Thursday, January 2, 2020 -
I just finished reading Timothy Keller’s The Prodigal God, a book about what he calls the parable of the two sons – more often referred to as the parable of the prodigal son. But the parable is just as much a lesson of the older son, if not more so. After all, this parable was addressed to the religious leaders of the day. Both sons were wrong, “using the father for their own self-centered ends rather than loving, enjoying, and serving him for his own sake. This means you can rebel against God and be alienated from Him either by breaking His rules or by keeping all of them diligently.” Both brothers are lost, at least until the younger repents. Yet for the elder brother, who works so hard in his goodness, it is difficult for him to see a need to repent.
Note, Keller points out, that the father, a picture of our Heavenly Father, invites both to the feast He has prepared – a picture of the marriage feast of the Lamb. But the older brother refuses. He says, “By putting a flawed elder brother in the story, Jesus is inviting us to imagine and yearn for a true one.
“And we have him. Think of the kind of brother we need. We need one who does not just go to the next country to find us but who will come all the way from heaven to earth. We need one who is willing to pay not just a finite amount of money, but, at the infinite cost of his own life to bring us into God’s family, for our debt is much greater. Either as elder brothers or as younger brothers, we have rebelled against the Father. We deserve alienation, isolation, and rejection. The point of the parable is that forgiveness always involves a price – someone has to pay. There is no way for the younger brother to return to the family unless the older brother bore the cost himself. Our true elder brother paid our debt, on the cross, in our place.”
Keller has some significant observations about this parable and its context I’ve really never considered before.