As Christians, the Bible is our foundation for guidance, wisdom, and instruction. It is where we find hope and encouragement in times of trouble and tribulation, as well as instruction and correction when our actions aren’t up to Christ’s standards.
At the church my family and I attend, we started a new sermon series this past Sunday, it’s titled, “The Other Brother.” It’s from the parable of the prodigal son. Anyone who has heard this story, or read it knows that as sinners before coming to Christ, we are much like the wayward son. We ask for our inheritance, throw it all away for a life of nothingness and find ourselves in the slums. This might not be exactly how it plays out for you but go with the analogy.
As you can guess, our sermon series is on the other brother. The older one. The one who stayed by the Father’s side worked along with the servants, didn’t do anything “wrong.” The one who refuses to see his brother’s return with joy, but rather with disgust. This is us, now. If you’ve been a Christian for a while you are the older brother in this story. Now, you might not be so jaded towards the younger Christians, but the point I want to focus on for a bit is the perspective the older brother has about the return of his sibling. We find the story in Luke, chapter 15 picking up at verse 25 through 32.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 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.’
28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 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 ecelebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, fwho has devoured gyour property with prostitutes, you killed the fattenedcalf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, hyou are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting eto celebrate and be glad, for this your brother iwas dead, and isalive; he was lost, and is found.’” (ESV)
Did you catch the older son’s words? Did you get where his mind is focused?
“Where’s my reward? Why are you rewarding such awful behavior? Where’s my blessing for staying by your side and working in your field? If you’re going to have a party for that terrible son of yours, why not have a party for a son as honorable as me and my friends?”
I wonder how many times we’ve had those same questions in our minds, hearts, and souls. I know for myself, I’ve recently been battling these thoughts. I’ve had to work on my perspective seeing what the Father is trying to say to the older brother, and me.
This brother is seeing his brother’s return, or really the Father’s embrace of the brother’s return, as a blessing of this sinful behavior but that’s not the Truth. This celebration is of the fact that the younger son has returned alive and been found. It’s rejoicing at the return of a soul and heir. It’s taking the shame and guilt away and replacing it with merciful honor. The Father wants His older son to see that being at His side is a blessing and that the Kingdom is his to inherit.
Part of this parable is the shame that the Father places on Himself as He joyfully meets up with His lost son. Within this culture, it was not respectable for honorable men to show their legs or to run. In order for one to run, they had to lift their dress up exposing their legs.
When the Father sees His son off in the distance, I imagine with head tucked down, trying to hide his face from the rest of the village. He’s bearing the shame of being “that son,” covered in dirt and pig slop, tattered clothes, maybe he has shoes but maybe not. The Father is so full of joy and love at the sight of his son returning, that he bears his legs and runs towards His son greeting him with love and compassion. The Father bears the shame, removes it from the son and restores honor. We know this restoration because, for us, it comes from the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He bears our shame and guilt so that we don’t have to hide our face anymore.
We must see that we have had a celebration, we were once the younger brother and there was a celebration at our return in Heaven. Now, we are the older brother. We can either choose to think that we deserve more for the work we’ve done after or see that we don’t truly deserve anything in this world. We do not deserve to be found and made alive, yet we have been. You know, just because there is a celebration that someone decides to turn their life towards Jesus, it doesn’t mean that there are no consequences for the lifestyle they lived before Him. We must not think that we know how to best handle the judgment of others. We must begin to be joyful at the return of any lost sibling. We must see that it’s a blessing to be by the Father’s side, under His protection and guidance, and know that any party, gain or reward we could gain on this side of the Kingdom is nothing compared to those that are stored up in Heaven. Those are the rewards worth keeping.
I’ll leave you with this question, do you need a perspective shift like this older brother does, or I did? Is your focus in the wrong place?
Father, help us to see others the way that you see them. Help us to see blessing and rewards in the right manner. Correct any misguided focus we may have and direct us in the way that we should go. Thank you for bearing my shame and restoring me in Your honor. Thank you for welcoming me into Your Kingdom even though I don’t deserve to have a seat at your table. Amen.