Faithlife Sermons

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I love that little clip.
It gives you a look at the other character of this story.
You see, I think we’ve often misnamed this parable.
Instead of calling it the parable of the prodigal son, I really think you should call it the parable of the prodigal sons.
There was definitely more than one prodigal in this story.
We often hear of the run-away son who squandered his money, ruined his reputation and caused his father unbelievable grief, but many lessons and sermons leave the elder brother sulking in the background without a lot of attention and with even less explanation.
But I do not think he was just a supporting actor in this story.
In fact, what Jesus wants to teach us through this elder brother is largely the same lesson he taught through the younger: Running away physically to the far country, or running away spiritually while living at home both lead to the same place: Distance from the father.
The sad thing is you can be a long way from home and not even know it.
The Pharisees were.
They were constantly congratulating themselves on their law keeping, and yet, they were not really in touch with the law giver.
That’s the message I believe Luke wants to communicate here: Whether you’re a prodigal in the pig pen, or a prodigal at home, you’re still a prodigal, and the road to your Father’s heart is the same.
It is the road of repentance.
And I must say that I think that the story of the elder brother is something all of us really need to hear this morning.
I really want you to listen to it for a couple of reasons.
First, I really want you to listen because of where we are.
We are at church this morning and all of you look as far from the pig pen of sin as can be, this morning.
We all want to be accepted, so, when we come to a place like this we try to look like we belong, and if we make a practice of coming to a place like this, we get into the habit of appearances that the elder brother (and I might add, the Pharisees) had developed.
And in that environment, it is easy to develop into an elder brother prodigal.
In fact, when you read this elder brother’s complaint against his younger brother, he even sounds like some church members.
You remember the story.
The younger prodigal has received his inheritance, blown in the far country in a very risque way, and has returned in complete repentance.
He has been welcomed with open arms and forgiven so completely by his father that he throws him a party.
That’s where we pick up the story in Luke 15:25:
“Now his older son was in the field.
And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.
So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.
And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’
“But he was angry and would not go in.
(Sound like any church members you know??) Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.
So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.
But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
“And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.
It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’
You see, you need to listen today because, maybe without even realizing it, you may be an elder brother prodigal.
It happens a lot in churches.
But there’s another reason to listen.
It’s because of what we miss.
It’s really the same thing that the elder brother (and, by extension, the pharisees) missed: You cannot equate goodness with godliness.
Many church members have been doing that since they were kids, and, in so doing, they have missed the reality of what it means to even be a son of the father.
This elder brother opens up a whole new evaluation of holiness that leaves those who think themselves the most spiritual perhaps in greater danger than the prodigal who’s slopping the hogs in the far country.
You see, it could just be that you need the same repentance the prodigal needed.
You may need to “come to yourself.”
You may need to come home in your heart.
You, in short, might need to repent, even though you consider yourself to be a good person.
Now I know that, when I preach a message like this, the temptation is to get out the pitchfork and toss it to someone else.
By the way, that’s exactly what an elder brother prodigal would do.
But can I just challenge you to really listen.
I want to give you two reason why even people who may have gone to church all their lives and consider themselves to be good people may still need to repent.
Here’s the first reason.
Good people need to repent
Now in our evangelical church world, calling someone else “lost,” is akin to an ecclesiastical slap in the face.
And just in case you might be here and not really know what I mean by “lost,” let me just say right up front that to be lost means to be someone who has never received the forgiveness that Christ offers from sin.
In short, If you’re an elder brother church member, you may be going to church, but you’re really on your way to hell.
Now I do not make that statement lightly, and neither do I expect you to take my word for it.
I think you see evidence of it right here in this story.
You see, one of the greatest changes that takes place in the heart of someone who genuinely is changed by the power of Christ is a great change in ATTITUDE, and that change in attitude is not something you see in the elder brother.
In fact, it is precisely because of his attitude that I say he is lost.
He may be living at home, but his attitude is in the pigpen.
In fact, you can smell his rotten attitude a mile away.
The first odor you detect is that of arrogance.
This was one proud boy! V 25 says, “Now his older son was in the field.
And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.
So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.
And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’
“But he was angry and would not go in.
Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.
So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you;
For years this prodigal had lived at home with his father, thinking that, somehow that should gain him favor.
He constantly told himself that he was the “good” son.
He had stayed home; he had saved his money; he had protected his family’s reputation.
He deserved respect; he deserved favor.
He had probably dreamed of the day when this younger brother would come back home, dragging his tail between his legs.
That was the day he may have been waiting for, but not for the same reason his father wanted it.
No, he imagined that his father would have the same unforgiving attitude that he had and might place his no good brother under his authority.
He may have longed for the day he could make his brother pay for the way he had ruined the family name.
And it went far beyond simple revenge.
He wanted to have his brother to realize that in this little sibling rivalry they’d had for years, that finally he had won.
He was on the top of the stack.
His brother was going to be under his thumb and was going to remain a disinherited servant to do his bidding, because, after all, he was the “good” son.
He deserved the honor.
But now, his arrogance is exposed.
Instead of greeting his brother with the punishment he deserved, his softy of a father was giving away the farm.
He had restored his robe, symbolically restoring him to his place as a son; he had restored his ring, giving him the authority that he had once had; and he had put shoes on his feet, symbolizing that his possessions had been restored, and all of this angered the elder brother.
How dare his father put his brother on his level!
And not just on his level: He’d actually put him ahead of him because his dad had killed the fatted calf for him, something he had never offered to do for him.
He was livid, and the anger of his arrogance kept him on the porch and out of the party.
His attitude was in the pigpen: You could smell his arrogance.
And you could also smell his self-righteousness.
When the father comes to plead with this arrogant to come into the party, he self-righteously answers: Lo, these many years I have been serving you; (notice!)
I have never transgressed your commandment at any time and . . .
(v 30) he has devoured your livelihood with harlots . . .
His voice is dripping with judgment and his heart is blinded by deception.
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