Focus Text: Luke 15.24b-28a

At the very outset of this miniseries centered on the parable of the prodigal son, it was pointed out that this is not a typical parable in many ways. One of the unique things about this parable is that it has more than one main message; it has at least two, and perhaps three main lessons with several “side lessons.”

Thus far in this series we have talked about the younger son (the prodigal) and the father. Specifically, we have addressed the interaction between the two of them when the penitent son decided to return to his father’s household. That particular storyline, however, has run its course; we know all about that aspect of the story that we will ever know this side of heaven. However, the story is not complete. There is yet another character whose reaction to the return of the prodigal has not been explored, but without which, the parable is totally incomplete. Had it been the Lord’s intention through the parable to merely reveal the Father’s delight when sinners repent, the parable could have ended with no mention of the older brother. However, the story did not end without the details concerning the older brother’s attitude toward his brother’s return. The obvious fact is that Jesus wanted us to glean more from the parable than simply to learn how God treats penitent sinners; we will explore those details as we continue to examine this precious parable, The Prodigal Son.

“And they [the father, the prodigal, and the father’s household minus the older brother] began to be merry. Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’ But he was angry and would not go in.” (Luke 15.24b-28a).

The father had longed for the return of his younger son; perhaps he had even talked of it in the presence of his older son. Be that as it may, the day had arrived for a showdown of emotions, and what a contrast we see! Music is playing, hearts are literally overflowing with gratitude and thankfulness; all is right with the world… all that is except for one thing. The older brother learned on his father’s actions toward the prodigal, heard the extraordinary sounds of merriment coming from the house, “…But he was angry and would not go in.”

Grasp the contrast: extreme joy in the house; selfish consuming anger on the outside! As far as we know, all the older brother knew was what he had been told; he had not talked to the prodigal; he knew none of the terms upon which his brother was returning; all his details were second-hand, and yet his anger burned hot: he would not even so much as go in the house! The judgment and wisdom of the older son are obviously in direct conflict with the judgment and wisdom of his father; we will see more of that conflict as we conclude our study of the parable.

Sometimes we require more of returning sinners that God does! Something is terribly wrong with that picture! We must be careful that we are not the reason that sinners do not come home!


1. Why were joyful sounds coming for the house?

2. How did the older brother learn the meaning of the sounds? How could he have determined more reliably or fully of their meaning?

3. What emotion was most prominent in the older son’s reaction?

4. Was it a good thing that the prodigal had returned? Says who?