“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So, he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
Jesus’ famous story ends with the relieved father entreating his older son to come and join the WELCOME HOME party for his lost son. But Jesus does not tell us what happens next. What will the older brother decide? Will he remain angry? Or will he set down his feelings of resentment and come join in the joy? He gets to choose his response.
Jesus’ story is about a God who loves us the way this father loves his two sons. One knows he needs mercy. The other thinks he needs no such thing. The younger brother breathes sighs of relief. The older brother fumes in resentment. Which of these two brothers best describes you now?
What is most important to you? Do you feel you need to prove yourself to yourself, to others, to God? Jesus tells this story to show us that God’s love for us is nothing we earn. It is a pure gift that we receive by accepting His invitation to enter into His kingdom, full of great joy and love.
Jesus’ story could end with an amazing grace twist; the older brother decides to direct his anger at his own hard heart that it might be broken open. We can pray this for our own hearts today.
Loving Father, I have spent far too long trying to win your approval. Create in me a new heart to accept Your grace, mercy, and love.