Who Should Have Gone?
1 Now the tax collectors and [notorious and especially wicked] sinners were all coming near to [Jesus] to listen to Him.
2 And the Pharisees and the scribes kept muttering and indignantly complaining, saying, This man accepts and receives and welcomes [preeminently wicked] sinners and eats with them.
3 So He told them this parable:
In Luke 15, we are told that the Pharisees and Scribes were sneering at Jesus for eating with and welcoming sinners. Jesus replied them with a parable to explain why He does what He does.
We would expect to find Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees and Scribes at the end of the last parable. However, Jesus seemed to have left us with a cliff-hanger. He never completed the parable. Luke 15 ends with the father’s exclamation and response to the elder son: “it was fitting to make merry, to revel and feast and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and is alive again! He was lost and is found!” (Luke 15:32) There was nothing said about what happened to the elder son. We do not even know if the brother went in and joined the feast in the end. Why did the greatest Teacher of all times end His parable this way? What was the message that Jesus had for the Pharisees who kept muttering? So why did Jesus eat with the sinners?
Before this parable of the prodigal son, Jesus gave another two parables: The Parable of the Sheep and the Lost Coin. In both parables, something was lost and someone went out to look for it. In the first parable, a man lost 1 sheep out of his 100 sheep; that is 1% of his treasured possession. In the second parable, a woman lost 1 coin out of her 10; that is 10% of her treasured possession. In the third parable, a father and an elder brother lost their one and only younger son and brother. That is 100% of their treasured possession! Based on the first two parables, we would expect the father and the elder brother to seek that lost younger brother more fervently than the man and the woman who only lost 1% and 10% of their possession respectively. However, no one went out looking for the younger brother. There is a striking difference between the first two parables and the third one that Jesus gave. Why? I believe Jesus did that intentionally because He wants us to notice that difference and ask ourselves a simple question: “Who should have gone out to look for the younger brother?”
In those days, the elder brother would inherit the lion’s share of the father’s wealth and estate when he passed on. This was because the eldest son was expected to provide for the family and keep it together after the head of the household was gone. Thus, it was only reasonable for the majority of the father’s wealth to be given to the eldest in the family for this purpose. In other words, it was expected of the eldest in the family to take care of the family’s welfare at the expense of his comfort and resources.
But, the elder brother in the parable did not. He knew that his younger brother had already taken one-third of his father’s inheritance. To set on a search and rescue mission for his brother would only be at the expense of the remaining two-third of the family’s inheritance that was left for him. This probably explained why he was furious when his father threw a celebration for the younger brother; the robe, sandals, ring and fattened calf were all taken from the remaining two-third of the father’s inheritance which was rightfully his.
The elder brother did not go to look for his lost brother because he was more concerned about his earthly possession. He did not want to celebrate his brother’s return because it was at his expense. Jesus welcomed and ate with sinners because He is the elder brother that went out to seek his lost brothers. Jesus became naked so that we can put on His robe of righteousness; He was hungry so that we can feast with the Father; He took on the crown of thorns so that we can put in His ring of honor and He left His heavenly home in search of us so that we can find our way back Home.
All of us have brothers who are lost. They could be our friends, family members or even our spouse. This parable of Jesus continues to pose us a poignant question today, “Who should have gone to look for the lost brother, and will you go?” Will you be like the Pharisees and the elder brother in the parable who was more concerned about his convenience and possession at the expense of his one and only brother? Or would you be willing to seek out your lost brothers at the expense of your time, resources and talents like what Jesus did? Who should have gone? And will you go?
Let us pray.
“Dear Jesus, I thank You for seeking and reaching out to me at the expense of Your own life. You came from Heaven to earth just so that I can find my way back to my true Heavenly Home. I am sorry if I have been too busy with my earthly affairs to seek out my lost brothers the way You sought me. Today, I make a commitment to follow Your footsteps, to seek out the lost with all my resources knowing that they all belong to You and I will never run dry in this search and rescue mission because You are my Provider. In Jesus name, Amen.”