Friday, March 22

Friday, March 22 

Scripture: Luke 15:25-32

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’

28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.  32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

Some thoughts:

     Here we see the heart of the other self-centered brother. While the younger son grabbed what was his and took off, thinking only of himself, the older brother blamed the father for not being generous toward him, thinking only of himself. This was a giant pity party. Serving his father, he called “slavery.” Was he glad to see his little brother? No. Was he concerned about the time his brother had been away? No. Did he feel his father owed him something? Yes. His heart is embarrassingly laid bare before us. Then the father does something with the older son he did not do with the younger. He pleaded with him. Why? When the younger son demanded his inheritance and took off, the father did not plead with him not to go. He gave him that freedom. But here, he pleads with the elder son to rejoice with them in the joy of repentance.

     The elder son could not let go of his brother’s past. He was so consumed with himself. Though he was the elder brother, in some ways he was the more immature of the two, for he had not yet “come to his senses.” He remained the childish, reluctant, and joyless joint heir of the wealthy father, a sad place for an heir to be.

     What is the bigger picture here that Jesus is getting at? Remember he told three the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. Those listening to him were a large crowd including tax collectors and other well-known sinners plus Pharisees and teachers of the religious law who were annoyed because Jesus associated with sinners in their eyes, failing to recognize their own sinfulness. In the parable of the two sons, the prodigal son represented the tax collectors, prostitutes, and such. The father represented God and the elder son the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Like the elder son, the Pharisees complained that they had kept the law to the nth degree and Jesus wasn’t giving them any credit but was embracing and forgiving the sinners and not honoring them. They were intent on distancing themselves from sinners as evidenced in the phrase “Yet when this son of yours . . ..”  

     It occurred to me that the father raised two rather self-centered boys. Had he failed as a father? He gave his sons freedom to fail, and both were self-focused. How did he raise such selfish boys? Then, I remembered in this parable, the father is a portrayal of God. We are the sons in this story! It’s a commentary on the Father’s great love. All of his children are prodigals. It is not a commentary on God’s failure as a parent, quite the opposite. It tells of his great love and eagerness to forgive and restore wayward and rebellious children to the point of going to the cross.

Music: “My Song Is Love Unknown” Sylvia Burnside

Prayer: Gracious Lord of joy and delight, grant that I may always rejoice with those who rejoice, cheer for those who are cheerful, laugh with those who laugh, be happy with those who are happy, be enthusiastic with those who are enthusiastic, discover anew with those who discover new things. Forbid that I should ever withhold my heart’s embracing of another’s joy for some silly, selfish, or sanctimonious reason. Your kingdom does not need more “joy monitors.” From sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us! Amen!      —Daniel Sharp