HIS ELDER SON
Luke 15:25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 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. 28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. 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: 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. 31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. 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.
We come now to consider the older son, who did not leave the father’s house. How are we to interpret him? We let the scriptures do that. In verses one and two of this chapter we have the two types of peoples who were concerned with the Lord Jesus. There were the publicans and sinners who came for to hear him. And then there were the Pharisees and scribes who came to harass him. For they murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
Luke 15:1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
Then the Lord begins the account of the two different sons in order to set forth these two types of religionists. And in verse seven, after the recovery of the lost sheep, we have these two farther identified to us. For there we find the joy of God over one who realizes he is a sinner, and needs repentance. And then there is one who, without repentance believes himself to be a “just person.” V.7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
Therefore, as there can be no doubt that the prodigal son is represented by the repenting sinner, it can only be true that the elder son is one who believes he should be accepted upon his present quality of character, believing he needs no repentance.
And this is an often repeated circumstance in the scriptures. We are familiar with Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, and with Jacob and Esau. When Cain was born Eve immediately deemed him as one acquired from the LORD. (See Genesis 4:1) But in I John 3 we read that Cain was of the wicked one (Satan), and as a murderer could not have eternal life! 1 John 3:12 Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. 15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
And of Isaac and Ishmael we read: Galatians 4:23 But he who was of the bondwoman (Ishmael) was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman (Isaac) was by promise. 24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar (Hagar – see Genesis 16). 25 For this Agar (Hagar) is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, (the Harlot Church) and is in bondage with her children. 26 But Jerusalem which is above (the True Church) is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. 28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. 29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
Ishmael was born of the flesh, and it is never seen that there was repentance involved in his life. Isaac was born of faith. And in him we are seen as living sacrifices, living the spiritually resurrected life. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. Hebrews 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
Colossians 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, (that is the spiritual resurrection of the new birth) seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
One of the things of which the elder son boasted was that he had always been there on the family farm, stating Lo, these many years do I serve thee. He had never been in a far country, nor was he therefore ever seen a great way off. The life of sin is most assuredly “a great way off” from the righteousness of God. This is even shown in there being a great gulf fixed between the righteous and the unrighteous! (Luke 16:26).
When our Lord was made to be sin for us, he cried out that he had been forsaken of the Father! Horrible darkness! Horrible aloneness! Horrible chasm separating from the Father’s mercies! Deepest death and torment! And he faithfully instructed us, Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4.
The elder brother had never considered himself a sinner! And that is the difference between himself and his younger brother. And that is the difference between the two groups attending Christ’s ministry as shown in those first two verses of this chapter.
Listen at the final account of this as it finishes out in the eternal presence of the Lord. Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Please take careful notice that what they called “wonderful works,” the Lord calls, works of “iniquity!” For these also believed that they were not actual sinners. They had no need for the cross, or blood-bought redemption! For they, relying upon wonderful religious works, believed themselves thereby worthy to enter into eternal life.
But only realized, confessed sinners shall ever attain eternal life! John 9:39 And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. 40 And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? 41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The sheep was lost! The coin was lost! The younger brother was lost! But the ninety and nine sheep were left in the wilderness. The rejoicing was solely over the finding of “my sheep which was lost!” The other nine coins are never mentioned again! Her rejoicing was solely over “the piece which I had lost!”
The elder brother, having never been lost, had no reason to receive a kid to make merry with his friends. But the fatted calf was provided upon the recovery of the lost son .
Consider carefully the reply to the elder brother’s complaint. Luke 15:31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. 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.
It is the same response given to the rich man in hell! Luke 16:25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. For the father told the elder son, all that I have is thine. In other words, you always lived with the hired servants that had bread and to spare every day! For you ofttimes left food on your plate. But your brother would have fain filled his belly with the husks of pigs! He experienced the actuality of lostness! You have never known what it was to wear dirty clothes! You have never known the alone-ness of being without your father, or this family home!
But this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. He has experienced lostness! And he came to totally rely upon the mercy of the father, just to be made as a servant, thereby willing to renounce his sonship! Ephesians 2:12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
Therefore, as with the recovery of the lost sheep and the lost coin, the lost son causes great rejoicing over this one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
Be very careful, dear soul, that you are not trusting in church-anity rather than true Christ-ianity! Religious inordinate affections, coupled with the god of this world’s blindness can get you into hell quicker than you might think. The Lord Jesus said, “Come unto me!” Have you, personally come to Him personally? Is He your only everything? The evidence of one’s new birth is that they, without fail come to Christ! When the prodigal son came to himself, he came to the Father! Never has a single true believer ever failed to come to Christ. John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.
Luke 13:25 When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: 26 Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. 27 But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. 28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. 29 And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last. Matthew 24:39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
The younger son desired reinstatement into the Father’s house insomuch that he was willing to be just a servant. He was willing not to get his room back, but just sleep in the servant’s quarters. He was willing not to get his favored wardrobe back, but just wear the servants lowly garb. He sought not his former position at the family table, but just to eat with the hired servant’s of my father.
But this elder brother continued his assumed higher position over the servants. For as he came and drew near to the house, he summoned one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. He was just like the rich man in hell, still commanding others, still assuming himself above all others. For in the pits of hell we hear the rich man commanding, “send Lazarus!”
And his attitude was the same as the Pharisee, standing and praying “with himself.” Luke 18:11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
But the ranking in the kingdom of God is far different from that in the realm of unregenerate mankind. Matthew 20:25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. 26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; 27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: 28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Proverbs 16:18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
Luke 15:32 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.
Pastor Gene Breed
October 15, 2020