Community Group Study Notes
Have someone in your group provide a 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.
What is one thing that God taught you through this message?
In what way do you see yourself in the younger son in the Luke 15 story? In what way do you see yourself in the older son?
Read Luke 5:31-32. What does Jesus mean when he says this? Now read Romans 3:10. Who, then, does Jesus call to repentance? Why is this important?
What is one action step that you can take in response to Sunday’s message and our conversation today?
So, welcome. If you are watching us online or if you are any of our physical campuses, or maybe you're watching us on television or you're listening to us by way of radio. Thank you for being with us this day, and Happy Father's Day to all of the dads out there.
Now, I want to ask a quick question and you can raise your hand. It doesn't matter if you're at home, or if you're at one of our campuses that people could see you. I just want you to indicate by an uplifted hand if you are the oldest sibling in your family. Put your hand up in the air. Oldest sibling in the family. Put your hand up in the air. All right, there's a good many of us. Now, you can put your hands down. My hand is also up. I am the oldest in my family as well.
Now, for those of you that are the oldest siblings, maybe you can fill me on this one that there was a different level of accountability for your life. You got in more trouble, because of your siblings than you would've gotten in just by yourself. I somehow became accountable for things that my brother and my sister did, and even though I wasn't fully getting in trouble myself, I was getting in trouble along with them getting in trouble. It was just the way it went in our household.
I don't even consider it unfair. It's just a part of being an older sibling. Now, there are some benefits, I must say, particularly when I didn't have any brothers and sisters. I had all the attention of my parents. I had all the access that I needed and then they came along. Now, I say that in jest because I love my brother and my sister. My brother is about 18 months younger than I am. My sister about eight years younger than I am, but it is a unique thing being positioned as the oldest or the eldest sibling in the family.
I was reading an article that was in the scientific American. I read it all the time. No, I'm kidding. I don't. I found it in some research that I was doing, and as I was reading it, it's from August of 2019. In this article, it was an article titled, "Does birth order affect personality?" While I was reading it, the article was semi-interesting. It was basically talking about a number of different studies and compiling data on those studies, but the one thing that I picked out of there among some others, but the one thing for today's purposes that I picked out of there is that they said that there's a reasonably common, it's not absolute, but a reasonably common characteristic among those that are the eldest born is that generally speaking, again, this doesn't always hold, but generally speaking they are reasonably dutiful and responsible.
Now, that doesn't always hold up. It depends on the family. Some of you that are the eldest siblings right now and you're looking at your kid and you're going, "No, it doesn't hold up. I don't believe this study at all." Then others of you are going, "Yeah, relatively so, right in terms of age, but reasonably dutiful and responsible." When we get to our story today that we'll be looking at in Luke chapter 15 that we began last week that was a two-part story, right? The story of two sons that Jesus was telling.
When we get to this part of the story talking about the older brother, he seems to fit the bill. In fact, I want you to look in Luke chapter 15 beginning in verse number 25 it says this. It says, "Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing, so he called on of the servants and asked him what was going on." "Your brother has come," he replied, "and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound."
So here's how we're introduced to the older brother. He's Mr. Responsible. He's Mr. Dependable, because our introduction to him is this, "He is out working in the field." This is what a good older son would do, he was working in the field of his father doing everything that he was supposed to be doing at that moment. Then he gets something in his ear. He hears singing, and he hears a crowd gathering, and he understands that there's music playing up near the house. He wonders what is going on. So he asked one of his servants what's going on and he says, "Well, your brother's come home and your dad's throwing a big party."
Now, for those of you who weren't with us last week or maybe don't know the beginning of the story, the story Jesus told about two sons was actually told in two parts. Act One was about the younger son, and Act Two that we're going to look at today is about the older son. Now, what happened in Act One was this. Here's a quick synopsis. The younger son asked his father for his inheritance early, which was a really, really insulting and disrespectful thing to do, because in effect he said, "I wish you were dead and I just want what's mine."
So he says to his father, "I want my inheritance now." The father shockingly doesn't beat him up and run him off the property. He actually sells a third of his property, gives it to the younger son, and the younger son takes it into a distant land, a pagan land, and he spends all of his money on everything that he wants to do, tries to fulfill every desire that he has in every way possible, and actually gets to a place of not having any money at all.
He comes finally to a place where he realizes, "I don't have anything at all," and he has to hire himself out to a gentile pig farmer, which for the Jews, pigs were the poster animal for what it means to be unclean. So now he's working in a pig pen, and he comes to a place of realizing, "The pigs get fed better than I get fed." The bible says he comes to his senses and says, "I want to go back to my father's house, and he makes his way back to the father's house."
Shockingly, the father, who sees the son ultimately however long it took for him to get there, coming from a distance, doesn't make him take the walk of shame all the way back up to the house, but the father runs up to him, puts his own robe, has the servants get his best robe, puts it on his son, puts a ring on his finger, sandals on his feet and then says, "Kill the fatted calf. We have got a party to have. Invite everybody, because my son who was dead is now alive again. My son who was lost is now found."
This was the first act regarding the younger brother. Meanwhile, the older brother is dutifully and responsibly working out in the field of his father and he hears that there's a party going on, and one of the other employees says to him, "Yup, your brother's come back and your dad is throwing a massive party." How do you think the older brother reacted? Oh, here's what it says in the following verses. It says, "The older brother became angry and refused to go into the party or the feast."
His father went out and pleaded with him, but he answered his father, "Look, all these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends, but when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes, comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him." Clearly, he wasn't overly fired up, was he?
What we see in this story as Jesus is telling the story of two sons, and what he does now in the second one is Jesus has to start unfolding layer by layer what the heart of the older brother actually looks like. Because what he didn't have to do in the first story, the first part of the story regarding the younger brother is tell us just how sinful he was. We could see that with our own eyes, right? He had disrespected his father. He had disrespected the God of his father. He had taken all of his money. He had shamed his family. He spends it all recklessly, ends up having nothing, he's destitute. He's working with animals that were deemed unclean by the Jews.
He was a mess. We just see it in the story, but then when we get to the older brother, Jesus starts to unpeel his heart piece by piece so we can see what's going on with him. Let's take a look for just a moment at the older brother's heart. The first thing that we notice about it is that he's angry. He has a heart that is angry. We just read it a moment ago in verse number 28, here's what it says. It says, "The older brother became angry and refused to go into the party or go into the feast. So his father went out and pleaded with him."
Now, what's interesting about this is that the father is now having to deal with a second level of shame or embarrassment, because some however long months or years earlier when the younger son had left, he had to deal with that shame and embarrassment. Because when the younger son said to his father, "I want my inheritance now," and the father actually said, "Okay, I'm selling," because the younger son would have gotten a third of the property. The older son would have been deemed to have two-thirds of the property.
So the father actually sold this. Imagine in the community that he was living in, when he sells this they're asking, "Why are you selling your land? Your land is your life. Your life is your land. This is what we are." He had to tell them, because he didn't seem like a man who would lie. He told them, "My son asked for the inheritance and he's taking off." This was already a shame to him, and an embarrassment to him. Now, he is the master of a great feast. He is the host of a great banquet.
In the ancient world, when you were the master of the feast and the host of the banquet, it would be a great shame to you and a great embarrassment to you if you had to leave your guest and leave your party to go out and plead with one of your own family members to come back in. Because what everybody in that place would have known is that, "Hey, there's the younger brother. They're celebrating him. Hey, there's the mom. Hey, there's dad. Where's the older brother?"
So the father has to go out and plead with him to come in. So there's a level of embarrassment that he feels, but what we find out about the older brother is that he's angry. His anger by the way didn't just sneak up on him. It didn't just show up out of nowhere. Anger rarely does, does it? It's usually somewhere inside fostering and growing, and we're just coddling it for some purpose, right? The anger started spilling out. Why? Who was he angry with? He was certainly angry with his brother, wasn't he?
His brother had done something that was ugly and was something that brought shame to the family, but he was also probably angry with his father, because of the way the father actually responded. He may have been angry from the very outset whether it was months or years before when the younger brother actually took off with everything. He was probably angry that the father even agreed to give him his inheritance early on. That anger probably just sat there and began to fester and to grow.
Now, he's angry at the younger brother. He's angry at the father, and it starts to pour out, but it starts now to layer itself and you see piece by piece how it starts to show itself. Because when we see his heart, Jesus shows us he's not only angry but he's disrespectful. Watch how this goes in the conversation. Here's how the conversations played out. The older brother answered his father, "Look." Stop right there. That's what I want to highlight.
See, in the ancient world, when you talk to a patriarch of the family, when you talk to a father in a family, it was understood that you spoke with respect and you spoke with reverence. Still in some parts of the world, you can actually hear it when they regard you as someone to be respected. I've been in India a number of times along with a friend of mine who's in the room right now. We've heard the phrase, "Most respected sir. Kind respected sir." We've actually heard that phrase.
See, in the ancient world, they would refer to their father as respected father or revered father, something like that. It was always a sign of respect. By the way, dads that are in the room you're going, "Sounds good. I'm okay with that. I tried it at home. It took for about four seconds." Right? This was normally how you would respond to the father. Do you know how the older brother responds to him? "Look," that's what he says. Not, "Father, most respected father." "Look." It was a show of incredible disrespect.
Now, here's what's interesting about that. The older brother has inside of him this anger that is angry about the younger brother's disrespect of the father and disrespect of the family, and now the older brother is disrespecting the father, and disrespecting the family. Just a quick lesson to learn here. Anger and pride make hypocrites of us all. That's what it'll do, and it makes a hypocrite of him. His anger was against his younger brother for disrespecting the family and now he is doing exactly the same thing, because of an anger that he can't reign in.
He's not just disrespectful, he's also bitter. Watch how this plays out. Look in verse number 29 it says this, "He answered his father, look, all these years I've been slaving for you." Now, he goes to a place in his heart of deep bitterness. Can you heart it? "I've been responsible. I've been dutiful. I have done what I am supposed to do. I have been slaving for you all these years." Listen to what he's saying. "I've been dutiful but joyless."
This is a great check for you by the way, a great check for you. In your service to your Heavenly Father, how often does it become a duty for you instead of a joy? That you have to do it instead of you get to do it. Listen, I can tell you from my own perspective that there have been times in my life as a pastor that I have a risen on a Sunday morning and thought to myself, "I don't want to go. I don't want to go." Maybe it's been a really hard week. Maybe I've been dealing with a bunch of stuff. Maybe just there's been a little bit of toxicity growing in my heart, whatever it may be.
Then my alarm goes off and I hit it and I'm like, "No, somebody else can deal with this." Then Edie starts shaking me, "You're the pastor. Get out of here." No, she doesn't. There have been times, I confess. There have been those times where it's been just a duty to me instead of a joy. I can tell you this that generally speaking, the larger idea of this is that I can't believe I get to do this, that this is a joy to me. I'm not just talking about this moment, I'm talking about generally speaking, that God's called me to what He's called me to do, and then I get the opportunity to do it.
Generally speaking, this is a joy for me, but there are times where it walks into feeling like a duty, and it does for all of us, doesn't it? This is where we start creeping into the toxicity of an elder brother's heart and it embitters us. I've been slaving for you all these years, right? So he's bitter, but then he shows that he feels like he's morally superior. This just continues. Jesus just continues to unravel the heart of this older brother. Look again what it says in verse 29, he answered his father, "Look, all these years I've been slaving for you, and listen, and never disobeyed your orders. I never disobeyed your orders. Look how awesome I am."
Now, you might be going to yourself. Did he really disobey his father's orders never? When we use "always and never" in terms of conversations, particularly when it involves relationships, it's not great to do, is it? Because there's many times where you're saying to your husband or your wife, or your girlfriend or your boyfriend, or whoever and say, "You always," why are you always like a hundred percent of the time? "You never. You never? Like never?"
Usually, those don't go really well relationally when you're using always and never. He says, "I've never disobeyed one of your orders." Now, keep in mind what he's doing. He's angry at how the younger brother has been treated, and he's thinking to himself, "This guy has a sin list that is so long, I wouldn't even know where to begin. Do you know how many sins like if you started writing them down, you'd run out of ink."
The younger brother's sin list is so long, and look at mine compared to his. I've done everything that you've asked of me. I have done every single command, every single order you've given me, I have done it. Maybe he had externally. Jesus is getting something deeper here, that there's something going on inside of his heart, and what he's fall in prey to is a comparison trap where he has said in his mind, "He is really sinful and look at me in comparison with him."
This is what's going on in the mind of the older brother, and he all of a sudden becomes morally superior by his own appointment. This happens plenty in our culture. People become morally superior by their own appointment. What we have to realize here is that we can fall prey to this really quickly. So for instance, maybe in your mind over the course of the last number of months you've said something along the line of, "I would never do something like that. Look at me."
Maybe this, "How could she? Or, "Those people are idiots. They disgust me." Any of these ringing a bell? You see, let me translate all those phrases for you. Here's the translation, "I'm better than them, and I deserve better things than they do." You see, this is what was going on in the heart of the older brother as he compared himself to the younger brother. What he was doing in fact was he was fostering inside of his heart what the younger brother actually just demonstrated externally.
Now, he's coming to a place where all of this is coming out even though he hasn't shown it all before. There's something in his heart. You see, this happens in our cancel culture all the time. That's what we live in, right? We live in a cancel culture. You do something that the mob doesn't like and they cancel you. Doesn't matter what it is. You do something they don't like and you're canceled. Done with you.
Then the every hashtag is this, "Somebody is over party. We're canceling them." Why? Because we're morally superior. Because we are putting ourselves in the place of being morally superior. We would never do such a thing. They are saying things that are hateful, and they are disgusting, and we despise them and blankety-blank blank blank to them. So what we're saying to that point is that it's okay to point out the hatred of people while we hate them. That's an older brother heart, that we put ourselves in the position of being morally superior.
See, the cancel culture that we live in in our world is an awful thing. First of all, it's cannibalistic. In other words, it will turn on you. You can be a part of the cancel culture and then the second they don't want you, they'll turn on you and they'll eat you. That's just how it goes. Everybody is available food for the cannibalizing of the cancel culture. Secondly, it's missing something that when it's missing, when this thing is missing, life is ugly.
Do you know what it is? Forgiveness. Do you know what the older brother didn't have inside of his heart? Forgiveness. You know what he wanted? He wanted himself and whatever it is he wanted for himself and anything that got in the way of that, he was despising. He didn't like. It wasn't that he care about forgiveness for his brother. He didn't. He wanted his brother to stay away and pay, because he had an ability now to be able to get all the things that he wanted to get. His heart is now exposed, but he not only believes that he's morally superior, but he also thinks that he's entitled.
It's just one thing after another in this story. Look at what it says in verse 29 again, he says, "Basically after I've obeyed everything that you've told me to obey, father. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. Do you hear how entitled he feels? Let me translate. "After all I've done for you, and this is what I get." That's what he's saying. After all I've done for you.
You see, what the older brother thinks is that he thinks that there's a formula for the father's generosity. This is where he makes a tremendous mistake. He thinks there's a formula for the father's generosity and that through controlling, being dutiful, being good, and being responsible, he makes his father a deader to him. That is toxic. I've heard it come out in the lives of people over and over again through the many years of ministry that I've been engaged in.
Maybe something's happened to them and you begin to talk to them about it, and then here's what you hear, "After all I've done for the Lord," fill in the blank. "After all I've done for the Lord, I can't believe this other person got the job and I didn't. After all I've done for the Lord and my child get sick? After all I've done for the Lord, you could just fill it in, right?"
We hear this sense of entitlement, in other words that somehow we have made God our deader, and we're entitled to things, because there's a formula. If I've done these things, then God owes me. That's how the older brother was looking at his relationship with his father. Do you know maybe where that came from? He lacked the assurance of the father's love, not because of the father, but because of him. He lacked an assurance of the father's love.
Let me show it to you again. Let's look at the very same verse. After he says, "I've done everything you asked me to do, I've followed every order you've asked me to follow yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. You never gave me." Here's what he's saying, "You gave my brother something that you didn't give me. You gave him something that you didn't give me. You know what he took that to mean? You love him and you must not love me as much. You care about him, but you don't care about me," even though the father tells him in just a few moments, "Son, you've always been with me and everything that I have is yours."
He's basically now made this comparison of, "You did this for him. You didn't do this for me. Therefore, you must not love me." Have you ever done that with God?" You've looked at somebody's life and you've seen how God did something remarkable in their life and maybe really bless them and did something really extraordinary and you think to yourself, "They don't deserve that. I know them. I've seen some of the stuff that they've done. God, you did that for them and you won't do that for me? Maybe you don't love me."
That's what we start going with it. Maybe you don't care about me. See, do you know how you try and solve that internal problem just like the elder brother. You start trying to solve that problem. You know how you do it? You perform. You see, when you struggle with the assurance of a father's love, you try and perform to earn it. That's exactly what you don't need to do, because the father in this story, he loved both of his sons. You're going to see that in a second. He loved both of his sons.
The father who is in heaven, our Heavenly Father, He loves his kids. Now some of you on this Father's Day, you may be thinking to yourself maybe from years gone by from way long ago past, but you maybe still to this day are still trying to earn the love of your father by performing for him. What you've got to remember is this, is no level of performance is going to earn the love that you desire. No level of performance.
Your performance will never be good enough to be able to have or be entitled to the love that you think that you deserve. You need to be reminded that you have a love that is beyond your comprehension that is not based upon your performance. That's what we start to learn here. You don't have to earn love. Let me show you a last thing here. The heart of the elder brother, he felt a despising arrogance.
Let me show you what I'm talking about here in verse number 30. He says, "You didn't even give me and my friends an animal to be able to celebrate at anytime, but when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you killed a fattened calf for him." Did you catch that phrase? "When this son of yours." Do you know how despisingly arrogant that phrase was? Here's what the older brother did. He put his brother and his father in a separate category. Why? Because he feels morally superior at this point, right? He feels entitled.
He put them in a separate category and he said, "This son of yours. Don't link me together with this brother. He's a sinful do nothing. He's been awful. This is your problem, the two of you. I can't believe the way you responded him. I can't believe what he's done. Look at me in comparison to this. This son of yours." It was despisingly arrogant. Do you know what you see in this story as you start to unpack it all? That the older brother is just as rebellious as the younger one. That's what you begin to see.
See, sin isn't just what we do ladies and gentlemen. Sin is not just the long list of offenses that we have done. Sin is bigger than that. Sin is not just about what we do, it's about who we are. There are many times over that our hearts begin to reveal that very thing, and Jesus as he peels back the layers, begins to show us that. You see, sin is not just a list of things we've done wrong. Sin is about a heart that has gone wrong. This is imperative for us to remember. Sin is when we put anything.
Listen to this, sin is when we put anything in the place of God to satisfy us or to save us. That's what sin is. It's not just, even though it includes all the things we have done that are incompatible with who God is, it is those things, but it's bigger than that. That's why you and I can't be so caught up in just what we see. You see, because when Jesus tells this story, what you think in this story initially is that this is a story of contrast. The younger brother and the older brother. It's not a story of contrast. It's a story of comparison.
They're the same. You see, both of them are rebellious. They just did it in different ways. Listen to me, one of them rebelled from the father's authority by leaving. One of them rebelled from the father's authority by staying. You see, because both of them in that context, they wanted to control their own outcomes and they didn't need the father to be able to do that in their minds. What's sad about this story is that neither one of them when we see their sin, neither one of them cared about the father's happiness.
They didn't love the father for the father. They loved the father for what he could give them. That's what we see. You see, this is a story of commonality between these two, but do you know what you also see? You see a loving father that though both have brought shame, he invites both of them to the feast. What a father. He actually invites both of them to the feast. You see, this isn't just about, "Hey, I need to go find myself and so my oaths, and this is the only way I can find my identity, or that I can actually create an identity of control on this and like the older brother did to manipulate the father into what I want."
This isn't just about these poles. It's not just about these extremes, because Jesus is trying to get us to the good news of the gospel. The good news of the gospel is something completely bigger than. It's something completely separate from. It's something completely different than the things that people think that they're categorizing at this point. I can't say this better than Tim Keller said it, so I want him to just go ahead and say it. Listen to how he emphasize this. He says, "This means that Jesus's message which is the gospel is a completely different spirituality."
The gospel of Jesus is not religion or irreligion. It's not morality or immorality. It's not moralism or relativism. It's not conservatism or liberalism nor is it something halfway along a spectrum between two poles. It is something else all together. The gospel is distinct from the other two approaches. In its view, listen to this, everyone is wrong, everyone is loved, and everyone is called to recognize this and change. Everyone is wrong. Everyone is loved, and everyone is called to recognize this and change.
You see, here's what we realized from this story. There is a large truth. You see, in the first half of the story Act One, we learned that even if we haven't gone out and we don't have a sin list that's a hundred miles long like the younger son, what we learned is that this isn't just the younger son's story, this is the human story. The hopefulness of the human story is this, is that lost can be found. That's what we learned in the first part of this story.
The second part is not unlike it. We just have to look at it differently. Here's what the second, the Act Two, here's what the second portion of this story talking about the older brothers trying to teach us. No matter what it looks like on the outside, everybody is lost and needs to be found. No matter what it looks like on the outside, everybody is lost and needs to be found. You see, this is the heartbeat of this story overall, and it can be easy for us to miss this, because when we look at life, we look at it this way sometimes.
All of these people that are doing all of these horrible things that have a sin list a mile and a half long, it's easy for us to look at them and say, "Man, they need Jesus." It's not as easy to say that about the people that live in our neighborhood that we borrow their mower and they're nice. They're nice. They let us borrow their mower. That was cool. They're civil. They vote. They're paying their taxes. They come to the block parties and they bring really great dip, and chips.
So what we say about them is, "Man, he's a good guy. Man, she's a good gal." Here's what we forget, everybody is lost and needs to be found, no matter what it looks like from the outside, because you've got a story here of someone's sin that everybody and their brother can see, and then you've got a story of someone's sin that nobody can see until it gets revealed. Everybody is lost and needs to be found. It's more dangerous to be an older brother than it is to be the younger brother, and I'll tell you why.
Because eventually, the younger brother or as you'd call it the younger sister if you want, the younger sibling that goes out and does all of these things eventually realizes how empty it is. They end up starving. They end up broke spiritually. Eventually, maybe they come to their senses and realize, "I need a savior." The problem on this side is that we have convinced ourselves that we are so self-righteous that we don't need anything, that we don't actually need a savior. We're doing just fine, I must say, by myself.
You see, whether it is obvious sin or secret self-righteousness, everyone needs a savior. Everybody is lost and needs to be found. That is what the message of our text is teaching us. I've got some more. Thank you for the claps. I've got some more. So the father ends the conversation, right? After the son ends up saying to him, "I can't believe you've done all of these things and this son of yours who squandered your property with prostitutes, you've given him a big party. You've killed the fatten calf."
Listen to how the father ends the conversation. He says, "My son, you're always with me and everything I have is yours, but we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found." Did you see what the father did? He did not allow the older son to put him and his brother in a category different. Because remember how he said it? "This son of yours."
Now, the father says, "This brother of yours." You know why? Because you're the same. It just looks different that both of you are in desperate need. He won't let the older brother disconnect in that way. He causes him to acknowledge his connection to all of this. So the story ends, but it's kind of a cliffhanger, isn't it? The story's over. You go, "Okay, great. I've learned some incredible principles from this," but you're still reading a story going, "Wait a second. Wait a second. Did the older brother go back into the party? Did he join the feast?"
What what we all want to know, right? It's one of those, "Da-da-da. Next week. Did the older brother go back at?" We don't know. We have no idea. The story remains unresolved. Why? Because of the audience that Jesus is talking to. You see, Jesus told a story of two sons and the reason he was telling a story of two sons is because he had a twofold audience. Notice who His audience is. It's in the very first verses of this text that says, "Now, the tax collectors and sinners," that's audience one. "We're all gathering around to hear Jesus," but the pharisees and the teachers of the law, that's audience two. They muttered about Jesus.
This man welcome centers and eats with them. So Jesus has two audiences here, tax collectors and sinners. Everybody knows that these people are sinful including themselves and pharisees who are secretly self-righteous and externally look like they don't have any issues but inside Jesus knows there's a huge problem.
So the first half of this story is aimed at the tax collectors and sinners, and the second half is aimed at the pharisees and the teachers of the law. Now, why do I tell you that? Because the pharisees and the teachers of the law knew the bible extraordinarily well, the Hebrew scriptures, they knew it many times from memory. Jesus was doing something remarkable in this story, because he left something out.
The pharisees would've known. They would've understood that Jesus left something out. You see, this story that Jesus told about the two sons is actually the third story in a three-story set, remember? There was this story of the lost sheep, then there was the story of the lost coin, and then there were the story of the lost sons, right? The pharisees would've been tracking through these stories understanding that Jesus was trying to make a very specific point, but there's something about the third story that's different than the first two stories, very, very different and fundamental to the stories that Jesus was telling.
You see, the first story, the story about the sheep, when one of the sheep got lost, the shepherd moved heaven and earth to go find it. In the second story, when a woman lost one of the coins, she did everything she could, swept the house, brought out light, she moved heaven and earth to go find it. In story number one, somebody goes after the sheep that's lost. In story number two, she goes after the coin that's lost, but in story number three, the son, the younger son is lost and no one goes after him, but someone should have. The older brother.
You see, Jesus knew full well that these pharisees and teachers of the law knew exactly what God's instruction in Genesis chapter four to Cane when he dealt wrongly with his brother, Abel. Cane, the older brother of Abel. You know what they knew? That we are our brother's keeper. Their expectation should have been if this is a good older brother, he would've gone after the younger brother, because that's what good older brothers do.
Jesus was telling the story to the pharisees not only to rebuke them and reminding them that they have left tax collectors and sinners behind even though they are older brothers in the sense of their own sin and they have left them behind with their teaching, but he's also trying to create a longing in them. Because in this story, here's what they miss, they miss that there's not a true and good older brother and Jesus is trying to get them to long for that, because you know where that true and older brother was? He was telling them the story. That's what he was doing.
Jerry, what are you talking about? If you listen to how the writers of the New Testament actually talk about Jesus, then you understand. Paul in Romans 8, and also the writer of Hebrews. Listen to what Romans 8 says, "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters." Jesus is our perfect, great, glorious older brother.
Listen to the writer of Hebrews in chapter number two. In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God for whom and through whom everything exist should make the pioneer of their salvation talking about Jesus perfect through what He suffered, both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. Jesus is our glorious older brother.
Listen to this, He is the only one who can save people from their obvious sins and from the ones that nobody can see. He's the only one that can do that. Listen to this, He is the one who represents the loving Father that actually invites the obvious sinners and the secretly self-righteous into the feast as long as they recognize that they need a savior and they can't do it themselves. This is who Jesus actually is. We know that He loved even the secretly self-righteous, the pharisees for one because He told them the story.
He was reaching to them by telling them the story, but do you know how else? These pharisees did not respond to this story as they should have, and they continued to plot and secretly work until they could get Jesus killed. As Jesus is on a cross, the pharisees and the teachers of the law are there looking upon Him at their handy work. Jesus cries out on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Which was the quote of the very beginning of Psalm 22.
The reason Jesus was quoting, that was not only the physical and emotional turmoil and spiritual turmoil He was going through. He was also in His weakest hour in his most death on, I mean, He's really close to dying at this point. He is still reaching out in love to the pharisees because Psalm 22 was a Messianic Psalm that prophesied who the Messiah was going to be, and if they would've unrolled the scroll while they were there at the cross and read it, they would have seen it happening before their eyes.
Jesus loves the obvious sinner and He loves the secretly self-righteous, and He is the only one that can save. Could you imagine? Could you imagine what the story looks like with the true older brother? As soon as that younger brother left and he was gone, maybe he left because he knew this older brother was so great, but he took off and he left with all the money and he spent it and all that stuff, and he ends up in a pig-sty, but one day his older brother comes running into the mud in the midst of the pigs and picks him up out of the mud and says, "We're coming home. I'm taking you back."
He runs with him to the father and the father actually runs to meet them, or can you see this beautiful, perfect older brother walking to the older brother in this scenario and speaking with him outside the feast saying to him, "I will pay whatever cost is necessary, but I want you to come back into the feast of our father. He has always loved you and he wants you home." As he comes into the father, the father runs to him. This is what the beautiful, perfect, glorious older brother does that no one else can do. Only Jesus can lead you there.
This is the story of the prodigal. It's not a story of one that's lost. It's a story of both that are lost. The second Act teaches us, and no matter what it looks like on the outside, everybody is lost and needs to be found. Let's bow our heads together, please. You may be here and never before have entrusted your life to Jesus. I want you to know something. Whether or not you've got a sin list that's a mile long or maybe you've just taught yourself so good that you're not in need. Jesus has spoken love over you this day, about how much the Father loves you, how much He loves you, because He's come for all of us.
We must be willing to come into the feast and there's only one way. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me." This is the only way in. So what I'm hoping is this, is that you recognize that you by yourself cannot save yourself. It's impossible to do. You can't save yourself. Only Jesus can do that, and He did that by dying on a cross in your place to satisfy the justice of God. That what you can do, listen, is now you can turn from your sin and put your faith and trust in Jesus and He can transform your heart.
Old things are gone and everything can become new. Because whether or not you feel like you're in the pig-sty of sin, or you feel like, "I don't have need of anything because I'm doing pretty good on my own," I hope you'll recognize that Jesus came and died for both, and that you can only be saved in and through Him. If that's your need today, I hope that maybe when we dismiss in just a few moments, I hope that you'll come by. On your way out, you'll see a table full of bibles and stuff, and there'll be some pastors standing around there as well. They'll have mask on of course, but we'd love for you to stop by and say, "Boy, I need to receive Jesus."
We want to send you home with something that'll help you in that regard, or if you'd like to connect with somebody online, go to thechapel.com/knowingjesus, or if you want to call us, call us at 716-631-2636. We'd be glad to be able to talk to you. If you're online, connect with us that way, either online or give us a call, because your greatest need, everybody, no matter what it looks like on the outside, everybody's lost and needs to be found. That's why we all need a savior.