Summary: The danger of staying on the outside is actually extremely dangerous because it really is staying outside of the will of God. And anytime you are outside the will of God you are in a very dangerous place and position.
Chapter 15 is one of the most important chapters in the entire Bible; it includes several powerful parables, which deals with the lost—to include the parable of the Lost Sheep: which represents the lost sinner out in the world, the parable of the Lost Coin, which represents the lost sinner within the home, the parable of the Prodigal Son, represent the wayward Christian. The story of the Prodigal Son seems to come in six (6) steps, rebellion, recklessness, realization, repentance, restoration, and then resentment. It would have been nice, in fact perfect, if it had ended there in the 24th verse of this chapter with restoration, but it didn’t, because Jesus gives us yet another parable in His series of parables—the parable of the Elder Son.
When the younger brother in this text decided to come home back to the father, this is when the party began—but as the party barely begins the resentment of the older brother becomes a great issue. The elder brother made it quite clear that he wasn’t coming to the party; he would much rather settle for simply staying on the outside (in the field) due to his jealousy and resentment towards his younger brother and his anger towards his father for embracing what he felt—his loser younger brother.
The story of the Prodigal Son is indeed a very beautiful story but if we cut it short at the return of and celebration for the younger son then we miss a huge part of what Jesus was teaching. Yes, the younger brother did learn a great lesson that through the generations have benefited all of us who loves the Word the God—but the older brother was still offended, if he brings anything to the party it is legalism, disdain, arguments, and contempt. He felt that he was owed an explanation from his father, and with this said—there are people today who actually believe that God owes them some sort of explanation for many of the horrible events and circumstances that take place around the world today.
In fact, there are people who live their entire lives demanding an explanation and there are those of whom you would think deserves an explanation. Such as, the father who holds a rose taken off his son’s coffin, the wife who holds the flag taken off her husband’s casket, the couple with the barren womb and the fervent prayers, the families of innocent crime victims all throughout America, and people who have lost greatly through natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes—you would think that would receive an immediate explanation from God. But the truth is, God owes us absolutely nothing and we owe Him everything. This is exactly why Job said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."
I just watched a Youtube video (yes I watch Youtube) of a god-fearing family in Oklahoma as they set foot outside their tornado shelter after the recent F5 tornado which passed through Moore, Oklahoma the other day, I could hear who I assumed was the wife and mother of the family praying as they walked through the rubble and ruin that used to be their home, and at the end of the video I distinctly heard the father and husband of the family say, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away…” now at the risk of not sounding as if I am picking on the news media I dare say that if this godly couple had been found angrily demanding an explanation from God with a clinched fist it would have been shown all over the world, but seemingly what was said during this tragic occurrence by this godly couple that day was not news worthy enough.
But what they were saying was increasingly clear God owes us no explanations. However, the father here in our text does set out to give his elder son an explanation as to why he elected to embrace his long lost younger brother with loving arms. In this parable given by Jesus, the elder son represents the self-righteous religious zealots in the world today—you know who they are, those moral, just, and good people who have never committed a gross or visible sin. Those people who are very religious and are always found doing religious works; who just know without any doubt that they are indeed acceptable to God at all times.
This parable points up to us that the spiritual state of the prodigal brother rises up while the spiritual state of the older brother falls down. And the father remains unchanging—he demonstrates equal love toward both his children; he is consistent in demonstrating the love of God. The father in this parable is a type of our heavenly Father. The younger son represents prodigals everywhere while the older brother represents all those who, through the hardness of their heart and the meanness of their spirit, want to bring down judgment on all those who are trying to make straight their paths.