Week of Feb 20th — Day One

February 21st, 2011 | Tags:

            Day One   |  Day Two   |  Day Three   |  Day Four   |   Day Five






Day One




The Elder Brother’s Resentment




His Hypocrisy


The older brother became angry and refused to go in”

, NIV


Sinners come in two basic vari­eties. Some don’t really care who sees what they do. Invari­ably their beset­ting sin is pride – the kind of pride that is seen in an undue love for one­self and uncon­trol­lable lust for self-indulgent pleasures.

At the other end of the spec­trum are secre­tive sin­ners, they pre­fer to sin when they think no one else is look­ing. They try to mask there more obvi­ous sin in var­i­ous ways – often with the pre­tense of reli­gion. Their beset­ting sin is also pride, but it’s the kind of pride that man­i­fest itself in hypocrisy.

Of the two types of sin­ners, the wan­ton sin­ner is much more likely than the sanc­ti­mo­nious sin­ner to face the real­ity of his own fal­l­en­ness, repent, and seek sal­va­tion. His sin is already uncov­ered. It is unde­ni­able. He has to face up to it. Not so with the Phar­isee. He will try as long as pos­si­ble to cam­ou­flage his immoral­ity, deny his guilt, dis­avow his need for redemp­tion, and declare his own righteousness.

In Jesus’ para­ble, the prodi­gal son obvi­ously rep­re­sents open sin­ners – the rebels, the dessolute, the debauched, the delib­er­ately immoral peo­ple who make no pre­tense of faith in God or love for Him. In other words, the char­ac­ter of the prodi­gal is a sym­bol for those whom we encounter back in verse one: “the tax col­lec­tors and sin­ners” – soci­eties out­cast. Such peo­ple start out by run­ning as far away as pos­si­ble from God. They have no innate love for Him. They desire no rela­tion­ship with him. They want noth­ing to do with His law or his author­ity. They have no inter­est in ful­fill­ing some­one else’s expec­ta­tions or demands – espe­cially God’s. They want no account­abil­ity to Him what­so­ever. They don’t even want to retain Him in their thoughts.

As Jesus con­tin­ues with his para­ble, it becomes obvi­ous that the sec­ond (and oppo­site) kind of sin­ner is epit­o­mized by the elder brother.


Read .

Describe what the elder brother looked like on the outside.

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Describe what the elder brother looked like on the inside.

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The elder brother is an emblem of all the seem­ingly hon­or­able super­fi­cial moral, or out­wardly reli­gious sin­ners – peo­ple just like the scribes and Phar­isees . Here is a sin­ner that thinks hypocrisy is as good as real right­eous­ness. What he looks like on the out­side cloaks a seething rebel­lion on the inside.

The elder son is the one who embod­ies the parable’s main les­son. He is a pic­ture of the reli­gious hypocrite.

The elder son is the third major char­ac­ter in the para­ble, and as it turns out, he is the one who embod­ies the parable’s main les­son. His most obvi­ous char­ac­ter­is­tic is his resent­ment for his younger brother. But under­neath that, and even more omi­nously, it is clear that he has been nur­tur­ing a qui­etly smol­der­ing hatred for the father – a long, long time, it appears. This secretly rebel­lious spirit has shaped and molded his char­ac­ter in a most dis­turb­ing way.

Peo­ple often assume that the elder son rep­re­sents a true believer, faith­ful all his life but sud­denly caught off guard by his father’s gen­eros­ity to the way­ward brother and there­fore a lit­tle bit resent­ful. By that inter­pre­ta­tion the elder brother really needs noth­ing more than just an atti­tude adjustment.

That inter­pre­ta­tion misses the whole point of the para­ble, though. The elder son has never truly been devoted to his father. He is a pic­ture of the reli­gious hyp­ocrite. He is the Pharisee-figure in Jesus’ story. He prob­a­bly had the whole vil­lage sin­cerely believ­ing that he was a “good” son – very respect­ful and faith­ful to his father. He pre­tended to be a loyal son. But in real­ity, he had no gen­uine respect for his father, no inter­est in what pleased his father, no love for the fathers val­ues, and no con­cern for his needy younger brother. That all becomes very clear as the story unfolds.

The elder brother turns out to be just as lost and hope­lessly enslaved to sin as his brother ever was. He just won’t admit that – not to him­self, or to any­one else.


Read .

What false claims do hyp­ocrites make about themselves?

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What true claims does God make about hypocrites?

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28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, (ESV)


25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and danc­ing. 26 And he called one of the ser­vants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fat­tened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never dis­obeyed your com­mand, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might cel­e­brate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your prop­erty with pros­ti­tutes, you killed the fat­tened calf for him!’ (ESV)


If we say we have fel­low­ship with him while we walk in dark­ness, we lie and do not prac­tice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fel­low­ship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive our­selves, and the truth is not in us. If we con­fess our sins, he is faith­ful and just to for­give us our sins and to cleanse us from all unright­eous­ness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (ESV)

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