This devotional was written by Mike DeVries
“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.” —Luke 15:31-32
For years, I thought the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 ended with the son coming home to the embrace of his father. That’s how the story always ended in Sunday School. Isn’t that what the story was all about, a son who is welcomed home, embraced by his father regardless of where he has been and what he has done?
In short, the answer is yes… and no.
It is a story about the embrace of a loving father with a lost son, but there is another son in the story, an older son, and rarely if ever does the ramifications of his story get told.
To understand the plight of the older son, we need to remember that the text of the story actually begins in Luke 15:1-2, where the religious leaders of the day are questioning Jesus, essentially asking, “How can you welcome and dine with sinners and tax collectors? Don’t you know who they are? How can you show them dignity and honor, when they are… well, you know… ‘them’?”
Jesus’ response is brilliant. He tells them a few stories about things that are lost, and how they get found. He tells them that central to finding is embracing, and celebrating. This is the way of God. While the religious leaders were asking, “How can you?” Jesus replied, “How can you not?”
It is into this setting that Jesus tells the famed “prodigal son” parable – that results in the father’s embrace.
What is fascinating is the reaction of the older son. Is he relieved that his younger brother is home? Apparently not. “The older son was angry and refused to go in.” He’s so angry, in fact, that he calls the returning brother “this son of yours.” He has so lost sight of what is important that he cannot even bring himself to see his own connection with his brother. It takes the pleading of the father – they must celebrate because “this brother of yours” is home now.
Profound insight can be found in the reaction of the older brother. What if Jesus is asking a more important question of the religious leaders of the day, “Why won’t you come into the party of God? Why is it that you still are about ‘judgment and fairness’ when I am about grace? Why do you refuse to see this found one as your brother? Why will you not give the same embrace, too?”
You can almost hear those listening to Jesus ask the question, “Well, does the older brother ever go in?” To which I can hear Jesus reply, “I don’t know… will you?”
1. What does it feel like to experience the embrace of God in your life?
2. Who do you know who needs a similar embrace, given by you?