Summary: As I have continued to grow in this Christian journey, I have begun to discover the older son in Jesus' narrative is every bit as lost as the younger
TITLE: DON’T MISS THE PARTY
SCRIPTURE: ST. LUKE 15:25-32
I am sure like many of you this morning, we have heard this passage of scripture taught and preached many times over the decades. I am proud to say, I have participated and enjoyed Sunday School all of my life, therefore, I am very familiar with this account of THE PRODIGAL SON. I had always thought over the years - How was it fair the bad boy got a party and the good one didn't? It wasn't until I was much older I realized the narrative was infinitely more about the Father's love than the prodigal's misconduct. Let me begin by helping us define the word “PRODIGAL” which has been attached to this parable –
• Spending money or resources freely and recklessly
• Wastefully Extravagant
• Having or giving something on a lavish scale
• A person who spends money in a recklessly extravagant way
As I have continued to grow in this Christian journey, I have begun to discover the older son in Jesus' narrative is every bit as lost as the younger.
• In his book The Prodigal God -- Timothy Keller points out the two brothers represent the two basic ways people try to make life work
• The younger son pursues "Self-Discovery"
• He is on a quest to find and fulfill Himself
• Even if a few people have to get hurt along the way
The older brother is committed to a more socially respectable way of being in the world –
• The way of "Moral Conformity"
• He's on a program of self-salvation, earning the approval of his community and the favor of his Father
• When he feels the terms of this deal are violated, his good attitude evaporates into resentment
Kenneth Bailey -- a Theologian who spent 40 years living in the Middle East, striving to resituate Jesus' stories in their original Palestinian context. He points out –
• For Jesus' audience, respect for one's father is Paramount
• The younger son's request for his inheritance from a still-healthy patriarch constitutes an unthinkable offense
• It amounts to saying to his own Father - "I wish you were dead"
Jesus was a Master Storyteller who knew His audience as well as the condition of each heart. When He presented the parable of the prodigal son, tax collectors and sinners in the crowd drew near in order to hear what He had to say, but there were also SCRIBES and PHARISEES in the audience who came with grumbling attitudes and critical hearts. Jesus masterfully crafted a story that addressed exactly what both the sinners and the religious leaders needed to hear.
We are all probably very familiar with this parable of the Prodigal Son, and he is usually our main focus. However, there are two other characters and dynamics operating in the narrative, and we learn valuable lessons from them as well. In fact, we can probably each identify with one of the characters -
• A Wayward Son
• A Loving Father
• A Resentful Brother
The Tax Collector and Sinners in the audience could readily see the similarity between their lives and that of the Prodigal Son, because he had wasted his life on Sinful Pleasures and had found himself in the lowest state he could imagine.
• In a Hog Pen feeding pigs
• He was so hungry he would have gladly eaten the pods he gave the pigs
The only way out of the situation was to return to his father in repentance as a servant because he felt unworthy to be called his son. But instead of shaming and reprimanding him, his father welcomed him home - forgave him -- and threw a party for him.
You remember what we did when we were younger and knew we messed up and had to “eat humble pie.” The son gave the little speech he had been practicing all the way back: “FATHER, I HAVE SINNED AGAINST HEAVEN, AND IN YOUR SIGHT. I AM NO LONGER WORTHY TO BE CALLED YOUR SON.”
But it fell on deaf ears. It was as if the father said, “Yea, Yea, Yea, Whatever.” Because, no sooner than the words were out of his mouth, the father called back to his servants and said --
‘BRING OUT THE BEST ROBE, AND PUT IT ON HIM.
PUT A RING ON HIS HAND, AND SHOES ON HIS FEET.
BRING THE FATTENED CALF, KILL IT, AND LET US EAT, AND CELEBRATE;
FOR THIS, MY SON, WAS DEAD, AND IS ALIVE AGAIN.
HE WAS LOST, AND IS FOUND.’
“THEY BEGAN TO CELEBRATE.”
At this point, the Spotlight Shifts to the older brother, who – wouldn’t you know it – was out working in the field. By contrast to the Prodigal Son, the older brother was a Paragon of Virtue. You know the type don’t you? – The over-achievers – they kind of get on your nerves -