Summary: We pray the prodigal meets the father and not an older brother when they come home
Will the Prodigals ever come Home?
I want you to listen to the title of this sermon: Will the Prodigals ever come home? You know the simple answer, and the most honest answer, to that question this morning is: I don’t know! I genuinely do not know if your ‘prodigal’ will come home, only God knows that. Turn with me to Luke 15 verses 11-32. Let me, as I always do, set the context for this passage. Look at the beginning of chapter 14. Jesus is at the home of a Pharisee, it is the Sabbath day and Jesus heals a crippled man, much to the annoyance of the religious people – after all you should do no work on the Sabbath. Jesus then begins a discourse with the all those gathered in the home of the Pharisee to teach them about the kingdom of God. The next day Jesus is once again surrounded by controversy. Look at the beginning of chapter 15 – he is surrounded by sinners and tax collectors – all eager to hear what he has to say. The teachers of the Law are unimpressed with this crowd of expectant listeners. Now I want you to keep those two sets of people in mind as we proceed through this passage – the religious teachers of the Law and the ‘sinners.’ Jesus precedes the story of the lost son with two shorter stories of a lost sheep and a lost coin – where the owners of each go on a search to find that which was lost. Now we come to our passage this morning. It is a very familiar story to us, in fact I have preached on it on many occasions in the past but this morning I going to do something a little different. When I read this passage in light of the title of the sermon God kept prompting my heart with some questions that I know He wants me to ask of us all this morning as a church family:
Why did the son go home?
What sort of reaction did he get when he went home?
Have you been playing the part of the older brother?
These questions kept coming up in my spirit time and time again and I believe they were very much the promptings of God’s Spirit. So this morning I want us to look at this passage from the prodigal son’s perspective.
You know the story very well. Here is a farmer, most likely quite a wealthy man, who has two sons. The younger son is impatient for the bright lights of the distant country and so he goes to his father and asks for his inheritance – show me the money – is exactly what he demands of his father. In the ANE culture this is a shocking request, a disrespectful request, in fact it insults his father. For making such a request those listening to Jesus would expect the father in the story to beat the son and to drive him out of the family home. The first surprise for those listening to Jesus is found in verse 12 – in the gracious response of the father to such a scandalous request from this wayward son. The father’s kindness was at great personal cost – no doubt land or animals had to be sold in order to give the son his inheritance. Selling such would have inevitably led to the news of the son’s request getting out into the public domain. How often we encounter people who try to hide such things from the public domain, but there was no way the father could hide this son’s request.
Verse 13 – the younger son departs the family home and heads for the bright lights of a far country. He would have left under a cloud of disgrace but I want you to note the silence in the story here. There is no condemnation from the father. There are no stinging words of rebuke in from the father. There is no anger directed at this son from the father. But there is also silence form the older brother. In the culture of the day when such a situation arose in a family the nearest kin was expected to act as a mediator and reconciler in the situation. In the story the older brother would have been expected to take on this role within the family to maintain the family honour. There is a Christian missionary theologian called Kenneth Bailey and he tells in his book ‘Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes’ that as he preaches in the middle east he often asks who is to be the reconciler? The villages always answer ‘the brother of course.’ However, the older brother remains silent and those who were listening to Christ would have known that the older brother had failed in his responsibilities.