The recent series we preached on the Prodigal God may seem a long while ago, but we hope you can remember at least one thing(!) – the fact that the parable should not really be called the Lost Son, but rather the Lost Sons, as both the elder and younger brothers are equally lost – just in different ways.
It is easy to see how lost the younger son is. He has gone way "off the rails", living an immoral life, squandering his wealth and wasting all that his loving father had given him. He really is down at rock bottom.
But it is important to realise the older son is lost too. He may have stayed at home to serve his father – but his relationship is a dry, servile one. The son thinks he is owed "big time" by his father. As his life has been "squeaky clean", he thinks he deserves everything, and the wasteful other son (no longer his brother!) deserves nothing. How sad to see that his self-righteous and superior attitude keeps him out of the feast too.
We will meet both younger and older brothers here on earth, and both desperately have to see their need and see that only Jesus can meet that need. But how should we share that news – that Good News of the Gospel?
Younger sons who have messed up their lives need to be shown Jesus’ love, care and compassion. They are broken, fragile, vulnerable and weak – and we are to be Jesus’ eyes, ears, hands and feet, offering support and help, but bringing them the truth of their desperate need before God. Ultimately, we are to point them to the answer they have been looking for and never found – Jesus, and his offer of forgiveness and restoration.
Older sons need to be told the same message – but with boldness as well as compassion. They need to know they are equally lost if they are relying on living a "good" life. "Our" acts of hard work, goodness and kindness can never earn us a place at the feast.
And these two aspects of our approach to people – being compassionate when we need to be, and courageous when we need to be – are to mirror how Christ lived here on earth. He was both compassionate and courageous. A lovely example can be found in Luke 19. As Jesus approaches Jerusalem, he weeps over it.
v41-42 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes.’
And yet a few verses later, he is overturning the money changers’ tables in righteous anger.
v45 When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling.
May God give us something of Christ’s compassion and courage when we tell others the wonderful news of his free love and forgiveness, a message which his love, grace and mercy compel us to share.