Lent Devotional: Luke 15:11-32

by Jonathan Haefs

Luke 15:11-32 (click here)
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.

But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ (Luke 15:20, 25, 28-30)

The father was waiting and watching for the younger son. He was poised and ready to run as soon as there was repentance.

The older brother was not waiting, but working. He was out in the field going about his tasks as if he had no lost brother.

The father’s heart was prepared to party. The older brother’s heart was prepared to pout.

This parable is ultimately about the older brother. While it teaches us many things about those who rebel and run from God (the younger brother) and teaches us much about the heart of our heavenly father (through the father), the primary point centers on the angry older brother. The parable ends with him.


Jesus spoke this parable to a group of Pharisees and scribes who were angered that Jesus would associate with sinners (vv 1-2). The parable is aimed at exposing their heart…the heart of the older brother.

The ultimate problem for this brother is that he viewed himself as deserving verses his undeserving younger sibling. He was a worker and had earned his keep. He failed to see his father’s heart didn’t operate that way. He failed to see that a sons don’t actually earn things from their fathers…they inherit them as gifts of grace. It is servants who earn, not sons.

The father stands ready to give to both sons (vv 31-32)… he is gracious toward the rebellious and the religious…towards the one who has played with sin and the one who has pride in self.

Anytime we would harbor bitterness, un-forgiveness, and wish that someone would not be a recipient of grace because the “don’t deserve it” we have assumed the attitude of this older brother. We have put ourselves in a position where we are relating to God not as his sons and daughters, but as his hired workers. We’ve earned something and he owes us…and those other people haven’t earned it.

But our father doesn’t operate this way…and we should be grateful, for the only thing we have ever “earned” or “deserved” is his wrath. Yet, he has made us his children and given us an inheritance through Christ…this is grace and deserved by no one.

It is only through seeing the grace that has been extended to us…it is only through seeing ourselves as children who inherit instead of workers who earn…it is only through these things that we can learn to rejoice in the grace extended to others besides ourselves.

The parable ends with the question hanging in the air… does the older brother see and embrace this grace? Do you?

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.