Parable of the Prodigal Son – The Oldest Son

The parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 has three characters: The youngest son, The oldest son and The Father. The prodigal son represents a sinner who repent while the Father represents God, who is joyful when one comes into repentance. Here we would see the Father’s love to his Son. But what about the oldest son? What lesson what we learn about him?

As we go through Luke 5 we would also see the Father’s love in how we responded to the oldest son.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

This cause the older brother to be and refused to celebrate the return of his Father. But the Father wanted the oldest son to celebrate with them so he pleaded with him. The Father wanted the older son to see the situation as he sees it – His lost brother now found.

The older brother said to him:

‘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. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

Look at how the older brother reacted. We can learn two things from the attitude of the older brother. First, his focus was always on his performance when he said “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.”

Look at how angry the oldest brother is. He used the word or term slavery, and in confidence even mentioned that “NEVER” has he disobeyed his Father. Which is very unlikely for the following reasons: contempt for his Father’s actions and his refusal to celebrate with his Father – he refused to go in. This is truly in comparison to the disobedience of his younger brother who disobeyed his Father but his emotions is just too blown up to exaggerate and say he has never disobeyed his Father.

Next is that we can see he was somehow expecting something in return for his work when he said “yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.” All those years of labour seems that it was motivated by what He can get from his Father.

And again, he was comparing himself with his young brother with scorn when he said “but when this son of yours.” He didn’t mention the youngest brother as “my brother” but “when this son of yours.”
This shows three things that the oldest son were really focused on:

  1. His work and possible rewards
  2. His performance compared to his younger brother
  3. His own business and never took the time to understand his Father

The oldest son represented the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus also talking to. When we look at Luke 15:1-2

15 Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. 2 Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

The Pharisees in the time of our Lord were the popular group. They were extremely accurate and minute in all matters appertaining to the Law of Moses. When Jesus in his story introduced the elder brother, it is a clear illustration of the scribes and Pharisees. Just like the oldest son, the Pharisees and scribes were guilty that their outward actions was only important since their inward attitudes were abominable.

They had no sense of sin and no interest in repenting sinners – it was all about them. Just like the character of the oldest son: hard working and obedient but was lacking heart in how he responded.

But look at how the Father reacted to all of these things.

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 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.’”

We first have to realize that, technically everything that the Father owns was already for the Oldest Son. The share was already divided.

  1. Was he never disobeying the Father in hopes of getting his Favor and to get more from his inheritance?
  2. Wasn’t all that he was working for was for his benefit as well?
  3. Did he realized he (as a son) has the freedom to ask for the young goat?
  4. Did he not know that his Father can willing give what he requested?

That’s why the Father said “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”

Friends, if you would try to think about how the oldest son acted – have you not the same?

  • Are you still moved when someone comes in repentance and gets to know the Lord?
  • Have you been too caught up with performing?
  • Focus is on doing the daily Quiet Times and not the reason why you are doing it
  • Too much focus on the performance on ministry and no longer about God or his people
  • Working for eternal rewards when that is just an additional prize when the prize has always been getting God alone.
  • Are you quick to compare yourself with other people?
  • Do you not take the time to actually know how your Father feels about you and his people?

Again, the main focus of the lesson is in the response of the Father and his love for his son. The Father representing God who is eager to forgive, and joyful when one comes into repentance. Even with the oldest brother, he responded in a loving and patient way.
He is just waiting for you. Waiting for you to open your heart to him. Listen to what He wants you to know – know that he loves you no matter what! Whatever you have done. Whatever mistake. Whatever you have, he loves you and he just choose to.

He is just has love for you. He is not disappointed, but only has compassion for you. Psalm 103:8 – The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

Note from the author: This is an excerpt from my message during the B1G South True Life Retreat entitled “True Love”. If you want to read my experiences during the retreat you can read it here: Day 1Day 2, and Day 3.