Let’s remember that this father had two sons. Often, we focus on the younger. He was unrighteous, ungrateful, lived recklessly, squandered what he had. It is so easy to look at him and know that he was a sinner. But we also need to consider the older son.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ ‘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 15:25-32
The older son was out working in the field. He never left home. He worked. As he approached the house he heard music and dancing. He had watched his father watch the road. He had seen his father scanning the horizon for his brother. He had seen the grief on his father’s face, so there had been no music. There had been no dancing. But today there was. What was going on?
The servants explained that his younger brother had come. Dad had killed the fattened calf because he was home safe and sound. There was a party.
His younger brother was home. We might think that he would be happy. This was his flesh and blood as well. But he was not happy. He was angry. He refused to go in.
We need to remember that Jesus was telling this story for the scribes and Pharisees. They were grumbling that Jesus was eating and receiving tax collectors and sinners. They were angry. The two sons represent two types of sinners. There are the unrighteous, but there are also the self-righteous.
The older son was self-righteous. He had perhaps grown more and more angry as he watched his father long for the younger son to come home. He may have told himself again and again that he was the good son. He was not like his younger brother. He may have nursed a grudge over the fact that he was doing the work of two, since his brother was gone having a great time in the world. But he may have also felt like his father favored the younger son since so much time was spent wondering if the sinner son was ever coming home. Here he was, working, being faithful, following all of Dad’s rules and requirements and never once was he offered a party for doing it all. He was angry and sullen.
The father came out to him and invited him into the feast.
We need to get this. He was invited in.
We actually don’t know if the older son ever entered. The father told the son that all he had was his. He had claim to every single bit of it. But if the older son lived the rest of his days without ever coming into the house, what good was it?
The Pharisees and scribes had access to every bit of what the Heavenly Father offered. But if they were too self-righteous to come into the house, then they could never actually get it.
So, where are we?
Do we know we are sinners needing a way back home?
Or do we believe we are better than our brothers or sisters, so we really don’t need what Jesus has to offer? Are we depending on our own works and if they outweigh the bad then we think we will be okay?
Are we the unrighteous or the self-righteous? We have been invited into the Father’s house but we need to enter.
Remember, Jesus is the Door.