I think I can say with certainty that every Christian is aware of the story of the Prodigal Son recounted in Luke Chapter 15. I have heard numerous sermons on this chapter and numerous songs sung but each one have been about the Younger Son or, sometimes, about The Father. I have never heard a sermon on the Elder Brother. That is, until I heard Malcolm Smith preach one: five of them, actually. The timing of these sermons is one of those little coincidences that come only from God.
I had been reading this story and found myself thinking the Elder Brother had a point. Have you ever thought this way? If so, I bet you never told anyone. Everyone knows the Elder Brother was wrong in his attitude. Even so, I couldn’t help thinking the Elder brother was making some valid points. I knew I had to be wrong, but I had no answer as to why. As I said, I had not-up to this point-heard a sermon on the Elder Brother. Even Malcolm Smith, who preaches regularly on Luke 15 and especially the Prodigal Son, had never done a sermon on the Elder Brother that I knew of. I did not know where to find an answer, so I made a journal entry. I prayed about an answer and left the giving of that answer to The Lord and His timing.
First, why did I think the Elder Brother made some valid points? I have been the one not invited to parties. I imagine how the Elder Brother felt coming in from the fields and hearing the music. I imagine how it felt to hear that the Younger Brother had come home and The Father had thrown a party and no one had come out to the field to get him and tell him. I know what it feels like to be overlooked. I can imagine the Elder Brother’s feelings at the fatted calf being slaughtered in celebration of the Younger Brother’s return. The Father had never celebrated the Elder Brother. Perhaps in his grief he never noticed the Elder Brother always there taking care of everything and never thought to throw a party for him. If the Elder Brother was hurt and angry, wasn’t it possible he had good reason? No. Of course not. Everyone knows the Elder Brother was mad that The Father didn’t treat the Younger Brother how he no doubt deserved to be treated. Right? Maybe. All I could say for certain was I had an uncomfortable feeling that I was reading this all wrong, I did not understand what Jesus was saying in this story, and had no idea how to gain understanding.
Within a short time of recording my thoughts in my journal, I reached Malcolm Smith’s Webinar 189 and heard him begin to speak on the Elder Brother. It was liberating to hear him say almost word for word what I’d been thinking: that he’d sometimes thought the Elder Brother had some valid points and knew that he was wrong in thinking so. Mr. Smith then proceeded to preach the first ever sermons I’d heard on the Elder Brother. They are numbers 189-193 on Mr. Smith’s YouTube Channel and I’ll include a link to his channel at the end of his post. I cannot recommend these sermons enough. I found them to be of immense value. Through them I learned that yes, I was mistaken to think the Elder Brother was making valid points. In his own different way, he was as far from The Father as his Younger Brother.
It all boils down to relationship and how neither son had one with The Father. The Younger Son was much more vocal about things by demanding his inheritance but he couldn’t get his without the Elder Brother getting his double portion (see Luke 15:12). The story doesn’t have the Elder Brother offering up a word of protest as the Younger Brother made his demands. And, the Elder Brother’s complaint is not that The Father never celebrated him but that The Father never threw a party for him and his friends. He had no desire to celebrate anything with his father. The Elder Brother had no understanding of The Father’s heart and the story doesn’t say he had any interest in doing so.
The heart of The Father. I have been thinking about this for a while now and thinking about the attitudes of both sons in Jesus’ story. The Younger Son at least came to a place where he could begin to understand the heart of his father and understand that heart was full of love. Jesus leaves the story unfinished. What about the Elder Brother? Does he realize his father loved him so much he left the party to ask him to join? Does he see that his father always loved him? Does he respond to that love and join the celebration or does he remain in his anger? Does he see that he never knew his father or understood The Father’s love? Does he stay outside in the darkness where all he can do is hear the celebration and rage at it?
What will I do? A few weeks ago I wrote that God had invited me to see people as He sees them. This is true but not the entire truth. I and every believer in Jesus, have relationship to the Father because we are in Jesus Christ and His Spirit lives in us (See Ephesians 2:18, John 14:6). John 14:23 says, “…if a man love me, he will keep my words and my Father will love him and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (KJV). Jesus is my Lord and Saviour, His is the name above all other names, and He had the preeminence in all things; yet I cannot have a relationship with Him without also having one with The Father. God cannot be separated and wherever and however I meet Jesus, so also do I meet The Father.
I find I don’t have to be afraid of Him. I find He is not wrothing and frothing (to borrow from Joyce Meyer!) and is only restrained from tossing me into hell by the bloody horrific death of His son. No, I find I can trust Jesus words when He says He and The Father are one (John 10:30). I believe that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). I find The Father is safe. I believe that He so loved the world that He gave.
What is harder to believe is that all of that love, all that He is, is for me. I still feel as if I have to be doing something. I can’t exist just to be the beloved of God, I have to do something. I have to bear fruit, I have to go into all the world, I have to-I have to….I hear His voice saying, “My dear child, you are always with me, all that I have is yours.” I realize then I’ve been working for Him and not having a relationship with Him. I remember I cannot bear fruit on my own but only as I abide in Jesus and His life flows through me. Relationship. I remember my works are worth nothing unless they are the works prepared for me before the world began. I only know what that is within relationship. I remember that I can do good works, give all my money, even offer up my body and none of it means a thing if I don’t have love: the agape love that God is. I only know that love and have it for myself if I have relationship with The Father.
Just this Sunday, the speaker during Service said, “God doesn’t heal in order to use.” I had to write that down and it’s something I’ll be thinking about for a while. How often I have begged to be used by God! The Younger Son had his speech ready and was willing to work as a hired servant. The place he’d known as son was surely no longer for him. The Father didn’t listen. He loved the son, dressed him, restored him, and threw a massive party. I want to know the heart of that Father. I set myself to seek the very heart of God. I seek to cease from my labors and know I am beloved of God. I boldly enter His presence, knowing a new and living way has been given to me by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19-20, 22). I find it’s not at all what I expected because The Father is having a party and all I have to do is join in.
Malcolm Smith’s YouTube Channel: