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The other brother

Luke 15 is a cutaway that provides a look into the heart of God.  It begins with a complaint against Jesus from the Pharisees and teachers of the law that, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them,” (v. 2). Their view of holiness was to despise both the sin and the sinner --- especially when it came to those involved in more “notorious” transgressions like collecting taxes for the Romans, prostitution, or criminal activity.  In regard to Jesus’ actions, they were at first perplexed and then offended that someone who purported to speak for God didn’t have the good sense to stay away from such people.  Instead, the Christ welcomed them and ate with them.  He wasn’t just friendly to sinners, He was the friend of sinners (Luke 7:34)!

In response to their objection, Jesus tells three parables that are well known and greatly cherished. There is the shepherd who leaves his ninety-nine sheep to look for the one that has gone astray; the woman who loses one of her ten coins and stops everything until she finds it; and the best known and most expansive --- the prodigal son.  All of these stories mirror God’s concern for the lost and His great joy when such a person turns to Him.  In fact, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent,” (v. 7).  That should not be taken to mean that there is no rejoicing over people living righteously (2 John 4), but that there is more joy over one who repents because as opposed to the righteous, they were lost but are now gloriously found.  God’s love isn’t about preserving status quo in His kingdom, it’s about continually reaching out to all those who are outside it. 

The story of the prodigal son really brings this home for upon closer examination we can see that it is more than a story about a son who has gone astray --- it is a story of two lost sons.  The first son is lost because he demands his share of the inheritance and goes off into a distant place where he recklessly spends it in a way that brings shame upon him and his family.  The other brother, the oldest son who stayed at home, is in the right place doing the right thing --- but he is lost at because he doesn’t have the heart of his father.  He has no joy at his brother’s return. 
 
It is obvious that Jesus adds the “other brother” to the story to represent the Pharisees and teachers of the law, who did not understand the depths of God’s love for those outside His kingdom.  They were lost not because of “notorious” behavior, but because they didn’t love. 
God’s radical love isn’t just for a few, it is for everyone.  It involves search and rescue (the shepherd), sustained seeking (the woman), patient waiting and effusive welcoming (the prodigal).  Disciples are simply those who have been gloriously found by God and as such, have joined in the effort to reach out to others.
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