Sunday, 24 April 2022

The Parable Of The Prodigal Son (Part Two)

The Parable Of The Prodigal Son (Part Two)

The Older Son

(A Teaching On How We Are Saved By Grace, Not Works)

Luke 15:11-32

“Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.  And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.
But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’
And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry;  for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.  So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’

But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.  So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.  But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’

And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”

Oh what a gripping parable! A tale quite like no other;
A picture of mankind within this young and older brother.
One a reckless prodigal who lived a wayward life,
The other one obedient, keeping free from strife.

The older son a righteous man and zealous in his ways.
Proud of his achievements while he sought his father’s praise.
Seeking recognition for all that he had done,
Indignant at his brother and for what he had become.

Merciless and outraged, he scorned the favour shown.
An insult to his pride to see this sinner crawling home!
His brother wasn’t worthy! He’d shamed his father’s name!
Feeling fully justified, he viewed him with disdain.

Yet how this grieved his father, it tore his soul apart,
For though the elder dwelled with him, he didn’t know his heart.
Far from understanding the love he had for all,
Forgiving every child of his, no matter how they fall.

Patiently reminding him that all he had was his!
His love based not on what he does but based on who he is!
Oh may we see the message here, the truth we can’t replace;
Salvation’s not of merit but of God’s redeeming grace!

Isaiah 64:6
“But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.”

Ephesians 2:8-9
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Points For Reflection And Insight
The older brother in this parable gives a very different picture from the younger one. Here we see one who takes pride in their “clean living” and so has developed a sense of self-righteousness and superiority; the very thing which the Pharisees are guilty of as they bring their complaint to Jesus.

We see in the older brother the manifestation of what a bitter heart looks like. When he sees how joyfully his wayward brother is received, instead of celebrating with his father, he takes it as an insult to his hard work and obedience. Sadly, we find so often in life that the self-righteous and proud person never feels they’re treated as well as they think they deserve.

Instead of appreciating the fact that he had so much to be thankful for, the older brother becomes resentful and angry. In spite of this, the father goes to great lengths to show his love to his older son by coming outside to talk with him.
He reminds his son that because of their closeness, he enjoys his father’s company, fellowship, home and has a wonderful inheritance. Yet regardless of all these benefits, the older son remains unappreciative and outraged that his rebellious brother was welcomed home.

It seems that Jesus wanted to paint a very clear illustration of the religious leaders who were also outraged with Him for receiving sinners. The picture is sadly a common one we still see today, that people can claim to be close with God yet completely fail to understand His heart.
The parable goes on to demonstrate how the father was right to celebrate the return of his wayward son, answering the complaint that began this whole chapter in Luke 15.

I think the comment from Charles Spurgeon on this parable gives a great summary. Spurgeon says,

“The truth here taught is just this: that mercy stretches forth her hand to misery, that grace receives men as sinners, that it deals with demerit, unworthiness and worthlessness; that those who think themselves righteous are not the objects of divine compassion, but the unrighteous, the guilty and the underserving, are the proper subjects for the infinite mercy of God; in a word, that salvation is not of merit but of grace.”

The idea that we can earn our salvation is a common misconception among many people. The Bible makes it very clear however that we cannot make ourselves acceptable to God through our own efforts, it’s only by grace that any of us are saved!

Do you believe that you’ll go to Heaven when you die? If so, what premise do you base this on? Is it from being a “good person” or doing “good deeds?” If this is the case, Jesus shows us clearly through this parable that good deeds and righteous acts will not save us. It’s only through repentance and coming to our Heavenly Father that we come into a right standing and relationship with Him.

If you’re a Christian, do you know someone who believes they’re going to Heaven based on their own “good works?” How can you share the truth in a loving way with them today?

The three parables we’ve looked at in Luke 15 create such a wonderful picture for us with so many different levels.
The parable of the lost sheep suggests the searching, seeking work of the Shepherd Son, Jesus Christ.
The parable of the lost coin goes on to show the Holy Spirit working through the Spirit-filled Church.
The parable of the prodigal son clearly speaks of the unconditional love of our Heavenly Father.

In all three parables in Luke 15 the message is clear:
To the sinner- God loves you. Repent and come home to the Father.
To the righteous- You are saved by grace. Be grateful for your relationship with God and be happy when lost souls are found.

Whether we relate to the younger or the older son today, may we give thanks to God for His endless patience, His abounding mercy and His beautiful gift of grace in our lives!