Lost and Found–the Prodigal Son, part 2
You may remember that, at the beginning of this chapter, the Pharisees and scribes complained about the fact that Jesus was receiving sinners and eating with them (vs. 2). Jesus told these three parables in response to that complaint. Each parable tells the story of something lost and then found. When the thing is lost, there is great distress, and when the thing is found, there is great rejoicing. The point of all three of the parables is that everyone ought to rejoice when the lost thing is found, that is, when a sinner repents. The self-righteous scribes and Pharisees were not doing that. They would rather condemn the sinner than rejoice when he repents.
Most of us are familiar with the parable of the Prodigal Son and recognize that it naturally falls into two parts. The first part is all about the lost prodigal son, his fall into sin, his repentance, and his reunion with his father. That’s a good picture of sinful choices, followed by genuine repentance, and restoration. But that’s not really the main point of the parable. The main point of the parable is found in the second part of the story and pertains to how the older brother responded to the repentance and restoration of his younger brother.
By way of review, last time we looked at two main points:
- The prodigal son pictures a lapse into sin followed by true repentance.
- The father pictures God’s mercy and compassion toward repentant sinners.
To finish out the parable, today we’ll consider the rest the story:
- The older brother pictures the unrepentant hostility of the scribes and Pharisees against Jesus.
Jesus designed the story to emphasize the errors of the older brother. The PS was lost, but so was his brother. The PS eventually repented. The story doesn’t tell us if the older brother ever did. So this is really the story of two lost sons.
.25 The older son comes in from a day of hard work and finds the household is celebrating. He wonders what’s going on, and a servant tells him that his younger brother has come home. The father is throwing a big party because the prodigal son has come back home “safe and sound” (ὑγιαίνω), i.e., healthy and whole. The PS suffered no physical harm in his misadventures and was now also in good shape spiritually because he had repented and returned to the father.
The older brother was not in such good shape, at least spiritually speaking. He represents the sinful attitudes of the scribes and Pharisees. These attitudes explain why the Jewish leadership did not accept Jesus. They are like the older son who refused to join the party.
The parable is designed to help us see our ungodly attitudes and turn from them. The parable is an invitation to join the party, to celebrate the fact that God welcomes repentant sinners into his household through Jesus.
Let’s look at the bad attitudes of the older brother, which is really describes the bad attitude of the scribes and Pharisees. We should make sure these attitudes don’t describe us.