The Prodigal's Brother

WHEN the multitudes gathered around Jesus and he taught them, it is probable that none listened so attentively to all that he said as did the Pharisees. In spite of this attentiveness, however, none failed so completely to grasp his meaning. This was because they did not come to learn, but to condemn. Their whole energies were bent toward discovering some word or deed which might prove him guilty of breaking the law, and so rid them of the man they considered a dangerous enemy. Thus, without knowing it, they were expressing mortal mind's inevitable antagonism to the truth which destroys it. Jesus' direct and unflinching method of dealing with this antagonism is well illustrated in the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters of Luke's gospel. We read that, although he had gone to the house of one of the chief Pharisees as a guest, even there they watched him with the same evil purpose in their hearts. They did not have long to wait for something unusual to occur. Jesus, seeing in front of him a man with the dropsy, healed him, and then refuted the Pharisees' unspoken censure because he had healed on the Sabbath, by asking which of them would not save his ox or his ass if it fell into a pit on the Sabbath day. Jesus not only healed the sick right in his enemies' midst and fearlessly defended his actions, but, when he noticed how the guests on their arrival at the house sought out the chief rooms, he rebuked them by means of a parable, and pointed its moral with the words, "For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."

After this feast great multitudes followed Jesus, and the ever watchful Pharisees, mingling with the crowds, remarked that publicans and sinners thronged around him. This they thought gave them an opportunity to condemn him, and they murmured, doubtless to any one ready to listen, that here was a man who received sinners and ate with them. Jesus allowed this criticism no opportunity to spread its poison among the people; he answered it immediately. In the beautiful parables of the lost sheep, the lost piece of silver, and the prodigal son, he exposed the self-righteous sense of the Pharisees and revealed God's unfailing care for all. The father in the parable of the prodigal had two sons. One of them, claiming his share of the inheritance, set off for a far country and spent his substance there in riotous living, while the other stayed quietly at home. It is not very difficult to see why the prodigal's name has been given to the parable, as though he symbolized the whole of its teaching; for the loving welcome which awaited this son when, penitent and humbled, he returned home seeking forgiveness is so appreciated by every one who hears or reads the story that it seems to overshadow somewhat the lesson which the story of the other son teaches.

When the prodigal's brother came in from the fields and learned that the sounds of dancing and feasting which he heard were in celebration of his brother's home-coming he was angry and would not go into the house. The same loving father who had gone to meet the prodigal, when he saw him coming from afar, now came out to entreat this son to enter; for he made no distinction between his children. This son, however, could not enter. Self-will and self-love made it impossible, and, a sense of his own wrongs surging up within him, he said to his father, "Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: but as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf."

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Following the Lamb
April 9, 1921

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