Week of Feb 20th — Day Five

February 25th, 2011 | Tags:

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

Day Five

The True Heart of the Elder Son Revealed

Don’t miss the real rea­son for the elder brother’s intense dis­plea­sure. As we will see in the chap­ter that fol­lows, all this pout­ing fury was not so much aimed against the prodi­gal son. Instead, it was focused directly against the father. The first born son clearly had no affec­tion for his younger brother, but the father was one he most resented.

He could tell from the servant’s report that his father had made peace with the prodi­gal. The father had not only “received him safe and sound,” but he had “kill the fat dead calf,” too (v. 27). The mean­ing of such a ges­ture was clear. The father had already fully for­given the way­ward boy, and their rec­on­cil­i­a­tion was complete.

Worst of all, the father was spend­ing resources that would right­fully belong to the elder brother as soon as a father died – in effect, dimin­ish­ing the value of the “faith­ful” son’s inheritance.

The elder brother was every bit as self-seeking and devoid of a true appre­ci­a­tion for the father as the prodi­gal son was at the begin­ning of the para­ble.

This elder son didn’t care at all about the father’s joy. All he cared about was his own rights and pos­ses­sions. The elder brother was every bit as self-seeking and devoid of a true appre­ci­a­tion for the father as the prodi­gal son was at the begin­ning of the parable.

But, for the first time in the story, the Phar­isees were say­ing to them­selves, Yes! That is exactly the right atti­tude! That is pre­cisely what any self-respecting per­son ought to feel. He is right to be out­raged. We are out­raged. This whole story has described one atroc­ity after another, and it’s about time some­one in the story spoke up and said so.

Now the tax col­lec­tors and sin­ners were all draw­ing near to hear him. And the Phar­isees and the scribes grum­bled, say­ing, “This man receives sin­ners and eats with them.

- Luke, chaper fif­teen, verses one and two, ESV

This is an exact mir­ror of the real life sit­u­a­tion we saw at the very begin­ning of the chap­ter, noted above. The scribes and Phar­isees remained out­side the cel­e­bra­tion. They resented it. They were out­raged by it. It was a scan­dal and an affront to their dignity.

Read the following:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. … And from his full­ness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

- John, chaper one, veses 14, 16, and 17, ESV

Fill in the blanks with words you think best com­plete the fol­low­ing state­ment.

The Phar­isees resented Jesus so deeply because he was all about

In con­trast, the Phar­isees them­selves were they were all about

The elder son is a per­fect emblem for the Phar­isees. He had no appre­ci­a­tion for grace because he thought he didn’t need it. As we shall soon observe, he fig­ured he had earned his father’s full approval with­out need­ing any spe­cial grace or mercy. If he didn’t need grace, and had never even thought to ask for any, he didn’t see why grace should be offered to any­one else. The truth is, he didn’t really even believe in grace. He had no con­cept of unmer­ited favor. The very idea of free for­give­ness was repug­nant to him.

That was pre­cisely the spir­i­tual state of the scribes and Phar­isees who crit­i­cize Jesus for con­sort­ing with sin­ners. It was exactly the kind of self obses­sion and ego­cen­tric reli­gious fer­vor their sys­tem fos­tered. Jesus likened them to fancy bur­ial vaults – bright and shiny on the out­side, but full of death and decay on the inside (). They were reli­gious hyp­ocrites who stayed near the house of God for the sake of their own pub­lic image. But they secretly enjoyed all the same evil things as any unbeliever.

Even all the Phar­isees’ reli­gious activ­ity was really only about their own self-promotion. They may have truly thought that they were earn­ing the good will of God. But the truth is that they were com­pletely alien­ated from God. They had no sin­cere desire to honor Him. They had no vital inter­est in heaven’s joy – in fact, they could not even tol­er­ate that joy because it was joy over the repen­tance of sin­ners, and they refuse to con­fess their own need for repen­tance. So they openly spurned the joy, and they deeply resented those who did repent.


Read the fol­low­ing and Under­line the Phar­isees motives for their reli­gious activities.

“Beware of prac­tic­ing your right­eous­ness before other peo­ple in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”

- Matthew chap­ter six, verse one, ESV

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hyp­ocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the syn­a­gogues and at the street cor­ners, that they may be seen by oth­ers. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

Matthew chap­ter six, verse five, ESV

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hyp­ocrites, for they dis­fig­ure their faces that their fast­ing may be seen by oth­ers. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

Matthew chap­ter six, verse six­teen, ESV

As Jesus con­tin­ued with the para­ble and the Phar­isees began to rec­og­nize them­selves in the elder brother, they’re mur­mured expres­sions of dis­plea­sure must have begun to rise in the deaf­en­ing crescendo. The les­son the Lord had been lay­ing the ground­work for, from the start of the para­ble, was about to become very, very clear – and by now they might even see it coming.

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27 “Woe to you, scribes and Phar­isees, hyp­ocrites! For you are like white­washed tombs, which out­wardly appear beau­ti­ful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all unclean­ness. (ESV)

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