Donald Karnes - Luke 15, Elder Son

The Father divided unto ‘them’ their portions! We hear about the ‘lost son.’ Which one? Both were in need of salvation. Just as the first verses of this chapter show us; the publicans and sinners drew near to hear Him and the scribes and Pharisees murmured. These two classes are clearly seen in the two sons. One had a great need of being saved from ‘sin’ and the other just as great a need of being saved from ‘self.’ One was in a far country, while the other thought he was far better, yet he was in a far corner.


This is the ‘pearl’ of parables: Shows the father’s mercy in spite of misery and meanness of sinful man; his paternal patience, keeping the home fires burning. He faithfully waited with an open heart and home, bearing the storm and fury of years of wrong from disobedient children. The plot of the parable proves that each one must choose. For the far-country or the far-corner, or for the Father’s fellowship and feasting. These decisions determine much of the heart-break and tragedy or joy and gladness that will eventually befall oneself and others!


‘The elder son was angry and would not go in, therefore came the father out and entreated him.’ This son had a negative attitude, a chronic complainer of everything, fault-finding in the face of a pleading father. In compassion, the father went out of his way to seek him, wanting him to partake in all he had. The Son’s anger, shows he too was a ‘great way off’ from the spirit of the father’s household. As there is joy in heaven even when one sinner repents.


The father finds it fitting to be glad. The servants too have their part in preparing the feast. All were happy because of the lost one’s return, except the elder son.


‘The elder son heard music and rejoicing.’ He called one of his servants and asked, "What meaneth this?" It was more than a pretty tune. It was redemptive music with an ‘air’ of victory. He was offended. Music has power to move us to express our feeling of joy or sorrow.


It is a media to help carry the message of salvation. There is something about the Gospel songs that associate themselves closely with our salvation; Such as ‘Be in Time’ & ‘Have You Counted the Cost.’ They helped us over the ‘line of decision’ for Christ. They still stir up our memories.


“Lo these many years have I served thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandments.’ He put stress on his record, ‘many good works;’ on his length of service, ‘Many years;' and on his righteousness, ‘Neither transgressed I at any time.’ Very self- righteous, justifying himself. Yet in reality, resisting and opposing his father's pleadings! One of the worse sins is the ‘feeling of no sin.’ One of the worse conditions is the ‘feeling that one has need of nothing.’


‘Thou never gavest me a kid that I might make merry with my friends’... He belonged to the entertaining crowd that find their fun in playing and picnics. ‘My friends’ indicate a private cooperation, a select group, perhaps shunning others. It is possible to substitute culture for conversion, special for spiritual, fleshly interest for godly, in their professed efforts to help others, even young people under this cloak that hides the real truth.


‘But as soon as this thy son was come, who had devoured thy living with harlots’ ... He could not accept the prodigal as a brother. The servants said, “Thy brother has come!” The father said, “Thy brother who was lost, is found.” But the elder son, no! He was unforgiving, still clinging to the past; As far as he was concerned, his brother was still lost, still in the far country. He mourned the loss of ‘goods,’ but not the loss of a brother.


The prodigal had regretted and repented of the way he wasted the father’s fortune, wasted his time and wasted his life. These bitter experiences brought him to himself. Famine came into his soul, causing him to ‘arise’ and go to his father. This was the ‘very thing’ so lacking in the elder son. His profession of having always rightly used his father’s goods, was only self-deception. He never regretted the miserly way he had kept all for himself and his friends. The father would have gladly suffered the loss of ‘his goods’ many times over, if such would have produced repentance in his ‘elder son.’


‘Thou has killed for him the fatted calf’ ... He was angry about the loving sacrifice bestowed on others; that too much attention was paid to his younger brother who was so unworthy and vile. It’s possible to have sacrifice without love, but impossible to have love without sacrifice! God loved and gave His Son. Jesus loved and gave His all! The disciples loved, spent and gave, too.


The father’s answer to all his complaints was, “All that I have is thine.” What have we appropriated from God’s provision? What have we made our own, of His grace? What have we affirmed from His Word? How much have we proved His power? How much of his image do we bear? The means are at our disposal; have we participated? Have we drawn on it? Jacob drew a contract and became the Israel of God. Elijah drew fire and broke a national apostasy. Jonah drew repentance and turned an entire city around. Mary drew compassion and out came seven devils. Peter drew a miracle and Dorcas returned to life. The prodigal son drew reconciliation and received a royal welcome, cleansed and clothed in royal raiment, favored and fed a royal repast.


The possibilities are limitless. “All God has is ours, at our disposal.” It is a sin to ‘not come in,’ to deny ourselves these heavenly riches and just live on the scraps of time! It is a mistake to allow the ‘past sins’ of others hinder us! We all have sinned and come short. Sin is sin, whether it be gross, vulgar, fleshly sin of the prodigal or ‘self sophisticated’ refined religious sin of the elder brother. When Jesus spoke of ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth,' He never applied it to the prodigal type of sinner, rather the older brother type. Once we are washed, the stains of sin, whether dark or dim, big or small, will be no more.

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but empties today of its strength. A defeat that makes us humble is better than a victory that makes us proud.