Remember that Jesus is telling three parables in Luke chapter 15 in response to the scribes and Pharisees who were critical of Him for receiving and eating with tax collectors and sinners.
Jesus’ story of the younger, prodigal son is a picture of the tax collectors and sinners – they have wandered far from God and were lost! The elder brother is a picture of the scribes and Pharisees – they were religious, and in God’s house, but just as lost as the younger brother and the tax collectors and sinners who were attracted to Jesus.
In Jesus’ story of the lost son, a lot is made of the prodigal who was a waster and lived a sinful life in the world, but if I had an elder brother like he had, then I might have left home in the same way as the younger brother did!
Many years ago, the Methodist preacher Doctor W.E. Sangster wrote a series of booklets called “The Westminster Pamphlets”. One of these pamphlets was entitled “A Spiritual Check-Up.” It is nearly 50 years since I last saw a copy of this booklet, but I can still remember one of the questions he asked: “How many people are outside the church because you are on the inside?” A part of the reason why the younger son was far from the father’s house was because the elder brother was in the house!
Over the years, I have met so many people who have been hurt in the church and I can sympathise with these people. People like the young man who said to me, “I don’t have a problem with Jesus, but I don’t like the church”. I was speaking with one of my medical doctors who told me that he saw attitudes among Christians that upset him and made him not want to go to church. He spoke to me about inconsistency, hypocrisy and unreality. Listening to a conversation around the meal table of a well-known and highly professional family in Jakarta, I suddenly realised from the conversation that, despite the fact that they were all still church members, Christians had hurt each of them.
Over the next few days we will take a closer look at the elder brother, and why he was just as lost as his younger brother. We will discover that, like his younger brother he didn’t really know his father’s heart and that his attitudes of pride, anger, bitterness, jealousy and legalism kept him out of the joyful feast that was a picture of heaven.
In Psalm 55:12-14, David was deeply hurt by a close acquaintance that went together with him to the house of God. At first, David was angry [v9, 15] and wanted to run away [v6-8]. What did David do to get his heart right with God [Verses 16-19,22]
Have you been hurt by people in church? The tendency is for people to run away and hide, or go to another church. If you have been hurt, how did you handle it?