Summary: Have we as the Church become the older brother? Do we refuse to join the party, pointing to our service, sacrifices and sinlessness?
THE OLDER BROTHER
Farmer Joe was in a serious accident and decided to take the trucking company responsible for the accident to court. In court, the trucking company’s lawyer was questioning farmer Joe. "Didn’t you say, at the scene of the accident, ’I’m fine’?," questioned the lawyer. Farmer Joe responded, "Well I’ll tell you what happened. I had just loaded my favourite mule Bessie into the..."
"I didn’t ask for any details," the lawyer interrupted, "just answer the question. Did you not say, at the scene of the accident, ’I’m fine’!" Farmer Joe said, "Well I had just got Bessie into the trailer and I was driving down the road..." The lawyer interrupted again and said, "Judge, I am trying to establish the fact that, at the scene of the accident, this man told the Highway Patrolman on the scene that he was just fine. Now several weeks after the accident he is trying to sue my client. I believe he is a fraud. Please tell him to simply answer the question."
By this time the Judge was fairly interested in Farmer Joe’s answer and said to the lawyer, "I’d like to hear what he has to say about his favourite mule Bessie." Joe thanked the Judge and proceeded, "Well as I was saying, I had just loaded Bessie, my favourite mule, into the trailer and was driving her down the highway when this huge semi-truck and trailer ran the stop sign and smacked my truck right in the side. I was thrown into one ditch and Bessie was thrown into the other. I was hurting real bad and didn’t want to move. However, I could hear ole Bessie moaning and groaning. I knew she was in terrible shape just by her groans. Shortly after the accident a Highway Patrolman came on the scene. He could hear Bessie moaning and groaning so he went over to her. After he looked at her he took out his gun and shot her between the eyes. Then the Patrolman came across the road with his gun in his hand and looked at me. He said, "Your mule was in such bad shape I had to shoot her. How are you feeling?" It was then that I said, "I’m fine."
Today let me start by asking, how are you doing? There is no need to say “I’m fine” if your not. We have all been touched by death, because of sin. Let me ask a bigger question. How are WE (as a church) doing? Are we OK? Are we fulfilling our mission? Are we touching our community?
Luke 15:1-2 Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." 3 Then Jesus told them this parable:
Jesus is telling this parable to the religious leaders of the day. The central character in the parable of the prodigal son is not the younger brother or the father. It is the older brother. Not the one who went away but the one who stayed. He represented the ones Jesus was telling the parable to.
Luke 15:25-32 Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' 28 The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!' 31 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "
I always find it amazing how unsaved people like Jesus, but they do not like the church. It was the same when Jesus walked the earth 2000 years ago. All through the gospels we see that religious people were offended by Jesus but hurting and lost people were attracted to Him. In every case Jesus chose the outcast over the religious ‘scripture believing’ leader He had contact with. He attracted irreligious people. Generally today our churches do not. Why do you think that is?
I think part of our problem is that we have become the religious elite of our day. As churches we have become the older brother in the story. The reason we as churches often don’t attract the lost is that we sometimes show the same unattractive traits the older brother had in choosing not to attend the party. From the mouth of the older brother we see 3 ugly attitudes: