- Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, 'Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, 'Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.' He said to him, 'My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.'" (Luke 15: 26-32)
I think this is the most intriguing part of this parable. If you may recall, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees who have just complained that He welcomes sinners and eats with them. (Luke 15: 2) This parable is a rebuttal--one of many--to their complaint.
The older brother, after toiling in the field all day hears the celebration and wants to know what all the fuss is about. He asks the servants who tell him that his brother has returned and the father is celebrating.
What's the older son's reaction? Does he too become excited and happy and want to celebrate?
He becomes angry at his father and refuses to enter the house. His heart--not filled with love--is filled with envy. He doesn't want to welcome his brother as he probably does not love him (or his father).
How does the father react to this? He goes out and pleads with the older son to join the party. But the son sadly refuses. I obeyed your orders. I served you. But you never gave me anything.
Oh how blind he is. For the father has given him everything he owns. And he doesn't even realize it.
Lest anyone think that God hates the Pharisees (from Matthew 23), He does not hate them. He loves them. He wants them to join in the feast. They are the elder son in this parable.
The elder son represents all people who take God for granted (Christians and non-Christians). The ones who say they are Christian and do all the Christian things but don't really love Him. Please note that the elder son never says he loves his father...just that he served him and obeyed him.
Let's not be like this.
If you notice, Jesus never mentions if the older son ever comes back to the celebration. Did he ever repent as the younger son did? I don't know. It brings me to a final question which is something I would like readers to ponder...
Which one is the lost son?