By Arch Hoercher
Now for the second part of this story, which is about the older son. The older son was out in the fields, one would assume that he was working in the fields in some capacity. He was returning to the house and heard music and dancing. There was a party going on and he did not know anything about it. He called to one of the servants to ask what is going on. The servant responded that the party is for your younger brother who is back safe and sound. The older brother becomes angry and refused to go in and join the party. The father came out and pleaded with the older son to join the party. “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. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’” The older son first said that he had been “slaving” for the father. This means that he was forced to work at something he did not want to work on and had no reimbursement or wage for the work he did not want to do in the first place. He also “never” disobeyed the father’s “orders”. He is telling the father that he ALWAYS obeyed his father’s will over his life. And the father never gave him any kind of reward for his “service” not even a young goat. The older son is being as disrespectful to the father as the younger son had been at the beginning of the story. The older son is saying that he deserves more than the younger son because the younger son was a sinner and the older son is righteous.
The father then said, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 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.” This parable ends with the fate of the older son up in the air. We do not know if he joined or boycotted the party. What we do know is that the older son was bitter and angry towards his father. The older son represents the Jewish religious leadership of the time. They were upset with Jesus for upsetting their applecart of self righteousness, piety, and position. From the beginning God’s purpose for the Jewish people was to set them apart and become evangelists for God’s purpose in all peoples. He wanted all the dead to be alive again and all the lost to be found – even the gentiles. God never intended for the Jewish religion to be an exclusive “right” to the Jew alone. Notice that part of the older son’s reply was that he never even got a young goat to celebrate with his friends. “His friends”, not with the father or the family or even the father’s household. But only with “his friends” which would have been other people just like the son.
The father replied to the son “you are always with me” which means that the father has never abandoned or had forgotten the older son. God has never broken His promise and covenant with the Jewish people. The father also said that “everything I have is yours”. Everything the father owns is already the older son’s. If the older son had wanted a young goat to celebrate with his friends or even the fattened calf, he would just have to ask the father and it would have been granted him. God has given the Jewish people everything, even His one and only son. But because of their want of independence and the fact that they believed that they were righteous in their own power, the Son was rejected. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law would have stoned the younger son to death because of his sin, if they had gotten their hands on him. But he was forgiven and restored, which angered them. They were angry at Jesus because he would eat with sinners. The Pharisees and teachers of the law wanted nothing to do with sinners. Those sinners might dirty their fancy robes. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law wanted Jesus to tell everyone how great and righteous they were. Instead Jesus told everyone that they were a brood of vipers; in other words, sinners that were dead and lost who needed to be found and made alive again. They were in need of salvation as much as the tax collectors and prostitutes. God will continue to celebrate in heaven for each and every lost and dead sinner who is found and made alive again. The party will go on.
If you have never joined the party and would like to, God is ready to run to you with His love, mercy and grace. He will give you an abundant new life. All you have to do is admit that you are a sinner and understand that there is nothing you can do to earn heaven and eternal life. Ask God to come into your heart and cleanse you of all your transgressions and forgive you all your sin. He will cleanse you of all your sin and He will remember them “no more”. If you do these things there will be a party in heaven in your honor, because what was dead is now alive and what was lost has been found. Then you should find a church that will help you grow in the Christian faith and be able to fellowship with other believers.