By Scott Brown
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Waverly
Focal Passage: Luke 15:20-32
The prodigal son, as you likely already know, had shamed his father and broken that relationship horribly for the sake of getting his inheritance early and living his own way. Such an act as this younger son did would have been absolutely reprehensible to even consider. The father gave him his portion of what would rightfully be his one day.
Living up to the name of this parable, this “prodigal son” wastes all of it rather quickly on shameful living. A famine comes upon the land, forcing him to become a slave to another man not only feeding pigs but being jealous of how well they ate. This man could hardly sink lower. Formerly a Jewish man of prominent family name, he is now a servant to the pigs.
This is exactly what he deserved. Finally seeing his sin and its effects clearly, he returns home in hopes that his father would at least let him be a servant in the household. He knows he is no longer worthy of being called son but hopes to have any relationship with his father, even if it is only as master. You know the story, the father runs to him and joyfully restores him to sonship. This something he could never deserve, grace.
The prodigal is restored. Hearing the celebration from the field, the older brother rages at his father. It isn’t fair! He had always obeyed his father while his younger brother was wasteful, shameful, and wholly undeserving of this celebration. He was enraged by his own self-righteousness.
He deserved a celebration. He earned recognition, not this other son. While the prodigal realized his shame and repented, the older brother seethed in his own prideful heart. Both brothers suffered a break of fellowship with their loving father in differing ways. One because of the lust of the flesh and the other because of the pride of life.
What is our feeling when we see someone receive grace? Not someone we admire, respect, or even like. Can we celebrate when God forgives the sins of others, even while we bear the scars of those sins? Will we forgive others as God has forgiven them? Will we celebrate with the angels when God saves a sinner? We don’t know how the story ended, whether the older brother joined the celebration. Jesus left it open for the Pharisees to respond whether they, themselves, would join in the celebration or continue in their own self-righteousness.
From the brother’s (and the Pharisees’) viewpoint all this was unfair. They’re right, grace is unfair. It flies in the face of our own sense of justice. It is unfair that sinners can be forgiven by grace through faith.
It is unfair the Savior bore the wrath we deserve on the cruel cross. May we celebrate this unfair gift of grace that is freely offered to any and all who will receive it by repenting and, like the prodigal, returning home to a good Father who longs to forgive and is eager to celebrate their return home. B&R