“The accomplished Son” Luke 15: 11-32
Remember this is a parable about a father not sons.
- Last week we looked at the Father and his mercy and willingness to accept the wayward son back.
- The Father even brings embarrassment to himself in receiving the son back.
- This week we will look at the older brother.
- This is a lesson in jealousy and not understanding the father’s grace and mercy.
- Some have suggested that Jesus uses the older brother to represents the Pharisees or the religious establishment of the day. Could be.
Verse 12 It does say in this verse that the property was divided between them, plural. Which means that the older son also received his share which has led some commentators to suggest that older brother is less than innocent here.
- Most likely the custom of the day would have the older brother step in and try to prevent the estate from being divided, the voice of reason if you will.
- The older brother does appear to do the right thing though and stay home and farm the land with his father.
Verse 25 You can just see the older brother, he’s been out in the field in the heat and dust all day and as he makes he was back toward the house then he suddenly hears music coming from the house.
- The word used here for music is used only here in the entire NT. The word is actually symphonia and refers to band music and perhaps singing.
- The word for dancing here also occurs only here in the entire NT.
- Side Note To get a party of this size going and to kill and butcher the fattened calf took some time. This didn’t happen instantly. So where has the older brother been? Is this farm so large that he could be gone for several days tending to flocks or fields?
Verse 26 So he asks one of the servants, this does show that this is a bigger farm to have servants.
- The word used here for servant is not the usual word for servant or slave but a word used for a young person even a child servant, or a young non-family member.
- The verb structure is also one of ongoing nature, so the older brother appears to be quizzing this young servant for some time as to what was going on back at the house.
Verse 27 He announces that the younger brother has come home and that the father has killed that fattened calf.
- Now remember as we talked about last week, they didn’t have fattened calves hanging around for no reason.
- This calf would have been chosen and raised in a special way for a very special purpose like an upcoming wedding or the Day of Atonement feast.
- The fact that the fattened calf has been killed is a big deal, this didn’t just happen, this wasn’t normal.
- The news of the fattened calf being killed in the same sentence as “your brother is home” set off the older brother’s anger.
Verse 28a Some have suggested that the older brother is angry because he feared further division of the estate.
- “The parable’s use of space is interesting and ironic: the brother stays outside the house and cannot bring himself to go in and celebrate his brother’s return. The apparent insider is an outsider.”
- What the older brother thinks he has; he gives up on his own as the result of his fit of jealousy.
- So why the younger prodigal went to great lengths to bring shame and insult to the father the older brother is now doing the same. Don’t try to remove the speck in your brother’s eye while there is a plank in your own eye.
- It’s an issue of disobedience by proximity, one is disobedient a long way off and the other is disobedient while close by.
Verse 28 Here again the father takes the initiative and comes out to the older brother just like he ran to meet the younger brother when he was still a long way off.
- The verb structure here is that the father made repeated pleadings to the older brother for him to come in.
- “Perhaps he is unaware that his brother has returned in humility. But he is definitely focused on himself and unmoved by his brother’s safe return.
- Notice the very different emotions and reaction between the three, the repentant prodigal, the joy of the father, and the jealous anger of the older brother.
Verse 29 The older brother now gets real self-righteous and tries to defend his position by relating how faithful he has been and how hard he has worked. Trying to earn his way into his inheritance,
- We again see the reversals, the brother that was out is now in and the one that was in is now out. The “inside brother” now complains from the outside. The brother that was outside now celebrates from the inside. The younger brother felt fortunate to be considered a day laborer the older brother now resents his position as a son.
- His comment about the goat here shows that he feels like his faithfulness went unnoticed and unrewarded.
Verse 30 The elder brother’s complaint continues but now turns from his own hurt feelings to attacking the father’s gracious treatment of the prodigal son.
- The anger and resentment of the older brother are apparent in the language he uses in this verse.
- He says “this son of yours” or “this one”
- The older brother describes the prodigal’s behavior in the most unflattering terms.
- Even suggesting prostitutes which was never mentioned earlier in the story.
- Notice how quick the older brother is to point out the sin in the younger brother’s life while ignoring his own self-righteous attitude. Take the plank out of our own eye.
- Several commentators have suggested that the older brother was thinking along the lines of Deut 21:18-21.
- But if the older brother was thinking like this then he is missing the point that his brother had come home repentant whereas the passage in Deut deals with the unrepentant.
Verse 31 The older son didn’t need to earn anything through faithfulness or hard work. It was already his.
- Unlike the older brother’s rather terse and rude address here the father uses a term of great affection and endearment with “my son.”
- The father also affirms the son’s faithfulness with the you are always with me.
- Again, as with the prodigal the response of the father is not what one would expect given the disrespect shown by the older son.
- The word translated as “everything” is really the word “all” and is emphatic here and stands in contrast to the “never gave me” back in verse 29.
- The NASB renders this well as “all that is mine is yours.”
- He has always had everything that belongs to the father.
Verse 32 The Father reminds him that the young brother is indeed a brother, not just some distant stranger.
- The Father also again makes the statement as he did in the last section that this son is alive again.
- Jesus then leaves the story dangle if you will, what did the older brother decide to do?
- If the older brother refuses to repent and come inside and join the celebration, he stands to lose what he is trying to protect. While the younger son now receives what he doesn’t deserve.