Part 3   By Ps. Mark Banyard

This is a continuation of the miniseries that I have entitled the ‘Parable of the Two Lost Sons’. This week, the parable continues from Luke 15:25-32 with the focus on the older son who stayed at home. The whole parable has many contrasts and similarities. If we look into our own lives and our own stories, there is probably a younger and an older son in all of us. We can identify with both of them at different times in our lives. What they both shared together was a father who loved them even though they were so different from one another. One was young and immature. He squandered his inheritance after he received it. The older son was dutiful and always worked hard for his father, but yet did not know that he was entitled to an inheritance.

Verses 25-28 reads, “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 

While the whole household was celebrating the return of the younger son in the house, the older son was in the field. What was he doing in the field?  He was probably working. It was not told to us, but I bet you, if you ever wanted to know where the older son was, he would be found in the field. That was where he spent his life.  The contrast is being out in the field, which is a context for work as opposed to being in the house celebrating. The house is a picture of family, not a place to just eat and sleep.  It is where the family comes together. Servants and slaves live in their own quarters away from the house, but family members live in the house. This son saw himself as a worker in the field. He did not know himself as a son in the house. Like many of us, his work gave him the context for identity.  

But in Christ, what we do is not who we are. It is who He is and His love for us that redefine who we are. So, who am I?  Mark Banyard – a preacher, a teacher or a pastor? First and foremost, I am a child of God just like you. But when our sense of who we are hinges too much on what we do, that means that we are back to performing in order to be accepted, loved and proved.  There will always be work. The work will never stop. The needs will never go away. There will always be that call we need to respond to. But it is far better if we respond to it as true sons and daughters rather than as servants and slaves.

Likewise, you are the church. You can go to a service, but you cannot go to church.  We came this morning into the house of the Lord. It is a good place to be. But ultimately, coming into the house is coming into His presence.  It is possible for us to come to a geographical location at a certain time every Sunday and not actually come together into His presence and be the family He wants us to be. It is not about attending a service or an event, it is about something that has been created by the Spirit through the sacrificial atoning death of Jesus Christ. Each of us is a new creation, and together as God’s people, we have been created in Christ to be the family of God.  

When the older son heard the sounds of celebration, he came near to the house. Being a son, he was entitled to walk right into the house but he did not. Instead, we are told in verse 26 that he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. He was the older son who was fully entitled to an inheritance, yet he did not know what was going on in the house.  He had to turn to a servant as if the servant should know better than him. It is a picture of a broken relationship. This did not start overnight when the younger son had all of a sudden, come home. The broken relationship had existed for years. Herein lies the similarity between the two sons. The younger son broke the relationship with his father when he went far away to another country after receiving his inheritance. He wanted to spend his inheritance without any accountability. However, the older son who did not leave the family was just as distant from his father as the younger son. He had to ask his servant what was going on and somehow the servant seemed to know more than him.

Verse 28 exposed the heart of the older son. We are told that he became angry and refused to go in. He gave a very clear statement of his intentions. He was not going into the house because he could not accept that his father could so readily accept the younger son and gave him such an undeserving welcome. Now this father loved this son as much as the younger one.  The inheritance already belonged to both of them. The only reason the younger son received it first was because he asked for it. But the older son never did and he harboured bitterness in his heart.

When he refused to enter the house, his father went out and pleaded with him. At this point of the parable, we can see another similarity. Just as the father went out to the younger son on seeing him return, he too went out to this son. In both cases, it was the father who initiated the reconciliation. With the younger son, the father went out to meet him as soon as he repented, but with the older son, the father went out to reinstate him to his rightful place in the family. Hallelujah! That’s our God!  A God of love, compassion and mercy, a God who is tender-hearted, a God who will meet us even while we are still refusing to enter in.

We read that the father pleaded with his son.  Now in pleading, he is making himself vulnerable and transparent, not weak.  The father was showing his strength of character and integrity. If you want to be a good father or mother,

you should be confident in your own heart that God loves you and then only will you be able to love your own children perfectly as the Father has loved you. So, in the confidence of being a true father, he went out and pleaded with his son. This act also shows his commitment to relationship.  In fact, this parable of the two sons is all about relationship – relationship with the Father in His unconditional love for His sons and His daughters!

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