Bible and Theology
The Father and the Older Son
Michael Youssef, Ph.D.
Aug 4, 2023
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Read Luke 15:25-32.

To any outside observer, it would seem the older son loved his father. But in reality, the older son was a legalist—he kept the form of obedience, but his heart was far from his father. When his younger brother came back in repentance, he should have celebrated. But instead, he refuses to welcome his brother home or attend the party being held in his honor. In doing so, he rebels against the heart of his father—all under the guise of so-called "righteousness."

The older son is not only letting his father down by refusing to perform his responsibilities, he is actually making a scene.

The Pharisees listening to Jesus' story would have understood He was describing them. If you recall, all this storytelling began when the Pharisees and teachers of the Law complained that Jesus was spending time with tax collectors and sinners (vv. 1-2). Rather than celebrating the fact that these people were drawn to Jesus, they grumbled. Jesus was telling them, in a not-so-subtle way, that their behavior was no different than the older brother's.

In the culture of the day, the older brother would have presided over all family celebrations. He would have served as the chief host and would have welcomed the guests. And so, the older son is not only letting his father down by refusing to perform his responsibilities, he is actually making a scene. The father has to leave the house and the guests behind to talk to his older son. Such a thing was never, ever done in that culture. It would have been humiliating for the father.

In a single day, the father has humbled himself for both sons. First, he ran to meet his younger son. Then, he left the guests in the house to seek his older son out in the field. Both actions were costly, but the father endured humiliation for his two beloved sons.

Now, if you understand that the younger, rebellious son represents the Gentiles, who were far from God, and that the older son represents the Jewish people, who had the old covenant and were bound to the Law, then the father's actions take on a whole new depth of meaning. God in Christ humbled Himself to death upon a cross for both Jews and Gentiles. Jesus suffered humiliation at the hands of wicked men for you and for me.

Jesus doesn't tell the end of the story; He leaves it hanging in the air. The grand finale of this story is found in the open arms of Jesus stretched wide upon the cross. He is inviting all to come and be saved.

Prayer: Lord, what a wondrous love You are. May I live in the joy of knowing I can run safely into Your arms by the blood of Christ. I long to live for You because of the freedom and joy You have brought to my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"'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).

Learn more in Dr. Michael Youssef's sermon Enduring Wisdom: WATCH NOW