A Better Older Brother

Daily Reading: Today’s bible reading is  Luke 15.  For this devotion to makes sense, you’ll need to go ahead and read this short chapter before you get started.

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Luke 15 contains some of the richest allegories for the gospel contained within the bible. Jesus’ three parables found in this chapter are a response to an accusation from the Pharisees in verses 1 &2. “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. [2] And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”” (ESV)

With this accusation floating in the air, Jesus tells three short stories that are meant to show the glory of what he’s doing in hanging out with “tax collectors and sinners.” In his book “Prodigal God,” Tim Keller explains the connection between these three stories:

“The first parable is called the Parable of the Lost Sheep. A man is tending a flock of one hundred sheep, but one goes astray. Instead of accepting this loss, the shepherd goes out searching until he has found his lost sheep. Then he calls all around to “Rejoice with me, for I have found my lost sheep” (verse 6).

The second parable is called the Parable of the Lost Coin. In this story a woman has ten silver coins in the house but loses one. She does not write it off as a loss, but instead “lights a lamp, sweeps the whole house, and searches diligently until she finds it” (verse 8). And when she does, she calls her friends and neighbors and says, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my lost coin.” The third parable is the story we have been studying, the Parable of the Two Lost Sons.

The similarities among the three stories are obvious. In each parable something is lost—sheep, coin, and son. In each the one who loses something gets it back. And each of the narratives ends on a note of festive rejoicing and celebration when the lost one is returned.

There is, though, one striking difference between the third parable and the first two. In the first two someone “goes out” and searches diligently for that which is lost. The searchers let nothing distract them or stand in their way. By the time we get to the third story, and we hear about the plight of the lost son, we are fully prepared to expect that someone will set out to search for him. No one does. It is startling, and Jesus meant it to be so. By placing the three parables so closely together, he is inviting thoughtful listeners to ask: “Well, who should have gone out and searched for the lost son?…”

The younger brother’s restoration was free to him, but it came at enormous cost to the elder brother. The father could not just forgive the younger son, somebody had to pay! The father could not reinstate him except at the expense of the elder brother. There was no other way. But Jesus does not put a true elder brother in the story, one who is willing to pay any cost to seek and save that which is lost. It is heartbreaking. The younger son gets a Pharisee for a brother instead.

But we do not.

By putting a flawed elder brother in the story, Jesus is inviting us to imagine and yearn for a true one.

And we have him. Think of the kind of brother we need. We need one who does not just go to the next country to find us but who will come all the way from heaven to earth. We need one who is willing to pay not just a finite amount of money, but, at the infinite cost of his own life to bring us into God’s family, for our debt is so much greater.”

We love and worship Jesus because he is our true “elder brother” who gave everything to bring us back into the family of God. We needed a redemption only he could provide. In stark contrast to the smug and selfish older brother in Luke 15, Jesus comes to us in our wickedness and brings us back into the inheritance we forfeited by our sin.

Live with the joy of knowing Jesus rejoices as we enjoy the feast of our salvation.

God bless!

 

 

 

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