The Prodigal's Older Brother!

Lost and Found Series: The Prodigal’s Older Brother!

A Sermon By: Pastor Henry T. Anderson

Windsor Avenue Bible Church, Oceanside, NY

Luke 15:25-32

25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.

Intro: Today we conclude our Series: “Lost and Found – Safe and Sound!”

We’ve looked at: The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin and The Lost Son, AKA The Prodigal Son.

The three parables in this present chapter have the one theme, the rejoicing over the finding of what had been lost. In the first two parables that is specifically related to joy in Heaven. In the third it is the rejoicing of the father, but as in that case the father himself represents God, and the idea is the same. The first two parables are also parallel to each other in that both depict the seeking of what was lost.

In the third it is the father who is prominent, the father who compassionately welcomes one son and graciously guides the other, while the aspect of repentance also comes to the fore. Together the parables reveal the reaching out of God towards man, and man’s required response.

Jesus here describes three types of sinner. The first is like a sheep, he goes astray through foolishness and thoughtlessness, drawn away by the promise of better pasture elsewhere; the second is like the coin, he simply goes astray by accident or as a result of the carelessness of those who should be watching over him; the third goes astray by his own self-will and as a result of a desire for pleasure. But all end up in the same situation and all need to come back to the father in the same way.

And that’s what a Parable does as it tells an Earthly Story with a Heavenly Message.

And now we reach to an interesting and often overlooked part of The Lord’s Sermon here, that is The Reaction of The Prodigal’s Older Brother and The Dialogue Between The Older Brother and His Father.

Actually, this is called The Climax of The Story.

The Climax of a plot is the point at which the central conflict reaches the highest point of intensity.

In a story, the Climax follows the rising action and precedes the falling action. It is the highest point of emotional intensity and the moment when the action of the story turns toward the conclusion.

The purpose of a Climax is to transition from the rising action into the falling action. This transition happens in order to lead a story into a resolution.

Often the Climax is recognized as the most exciting part of a story.

And the Climax here would be Verses 24 and 25 where we read:

Of The Prodigal and The Father, Verse 24:

Luke 15:24-25

24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

Pivot, Transition, Climax Verse 25:

Verse 25

25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.

Now, there’s three ways that the Bible Scholars look at the Older Brother.

1. That he was a Lost Person and that the name of the Parable should be about two lost sons. (That’s a Minority Opinion)

2. That Jesus here is connecting the Life, Attitudes and Heartlessness of The Older Brother to that of The Scribes and Pharisees, which He has been Preaching and Teaching to the entire Chapter here. (This is good)

3. That the Older Brother here is a Type and Picture of a Self-Righteous Crabby Christian. (Again Very Good)

That was our Introduction, Let’s Finish The Parable!

Verse 25 says:

25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.

Enter our new figure that comes into the picture. It is the Older brother. He had been at work, ‘in the field’. He was the quiet hard worker, the faithful son, who had worked hard all these years and had enjoyed few luxuries nor inheritances. And as he approached his home from his day of honest work, he was surprised to hear the sound of music and dancing.

The older son never lived a prodigal life, and was hard at work in the field even as the younger son came home, and he didn’t know what was going on…

Verse 26

26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.

Drawn by the sound of the party (music and dancing), he learned from a servant Verse 27 that his younger brother had come home.

Verse 27

27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.

It’s also to consider that the servants are possibly seen here as more delighted than the elder brother. They were fond of their master and delighted because he was delighted.

Verse 28

28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.

When he asked a servant what was going on, he was told that his brother had suddenly turned up and his father had killed the fatted calf for them all to celebrate. The brother’s anger appears to have boiled over. He had probably for years been jealous of his younger brother as their father’s favorite, spoiled and pampered as younger siblings usually are, and he had deeply resented the father’s yielding to the urge of his young brother to go his own way, taking his share of the family’s inheritance and abandoning all feeling of responsibility to their father or the family business.

This is what we could term “The Elder Brother Syndrome.” It’s why we look at a reprobate “sinner” and care of his need of Jesus immediately and fail to see the need of our own prideful soul.

Most people fall into one of these two categories:

The Younger-Brothertypes are the ones who are adventurous and risk-taking. They distrust institutions (like government and religion), shake off constraints, and desire to experience all that life has to offer. When they sin, they sin big and bold and everyone knows it.

The Older-Brothertypes are the rule-keepers and people-pleasers who work stable, predictable jobs, hold traditional values and are risk-averse. Many faithful church attendees are elder-brother types who tend to see their type as “good” and the other type as “bad.”

And when his father heard that he had arrived back from work and had not joined the celebrations, he realized that he must be upset, and he went out to him and begged him to come in and join them.

therefore came his father out, and intreated him… The word intreated means to ask (a person) earnestly; implore; beg. To comfort; attempt to reconcile; to help.

Notice how the father goes out to both sons in the Parable, just as God reaches out to all men. He loved them both.

Verse 29, The Older Brother Speaks:

29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:

We’re goon a look now at a few Christian Crabby Attitudes of The Older Brother here:

1. He thought his younger brother’s sinfulness was unforgivable.

His father might be willing to forgive, but he wouldn’t! His standards were higher than his father’s. This sin was unforgivable. While the younger brother might be his father’s son, he was no longer a brother to him.

Christians do this all the time. They judge and hold past sins against one another. They identify people as “former” this or “ex” that.

Instead of offering the clean slate of forgiveness, they hang on to the dirt so they can bring it up again later. If the father, who has been wronged, can forgive, why can’t we?

The Church has a Process of Forgiveness and Restoration.

Let’s Turn to: Matthew 18:15-20

15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.

20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

The Prodigal had Repented earlier and His Father Restored Him into the Family, and Church, we as a Church and we as Christians ought to Forgive and Restore a Lost Brother or Sister who Repents and seeks Forgiveness as Restoration as well…

Too many Christians would rather see a Brother or Sister in The Pig Pen instead of seeing them in God’s House!

Psalm 100 Says:

1 Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.

2 Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

3 Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

5 For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

2. The Older Brother thought because he obeyed the rules, he deserved more blessings.

The older brother was unappreciative of all he did have. Every day he had his father’s company, and the blessed society of home. His father’s love was round about him constantly, and everything they father had was his. Yet, The proud and the self-righteous always feel that they are not treated as well as they deserve.

The Older Brother didn’t realize that He was Blessed already.

The Older Brother didn’t want to see his Younger Brother be Blessed anymore…

3. The Older Brother resented his father’s joy and refused to share in it.

Does this mean that God loves sinners more than the righteous, the obedient, God-fearing People? No, God Loves everyone, but He Rejoices, He’s filled with Joy when a Lost Sinner Repents and comes to Him and shouldn’t we feel same when a Lost Loved One Comes Home to God?

Think of the long, dark, heartbroken nights this father had spent worrying about his lost son. Think about his disappointment as days turned into months of longing for him to return.

And now he is so full of joy that everyone in the household and probably the town came to celebrate with him.

And the elder son won’t even come to the party. He didn’t share his father’s heart. He didn’t share his joy.

As Christians, our hearts should be broken by the things that break the heart of God. And they should also be filled with joy by the things that bring joy to the father.

Paul said in: Romans 12:15-20

15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

4. The Older Brother’s motive was to receive, not to show love to his father.

Perhaps the real reason the elder brother was so angry was because his younger brother had squandered half of their shared inheritance. And now he has been welcomed back into the family, Dad might redo The Will and leave again an Inheritance to His Younger Son again, meaning, he receive a smaller slice from a much smaller pie when their father died.

5. The Older Son had the sin of anger in his heart.

Paul touches on the sin of anger in:

Ephesians 4:26-27

26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

27 Neither give place to the devil.

And I believe here that The Father through His Loving Response back to His Son, will give the Older Son a chance to Repent and not be Angry before he goes to bed, but will Rejoice with Him and the Family!

6. I also believe that The Lord was also trying to make The Scribes and Pharisees see themselves in this story.

Again, Verse 29 “Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment…”

When the elder son tells his father this, they were probably thinking, “Now, there’s someone we can relate to! He’s the good one!”

But Jesus tags on the Older Brother’s description to drive the point home that the Younger Brother wasn’t the only one who showed disregard for the father. The Older Brother was guilty as well!

There was a sense in which the Older Son was obedient, yet far from his Father’s heart. In this sense he was a perfect illustration of the Scribes and Pharisees who were angry that Jesus received tax collectors and sinners.

The Lord’s story reveals the possibility of living in the father’s house and failing to understand the father’s heart.”

It was probably one of the Pharisees’ strongest arguments, both to themselves and to others, that all their work to keep the commandments and to ‘do what God wanted’ would bring its own reward, a reward lost to those who did not live as they did.

And that may well have been part of the reason for their antagonism against Jesus. He appeared to overlook all their hard efforts, and yet freely forgave those who had done nothing to deserve it. Like the Older Brother they were unable to rejoice in the free grace of God to sinners.

Verse 30

30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.

Here’s the Judgmental Crabby Son in action here…

7. The Older Brother was Jealous. He says, Hey Dad, Your younger Son spent his Money wastefully and he spent it on Prostitutes and thou hast killed for him the fatted calf, and Me, I’ve been the perfect Son to You and You didn’t even give Me a kid, a baby goat!

Verse 31, Here’s The Loving Father…

31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.

He called him “Son” and in the Greek – means “Child” is a word of tenderest affection.

And reassures him that He’s not playing favorites here. “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.

He’s saying, all that’s mine is yours!

In fact, I can guess that the next Day, The Father would kill a fatted calf for His Older Son!

But He’s also saying to His Older Son, “Son, you’re missing the point here…”

Verse 32

32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

And then He pointed out how right it was to rejoice in the conversion of sinners.

It was right for the Older Brother to rejoice because his Younger Brother had come back repentant and would escape the dreadful life that had recently been his back in The Far Country.

The Older Son, he could lose nothing, and gain much, by rejoicing with him. For let him recognize what had happened. One who had been dead had found life again. One who had been lost was now found. Was that not good reason to celebrate from an honest and unselfish heart?

In each of the parables, the message to the tax collectors and sinners was clear: repent, come home to the father.

The message to the religious leaders was also clear: be happy when the lost are found, when they repent and come home to the father.

Note that The Father publicly acknowledges him for his son and when a Child gets right with God will publicly acknowledges him for his son, and the Church ought to Rejoice in this!

By the Strong Sermon Jesus was also assuring all who heard Him that any of them who turned in repentance towards God, seeking forgiveness, would also find life and would be ‘found’. So, His message was to both, to those who were far off, and to those who were near while not being near enough.

Interestingly here, we are deliberately not told what decision the elder brother came to. For the intention was that everyone among His listeners who saw themselves as like the Older Brother had to decide for themselves. That was a major point of the Parable.

This marvelous story teaches eternal truth, including:

(1) The fact that God is willing to forgive prodigals and self-righteous bigots alike, provided that they will receive his mercies and enter the feast of the kingdom.

(2) It is easier to confess to God than man.