He became angry and was not willing to go in.
Had Jesus ended the parable of the lost son after the father welcomed his son home, we would have missed the point. This story is not only about the response of the father but also about the reaction of the older brother. The final act begins in Luke 15:25: “His older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. 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.’ But he became angry and was not willing to go in” (vv. 25-28).
If the younger son represents sinners and Gentiles who were being saved, then the older son represents the Pharisees, who criticized Jesus for loving sinners. Notice that instead of being a co-host with his father, the older son was unwilling to go into his father’s house and enjoy the celebration. Because of his self-righteousness, the older son was just as much outside his father’s house as the younger son had been when he was living in the distant country.
And look at the older son’s complaint. He said to his father, “For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him” (vv. 29-30).
If we are honest, we sympathize a little bit with the older son, don’t we? We see ourselves as pretty good people, faithfully serving God. And sometimes we find it difficult to stomach that somebody who has lived their life in immorality could at the last minute trust in Jesus as their Savior and occupy the same heaven that we do. That just does not seem right. But Jesus was saying whether it is because of blatant sin or subtle self-righteousness, both people are outside the father’s house.
Notice how the father responded in verses 31-32: “Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.” We do not know if the older son ever came in to join the party. That is because it was still an open question: Would the Pharisees stay outside God’s household? Would they hold on to their self-righteousness and refuse to acknowledge their need for a Savior? What would their choice be? What will our choice be?
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Value Of Lost Things” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org