. The homecoming should have been the happy ending because we like our stories to end complete and resolved. But here, wer’e not sure how it really ends. You see, although the father reminds his faithful son of how much he’s loved, we never learn of his son’s response. Did he embrace his father and welcomed his brother home, or did he remain in the field aimlessly working with a resentful heart?
Pause: Who are you in this story? Are you the lost son who has been found or the brother who’s always been there by your father’s side?
Practice: Write the ending of the story. We don’t know how the son reacted to his father’s plea, but how would you end this story if it was your story to tell?
Pray: Jesus, I’m humbled to read this passage and be reminded of the unconditional love You have for this world. I’m sorry when I’ve been self-absorbed and have allowed my self-righteousness to dictate my actions and my reactions. Help me remember to look around and pray for the one to come home. Heaven has enough space for all of us to rest in Your presence and Your work will not be done until the lost are finally found. Thank You for never giving up on us. Amen.
Alessandra (Ally) Velsor has been part of the Calvary Chapel staff since 2009. Because her family owned various restaurants growing up, she determined to do something else and got a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Communication. But… never say never…
She served in The Grill at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale for 14 years as a server, restaurant manager, and catering manager. She’s currently serving as the cafe supervisor in the Plantation campus. She met her husband, Kenny, working at The Grill and married him in 2011. They have two amazing children Joshua and Sunny.