Son, Can We Talk?
The text also warns us through the older brother that activity for God by itself or proximity to him is not the same as knowing him through a relationship grounded in a conscious, humble turning to him. The older brother sees God more as a taskmaster who uses his services rather than as a gracious Father. When we come to God on the basis of his grace, humbly recognizing our need for him rather than trying to earn his favor, we find the arms of God ready to welcome us in celebration. We risk missing the joy of relationship with God when we turn him into a scorekeeper.5
The story is left hanging. The elder brother is left to contemplate the father’s words. We do not know if he comes in to celebrate or not. In literary terms, this is an open ending. What will he do? Jesus’ listeners are to contemplate their own response as well. The parable is truly a story of reversal. It is hope of such a reversal that causes Jesus to seek the sinner. The potential of God’s grace drives him to love others and actively pursue them.