By Steven Merten
All biblical quotes are from the New American Bible.
All bolding, color and underlining of scriptural quotes has been added.
Jesus' words are in red. Bible Abreviations
We understand the prodigal son's repentant heart. Now let us look at the heart of the elder son. It is the Pharisees that Christ directs the prodigal parable at when he gives it. The Pharisees, similar to the older brother, think that they and they alone should be honored as in the Father's family. They believe that the prodigal sinners have chosen unfaithfulness and should not now be rewarded as faithful sons. The Pharisees complained about Christ allowing sinners to also be seen as children of God as the older brother complains to his father of letting his prodigal brother back into their family.
NAB LUK 15:The tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear him, at which the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.
NAB LUK 15:25Meanwhile the elder son was out on the land. As he neared the house on his way home, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked him the reason for the dancing and the music. The servant answered, Your brother is home, and your father has killed the fatted calf because he has him back in good health. The son grew angry at this and would not go in; but his father came out and began to plead with him...
He said to his father in reply: For years now I have slaved for you. I never disobeyed one of your orders. yet you never gave me so much as a kid goat to celebrate with my friends. Then, when this son of yours returns after having gone through your property with loose women, you kill the fatted calf for him.
NAB EZE 18:23Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked? says the Lord GOD. Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he may live?
And if the virtuous man turns from the path of virtue to do evil, the same kind of abominable things that the wicked man does, can he do this and still live? None of his virtuous deeds shall be remembered, because he has broken faith and committed sin; because of this, he shall die. You say, "The Lord's way is not fair!" Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
NAB EZE 33:17Yet your countrymen say, "The way of the LORD is not fair!"; but it is their way that is not fair. When a virtuous man turns away from what is right and does wrong, he shall die for it. But when a wicked man turns away from wickedness and does what is right and just, because of this he shall live. And still you say, "The way of the LORD is not fair!"? I will judge every one of you according to his ways, O house of Israel.
NAB LUK 7:39When his host, the Pharisee, saw this he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is that touches him--that she is a sinner."
NAB MAT 9:11The Pharisees saw this and complained to his disciples, "What reason can the Teacher have for eating with tax collectors and those who disregard the law?" Overhearing the remark, he said: "People who are in good health do not need a doctor; sick people do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'It is mercy I desire not sacrifice.' I have come to call, not the self-righteous, but sinners." (MAR 2:13)
NAB JOH 7:48"You do not see any of the Sanhedrin believing in him, do you? Or the Pharisees? Only this lot, that knows nothing about the law--and they are lost anyway!"
Man has a desire to possess things to give him status apart from other men in the world. Man gets greedy and selfish even with God's eternal kingdom. As some men will strive very hard to possess affluence above other men so also will they strive to possess the eternal kingdom above other men. (MAT 19:16) The Pharisees did not look at the kingdom of God as 'love of God' through 'righteous deeds' 'fruitfully produced' 'in your heart'. Instead the Pharisees saw the kingdom of God as a possession to exalt themselves over other men on earth. To live for all eternity is a very desirable thing to possess in the world. The Pharisees, like the elder son, insisted that they are the ones the world should recognize and glorify as the chosen few in possession of the kingdom, not the tax collectors, prodigals and prostitutes.
The Pharisees manipulated scriptures and the teachings of John the Baptist to verbally forced their way into the kingdom of God. Jesus verbally throws the Pharisees out of the kingdom of God. After Jesus kicks the Pharisees out of God's eternal kingdom, they immediately search for a way to kill him.
NAB JOH 5:39"Search the Scriptures in which you think you have eternal life--they also testify on my behalf. Yet you are unwilling to come to me to possess that life. It is not that I accept human praise-- it is simply that I know you, and you do not have the love of God in your hearts."
NAB ACT 23:8(The Sadducees, of course, maintain that there is no resurrection and that there are neither angles nor spirits, while the Pharisees believe in all these things.)(LUK 14:14)(2TI 2:18)(1CO 10:1)
NAB MAT 22 The Wedding BanquetJesus again in reply spoke to them in parables, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those invited: "Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast."' Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, 'The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.' The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, 'My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?' But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, 'Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.' Many are invited, but few are chosen." Then the Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap him in speech.
NAB REV 19:6Then I heard something like the sound of a great multitude or the sound of rushing water or mighty peals of thunder, as they said: "Alleluia! The Lord has established his reign, (our) God, the almighty. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory. For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready. She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment." (The linen represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones.)
NAB MAT 21:43Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit. ( The one who falls on this stone will be dashed to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.)"
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they knew that he was speaking about them. And although they were attempting to arrest him, they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet.
In Christ's parable on the self righteous, it is as if the Pharisees are thanking Jesus for their lack of sin and self righteousness. 'Eucharisteo' certainly must have come from John the Baptist's 'good news'. The Pharisees manipulated from John's words their righteousness over others as a gift from God.
NAB2 LUK 18:9 The Pharisee and the tax collector.He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. "Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, 'O God, I thank [eucharisteo] you that I am not like the rest of humanity--greedy, dishonest, adulterous--or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.' But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.' I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted."Eucharisteo; with the dative it always stands where there is implied a kindness done, a favor, a charis, a grace for an undeserved gift received where it appears as thanks for any good experience.
Charis; from chairio, to rejoice, or chara, joy, favor, acceptance, a kindness granted or desired, a benefit, thanks, gratitude, grace. A favor done without expectation of return; absolute freeness of loving kindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and freeheartedness of the Giver; unearned an unmerited favor.
Quoted from: Lexicon to the Old and New Testaments, Copyright 1984 by Spiros Zodhiates, TH.D AMG publishers. D/B/A AMG Publishers. Baker book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Note: All emphasis of quote has been added.
The Jewish term "Pharisee" means "the separated". The Pharisees used circumcision, the law of Abraham (ACT 15:1), eucharisteo and baptism to verbally force their way into the kingdom that John the Baptist spoke of. The Pharisees ruthlessly exalted and separated themselves from other men as God's chosen sons in possession of eternal life. It is this lust for worldly exaltation as God's sons in possession of God's kingdom that the Pharisees violently crucified the Son of Man to protect.
NAB JOH 4:1Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was winning over and baptizing more disciples than John (in fact, however, it was not Jesus himself who baptized, but his disciples)
NAB MAT 3:8They were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins. When he saw that many of the Pharisees and Sadducees were stepping forward for this bath, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who told you to flee from the wrath to come? Give some evidence that you mean to reform. Do not pride yourselves on the claim, 'Abraham is our father.' I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these very stones."
NAB3 MAR 11:27 Jesus' authority in questionThey returned once more to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple area, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders approached him and said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things? Or who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I shall ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was John’s baptism of heavenly or of human origin? Answer me.”
NAB LUK 16:16 The Law."The law and the prophets were in force until John. From his time on, the good news of God's kingdom has been proclaimed, and people of every sort are forcing their way in. It is easier for the heavens and the earth to pass away than for a single stroke of a letter of the law to pass.
NAB MAT 11:11"I solemnly assure you, history has not known a man born of woman greater than John the Baptizer. Yet the least born into the Kingdom of God is greater than he. From John the Baptizer's time until now the kingdom of God has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force."
NAB MAT 21:37"Finally he sent his son to them, thinking, "They will respect my son.' When they saw the son, the tenants said to one another, 'Here is the one who will inherit everything. Let us kill him and then we shall have his inheritance!" With that they seized him, dragged him outside the vineyard, and killed him."
NAB MAT 12:14When the Pharisees were outside they began to plot against him to find a way to destroy him.
NAB MAT 23:23"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. (But) these you should have done, without neglecting the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel! "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men's bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets' blood.' Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out! You serpents, you brood of vipers, how can you flee from the judgment of Gehenna? Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that there may come upon you all the righteous blood shed upon earth, from the righteous blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Amen, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
NAB MAT 5:20I tell you, unless your holiness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees you shall not enter the kingdom of God."
NAB MAT 23:12Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, but whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. "Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you frauds! You shut the doors of the kingdom of God in men's faces, neither entering yourselves nor admitting those who are trying to enter. Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you frauds! You travel over sea and land to make a convert, but once he is converted you make a devil of him twice as wicked as yourselves.
NAB EZE 34:4You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally.
Christ's life shows us how the older brother should have acted toward his younger brother. The older brother of the parable appeared to serve and obey the father but love was not his goal. The older brother desires to own the farm rather than desiring to love the father. Jesus, on the other hand, has pure love and acts out of concern for the Father and his brother rather than concern for possession and position in heaven.
With a troubled heart the Father asks Jesus to go seek out what the Father treasures. The Father desires His Son Jesus to seek out the heart of man which He treasures but has lost. The Father asked Jesus, as He has asked other prophets of the past, to go to Adam and attempt to bring his prodigal brothers home. The Father sent Jesus as a messenger to teach his prodigal brothers of reconciliation to the Father. God's desire is that the prodigal sons will choose to come to love and serve He their Father once again.
Jesus left the land of his Father and went to the land of his prodigal brother. The obedient Son Jesus found his prodigal brother in bondage to the evil one who had lured the prodigal away from the Father. So the obedient Son, knowing how much the prodigal son meant to the Father, bought the prodigal son away from the evil one. What he used as payment for his brother was his own blood.
NAB LUK 19:10The Son of Man has come to search out and save what was lost.
NAB MAT 26:26 The Holy Eucharist.During the meal Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to his disciples. "Take this and eat it" he said, "this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them. "All of you must drink from it," he said, "for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, to be poured out in behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins..."
Before Adam sinned he did not need to be saved. From the position of life Adam chose death, therefore it is obvious that he did not have eternal life. A dead man cannot choose between life and death, only one who is alive can choose. We now have baptism to save us from sin. Now that we baptized Christians are saved, let us go forth to fulfill our purpose in life which, like pre-sin Adam, is to love God. Redeemed through baptism we the prodigals, like pre-sin Adam or circumcised Abraham, now go forth to choose between love and life, or, hate and death. The Bible and the Holy Spirit are our road map to eternal life. Between baptism and the resurrection of the soul lies difficult and rocky ground. On this stretch the evil one waits in ambush to retrieve our soul.
If a prodigal son should go through the doors of baptism he has with him other tools for the long and difficult journey to the resurrection of his soul. He has the Eucharist to give him strength in remembrance of his older brother Jesus (MAT 26:26). He has confirmation of the Pentecostal Holy Spirit as his weapon against the scores of enemy soldiers of the evil one who wish to capture him back (ACT 2:1). He also has the saving power of reconciliation for the times when he should fall into enemy hands(JOH 20:22). The prodigal son must use all his tools and move forward on his journey back to the Father. He is fueled on by the hope in Christ's words and the trust that his Father is waiting to receive him into His Home should he choose to love and serve Him. Love, service and honor for the Father is the path a prodigal must take to get back to the Home of our Father.
NAB EPH 6:10 Christian Warfare.Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. Our battle is not against human forces but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness, the evil spirits in regions above. You must put on the armor of God if you are to resist on the evil day; do all that your duty requires, and hold your ground. Stand fast, with the truth as the belt around your waist, justice as your breastplate, and zeal to propagate the gospel of peace as your footgear. In all circumstances hold faith up before you as your shield; it will help you extinguish the fiery darts of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, the word of God.
If the older brother in the parable were to have really loved his father to no limit, would he not have seen the pain his father was going through because of the loss of the younger son? Would it not have been better for the older son, after seeing his Father's pain, to put down his plow and go off to find his brother as Jesus does? Shouldn't the older brother be more concerned about relieving their father's aching heart than any self gain of the farm?
Christ left his flock of 99 sheep to search for one lost stray because of the importance of each individual to the Father. Would it had not been grand for the elder son to have sought out his brother and attempted to bring him back to his father's ways so he could again come back to his father's home, even though the older brother knows that he will have to share his father's love and attention with his brother? What a double delight it would have been for the father in the story if the elder brother would have been the one to help the younger brother back to their father. When the father prepared for the celebration, if only the elder brother had said, Here my brother take my place at the feast table. My place is close to our father. Our father has wept for you a long time and he will be joyous to have you near. Would it not be action like this that would show the greatest Jesus-like love from the elder son to his father?
NAB MAT 18:10 The Straying Sheep.See that you never despise one of these little ones. I assure you, their angels in heaven constantly behold my heavenly Father's face. What is your thought on this: A man owns a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away; will he not leave the ninety-nine out on the hills and go in search of the stray? If he succeeds in finding it, believe me he is happier about this one than about the ninety-nine that did not wander away. Just so, it is no part of your heavenly Father's plan that a single one of these little ones shall ever come to grief.
How great a gift it will be from those who have gone out in search of their brothers the servant who found those who were lost and taught them how to love God once again, the servants who were not concerned with exalting themselves over their brothers with possession of heaven, like the Pharisees, but sought the Father's joy in another sheep choosing to love our heavenly Father again.
Those who despise the attention of the prodigal son, do you now understand? You who hate the prodigal son story because of unfairness, do you now pray and hope for your sinning brothers that they go to heaven, too?
NAB LUK 1:13The angel said to him: Do not be frightened, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth shall bear a son whom you shall name John. Joy and gladness will be yours, and many will rejoice at his birth; for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He will never drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb. Many of the sons of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. God himself will go before him, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the rebellious to the wisdom of the just, and to prepare for the Lord a people well-disposed.
Lord Jesus, you came to teach men how to love our Father, please teach me, your prodigal brother, how to love our Father. I pray Lord Jesus, please assist, too, my fellow brother to love the Father. Guide us Jesus that our full objective in life is to serve our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength. Guide us also, dear Jesus, that we always humbly serve our neighbor's needs as if they were our own. My hope is to be nothing more than the most humble of many servants within your Kingdom. It is you, Lord Jesus, God's first born, who pleads for the lives of us your prodigal brothers as we prostrate ourselves at the door of our Father. Thank you for holding no grudge against us your prodigal brothers and sisters.The reason men go to heaven through Christ is because they have love for God. The way that you love God is by serving God with all your heart. The Kingdom was created for even those who only served God shortly, but they die with a converted heart filled with a desire to serve and obey God (MAT 20). Christ died to retrieve such love of service. The obedience of service to God is the way we love our God and this love brings us Jesus' eternal salvation, a loving Kingdom created for those with hearts filled with love of service.
The amount of love through service that you have for the Father when you go to heaven is your treasure. Do not envy the one who has received the Kingdom on less service and love for God. As the Father gave Jesus the Kingdom of heaven and earth because of his loving service to Him, you too will receive boundless love from the Father for your loving service to God.
NAB JOH 12:26If anyone would serve me, let him follow me; where I am there will my servant be. If anyone serves me, him the Father will honor.
NAB DEU 10:12 The Lord's Majesty.And now, Israel, what does the LORD, your God, ask of you but to fear the LORD, your God, and follow his ways exactly, to love and serve the LORD, your God, with all your heart and all your soul, to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD which I enjoin on you today for your own good?
NAB ISA 44:21 (God is speaking)Remember this, O Jacob, you, O Israel, who are my servant! I formed you to be a servant to me; O Israel, by me you shall never be forgotten: I have brushed away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like a mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.
NAB MAR 10:45The Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve to give his life in ransom for the many.
The world is interested in great conversions. However, God desires that His children never choose to not serve Him in the first place. Say a son goes out and hates God and attacks Him brutally. Then the son comes back begging for forgiveness. God is greatly delighted and joyous over this returning son. However, He does not put that son above His son who similar to Jesus never rebelled in brutally attacking Him in this way in the first place. Repentance from a sin to love God takes second place in God's heart to the act of never committing that sin in the first place.
NAB LUK 15:31My son, replied the father, you are with me always, and everything I have is yours.
When Jesus returns Home carrying his prodigal brothers Adam, might not the Father first wrap His arms around the one who was lost but now found, the one who was dead but now lives. Because of His joy and longing for the one who was lost, will not the Father do this even before He greets and hugs His Son Jesus?
The Father will throw a grand celebration in joy of the return of His prodigal sons when they enter into heaven. It is sinners who were dead but now live who will grant the greatest relief and immediate joy in the heart of our Father. Still, our Father knows that His Son, Jesus Christ, the one with no sin, which is far less sin than we the prodigals, has loved Him more. Although the Father is joyous over returning prodigals, in no way can this joy compete with the joy of having obedient Jesus as His Son.
NAB LUK 15:7I tell you, there will likewise be more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent.
NAB LUK 15:31My son, replied the father, you are with me always, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice! This brother of yours was dead, and has come back to life. He was lost, and is found.
The most important thing that you ever do in this world is the love of service to God. Servants with less sin are a far greater treasure to God than the one who turns from great sin to serve. And the one who turns from great sin to serve are themselves a great treasure to God. Fellow prodigals repent to serve and love the Lord, our God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
Thank you for visiting author Steven Merten