We think that only the younger son in the Prodigal Son parable was lost, but in fact it was both sons.
Recap from last week: there is nothing we can do to disqualify ourselves from God’s love. This parable is told to the teachers of the law, not to the sinners.
This Week: The Older Brother
The older brother is off doing something long enough that he doesn’t know what’s going on. From the servant, he learns that the father has thrown a great feast and accepted the younger brother back as a son. In response, he becomes angry and refuses to go.
By accepting the younger brother back, the father has set him back as a son. This means he has decreased the inheritance of the older brother [the father’s forgiveness comes at a cost]. By refusing to enter the banquet, the older brother is making a statement that he disagrees with the father’s choice to accept back the younger son.
Now we see the father pursuing a lost son again, when he goes and pleads with the older brother. [Note the word play on son of yours when the son speaks to this brother of yours when the father speaks.]
The unresolved nature of the story makes sense when you remember who the audience is. [The Pharisees would have been the older brother, so the response of the older brother would have been represented by their response, hence the open-ended story.]
The younger brother represents self-discovery. Letting go of inhibitions to experience the world and find out what there is to offer. Someone on this path seeks happiness and fulfillment through determining your own choices.
The older brother represents a moral conformist. It’s someone who does whatever their righteous culture or church says they should. They give, serve, pray, but it’s never intimate and life giving. It’s dry and lifeless. There’s no joy, instead there’s guilt.
Both sons rebel against the father. Younger son through bad choices, the older son through good choices. We can rebel by breaking all the rules or by keeping all the rules. The older brother did everything right, but still alienated himself from the father.
The sin here is all about putting yourself in the place of Jesus as the Lord and Savior of your life. All the older brother’s good deeds are an attempt to control the father for what he can get, not in true submission to serve from love. Whether you are a sinner or a religious person, both paths lead to death w/out Jesus.