Summary: Continuation of the prodigal son and the firstborn's reaction to the father's celebration. The father is disrespected because the older son refuses to attend. The father goes out to find the lost son for the second time. Jesus is redefining who is lost in
Message: The Older Son
Texts: Luke 15:11-24
Date: August 7
Pastor: Dave McBeath
This morning we continue our LOST series as we look a third time at what is commonly known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Now it is strange we call this parable the Prodigal Son and focus on the younger son that ran away. It’s especially strange when you consider there is a whole other act to the drama Jesus is telling the crowd. This Drama is about 2 sons and the vast majority of Christians gloss right the second act, about the second son. For most of my life I glossed over the second act about the older son. I read right over it and didn’t think much about it. Have you ever wondered why most Christians do this? Here’s the reason I’ve done this: I’m the older son.
I am the firstborn. I am the oldest of my parents 3 boys. (On a side note—I think God has a sense of humor—I now have 3 boys, I know first-hand what trouble we caused our parents). Who here this morning is a firstborn? Raise your hand.
Who’s not a first born? Raise your hand. Any of you want to tell us older brothers or sisters
what we are like? Put us in our place?
Henri Nouwen, author of The Return of the Prodigal, suggests first-born children,
“…want to live up to the expectations of their parents and be considered obedient and dutiful. They often want to please. They often fear being a disappointment to their parents. But they often also experience, quite early in life, a certain envy toward their younger brothers and sisters, who seem to be less concerned about pleasing and much more free in “doing their own thing.”
Let me tell on myself. This describes me. Growing up, I never wanted to let my parents down or give them cause to be disappointed in my. I was very conscientious about what others thought—especially my parents and elders in our church. I did what was right. For the most part I conformed to the expectations of my parents, teachers, and religious leaders. As a result I was very cautious, careful, and deliberate about the things I did. Ask my brothers and they would tell you I was very controlling—maybe this is why my oldest son, Ian, and I clash so hard even now. But at the same time I was envious of my younger brothers, who just didn’t care about pleasing our parents and other authority figures and who were much more free about doing their own things. I didn’t dare do what my brothers did, and by the time I reached late teens and early 20’s I had a deep seated envy of my younger brothers.
Have you ever felt this way? I am willing to bet that many of us, who have grown up in the church have felt this way about spiritual younger brothers, prodigals. A moment ago, I asked the question, “Why do most Christians gloss over the second part of Christ’s parable of the prodigal son?” Could it be that the vast majority of Christians are like me. We have grown up in the church and are more like the older brother than we care to realize. Are many of our churches filled with older sons? Let’s take a look at the older son in Luke 15:25-32 and see.
Look at verse 25. It says, “Meanwhile the older son was in the field. When he came near the house he heard music and dancing.” Let me stop for just a second. Jesus is doing something here. It’s subtle. Do you see it? If you don’t, let me give you a hint…. Where was younger son, the “prodigal” son, before he started to come home? Was he in the field feeding the pigs in a far country? Why do you think Jesus starts the second half of his drama with the older son in a field? What do you think Jesus is beginning to say? Do you think he may be suggesting the older son is far from the father as well?
So the older son is coming back from his family’s fields, the lands his family owns. He enters the narrow streets that contain the tightly packed households of the village where his family lives. And as he enters the village he hears a party. The text says he heard music and dancing. He heard dancing? You don’t normally hear dancing do you? This must have been a loud party where people were having such a good time—they just let loose.
I imagine a loud, boisterous celebration going on! The drum can be heard a considerable distance away. It announces to the entire village that there is party going on right here! The whole village would be there—the adults partying in the banquet hall while the young children would be running around, playing, singing, dancing in the courtyard. As the older son gets closer, he begins to realize this party is happening at his house!