There’s an unfinished parable in Luke 15. It may have just been the last out of a set of 3 parables but it was one where Yeshua didn’t reveal the final ending. In fact He left it up to his audience to make up their own ending!
Who was His audience?
Yeshua gave his audience a series of parables to listen to:
- The Widow and the lost coin
- The lost sheep
- The two brothers and their father’s inheritance which one of them lost.
All 3 of these parables were spoken to the scribes, pharisees, sinners and tax collectors.
Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
The Publicans and Tax Collectors
The pharisees really despised the publicans and tax collectors. In their eyes they were the lowest of the low in the social chain. These publicans and tax collectors were ruthless extortionists who worked for Rome. They collected taxes but were also allowed to keep a certain amount for themselves too. Most abused that right as John the Baptist pointed out…
And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” Luke 3: 12-13
He visited Zaccheus the chief tax collector in his own home at Jericho. He even made Matthew – a publican one of His disciples. The pharisees were insulted that Yeshua would spend time with people who in their eyes were the most sinful in society. But throughout the gospels Yeshua reached out to those lost people.
But He also knew exactly what the pharisees were thinking about Him. So He would send them a clear message through so many of his parables about their self righteousness and contempt for others. And it sure pricked their consciences. This parable explains their spiritual condition perfectly.
And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt:
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’
But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’
I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18: 9-14
Now that we have the bible context to work from let’s move on…
We all know the 3rd parable so well though the focus always seems to be on the prodigal son. But when we do that we miss an even bigger picture!
The Younger Brother
Here we have the younger son, who left his fathers house and went off into the gentile world. He spent all his money and lost everything – even his own self dignity. To the original audience listening to this parable this son was in fact ‘dead’ in the sense that he was outside of the covenant relationship with his father. Yeshua referred to sinners, publicans and tax collectors as being represented by this younger brother.
The parable continues …
When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
This brother humbly returned to his fathers house a repentant person. And when he finally met his father, he was rejoiced over.
For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Just like those sinners who came to Jesus and repented.
“In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
The Older Brother
This firstborn brother was so angry and jealous when his brother came back home to his fathers house. The older brother refused to enter the house and join in with the festivities. He had spent all his life serving his father but he never was given this grand reception.
He exclaimed ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.
That doesn’t sound like a loving father/son relationship does it? The son’s attitude was that it was slaving. He was working for treats as he was only doing it for what he could get from his father at the end. He wasn’t working for his father because he genuinely loved him. That’s exactly what the pharisees were like as they thought they had earned Yahweh’s approval and were justified in ruling over the people. They were self righteous and religious.
The older brother even disowned the younger and referred him to his father as being ‘this son of yours’. To which the loving father replied:
My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’
Yeshua never told them the outcome of the elder brothers jealously. It was up to his audience to decide how the story would end.
- The elder brother could enter the house and rejoice with everyone.
- Or else he could stay outside and even prevent others from going into the house to celebrate.
- Plot to kill his father and brother.
So who was really lost?
The younger brother was no longer lost as he understood his condition. But the elder brother in fact was lost! He was out of fellowship with his father and refused to enter the house. That’s just what the Pharisees were like too. They were dead and out of covenant with their Heavenly Father.
Who missed out on their father’s inheritance?
Most of them resented Yeshua, were angry at His teaching and refused to enter the Kingdom of God. They even hindered others from entering and in the end plotted to kill Him and those that believed in Him.
They were the ones who missed out on their heavenly father’s kingdom inheritance. They couldn’t see that they were lost – so they couldn’t be found, therefore they couldn’t become joint heirs with Yeshua.
Though not all the pharisees missed out on their inheritance but many struggled to let go of the Old Covenant laws.
Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.” Acts 15:5
Living as Sons and Daughters
But today in the church so many don’t even want to take hold of the kingdom inheritance that’s rightfully theirs NOW.
The Apostle Paul … a former pharisee wrote this:
“Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir” Galatians 4: 6–7
We are free to boldly enter that Throne Room as we are now sons and daughters in our Fathers family. We are not slaves under the burden of the Old Covenant whose conditions were all fulfilled by 70ad and never to return again. We are under no condemnation through Yeshua in the New Covenant. And as fellow heirs we are called to jointly participate in extending the Kingdom of God over our enemies territory today.