The last part of the story of the prodigal son, perhaps Jesus’ most famous and beloved parable of all. The story of the selfish, impatient, ungrateful son who takes half his fathers fortune and blows it on whiskey, parties and hookers. Who ends up a Jew on skid row, wallowing in the pig-sty, not just eating pork but sleeping with them too. The son who, having hit bottom, just wants to be able to scrub the toilets in his fathers house.
It’s the story of the loving father who leaves the light on every night. The father who kept the son’s room ready and the bed made. The father who watched the horizon, looking for his lost son, praying for him to come home. The father, who so couldn’t hide his joy at the first sight of his lost son. “And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20 ESV. “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:21-24 ESV. No wonder we love this story so much. I can get all emotional just reading it sitting on my couch. We all relate to that lost son. We’ve all gone out and blown it. We’ve all wanted to just go back and feel that loving embrace, and someone love us just because we ARE. Have someone rush out and meet us on the road, and bring us back. Who doesn’t want a father who loves them like this father?
We all have that Father. We are all the beloved son or daughter. We can all “come home” to the Father who loves us, and he is just waiting for us. The light is on. The bed is made. The fattened calf is all ready to go.
But here’s the thing – we all identify with that lost son. We WANT to be that lost son. We picture ourselves as the prodigal son, coming home to that loving embrace. We WANT that party! But, the whole story of the prodigal leads us to the whole point Jesus is making with his parable. The one most of us will spend the majority of our lives being. The story of the pissed-off, bitter, resentful, self righteous, indignant son.
Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ Wow!! Good news, right?? Your brother, out there lost, alone, and broken, has come home safe and sound…
But he was angry and refused to go in. He’s angry. So angry that he refuses to go in. Refuses to share his fathers’ joy in the return of his brother. He’d rather swallow his pill of bitterness and resentment than enjoy the feast being had because his lost brother has come home.
His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. The same loving father throwing the party for the younger brother comes out to bring him into the party. But this son is having his own party – a pity party. His brother wallowed in the pig-sty, he’s going to wallow in his own self pity, anger and bitterness. Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. He forgets all that he has, and instead is focused on his jealousy for what his father is doing for his brother. “Why didn’t I get the fattened calf??” He’s pointing out how good and righteous he’s been all this time. He didn’t go out and party with his fathers money. He’s been faithful. He’s followed all the rules. He’s always done what his father wanted.
But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ Not even claiming him as his brother. “This son of yours”…he has wasted your money. Gone to Vegas and blown it!! But he comes walking up, and now we’re partying!! Haven’t I been the good son? I WANT MY PARTY!!!
And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ The father knows his son has been faithful. He’s always had, and always will have, all that his father has. He has the keys to the kingdom. It says in Job – “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” Job 23:10 ESV. The righteous will always have a place in the Fathers house. But earlier in the chapter, Jesus tells this story – “”What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:4-7 ESV. Jesus told us also that He came not for the righteous, but for those who know they are sinners. Here’s the thing – just as we are all the prodigal son at some point in time, we are also this older brother. We spend much more time as the jealous big brother than we do as the prodigal. We meet Jesus, change our lives, read our bible, get some knowledge. Now we get self righteous. We claim our salvation, draw our lines, and begin looking out at the world, and begin to see how sinful this world really is. We see all kinds of lost souls, instead of having compassion on them, instead of running out with the father to meet them, we fold our hands, stomp our feet, and point out all the things they did!! How can we have a party for this sinner? Where is my party? Now that we have the keys to the kingdom, we want to start locking people out. We don’t understand what Revelation tells us – “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.” Revelation 21:22-25 ESV
…and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. We think we have the keys to the kingdom. But the kingdom is not locked. It is open for all who choose to come. It s open for all the prodigals who get tired of the lake of fire. Every time someone comes through the gates, there is going to be a fattened calf feast. We don’t always like this. After all, we’ve been following you THIIIIS long Jesus!!
We are already in the kingdom. We don’t get to lock the doors behind us. We leave the light on. We are the light. We are supposed to bringing others with us. It is our calling. Don’t sulk in self pity when we succeed in what we are called to do!!
Don’t miss the party..,
“”Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'””
Luke 15:25-32 ESV