The homecoming of the perfect elder brother

Here’s a surprising thought! The turn of phrase used by the starving prodigal son in Luke 15:18 when he resolved to quit tending swine in a foreign land and go home –

‘Rising up [Greek = anastas] I will go to my father’

closely echoed our Lord’s language as he approached the end of his earthly life (e.g. in John 11:25 and 14:12 etc) –

‘I am the resurrection’ [Greek = anastasis]; ‘I am going to the Father.’

As the master storyteller he, of course, shaped the phraseology of the parable about the two sons (Luke 15:11-32).  Let’s unpack these revelations – one spoken by a repentant sinner and the other by the Saviour of sinners, who is the elder brother:

[] Psalm 22:22 (The Passion Translation), ‘I will praise your name before all my brothers.

[] Hebrews 2:12, (TPT margin: ‘I will announce your name’, or text 🙂 ‘I will reveal who you really are to my brothers and sisters.’

[] Hebrews 2:17-18 (TPT),‘This is why he had to be a Man and take hold of our humanity in every way. He made us his brothers and sisters and became our merciful and faithful King-Priest before God; as the One who removed our sins to make us one with him. He suffered and endured every test and temptation, so that he can help us every time we pass through the ordeals of life.’

  1. ‘Rising up I will go to my Father’, said the prodigal

Back in the days of World War II, during blacked-out evenings, while my father served on Air Raid Precaution duties, my mother and I would wind up the gramophone and listen to songs on pre-plastic shellac records. One of my favourites was rendered by an Irish tenor who paraphrased the repentant prodigal’s resolve to return to his father’s house. I can hear again his dulcet tones as I write this study:

‘I will arise and go – oh // Back to my father and home.’

Although the snugly-warm word ‘home’ never actually crossed the lad’s lips, it is surely implied by the relational term ‘father’ that occurs twelve times in the narrative of Luke 15:11-32. So, when the New Living Translation inserts ‘home’ into its version of the story four times (Luke 15:17, 18, 20 and 25) it is quite acceptable as a true paraphrase.

  1. Rising from the dead ‘I go to the Father’, said Jesus

Having recently, in the home of the departed Lazarus, claimed that ‘I am the resurrection’ (John 11:25), our Lord kept telling his disciples during and after the last supper that he would soon ‘go to the Father’. That fact is mentioned nine times in four chapters of John’s Gospel (13, 14, 16 and 17). Here is how those references read in the NLT –

[] John 13:1, ‘Jesus … knew that his hour had come to return to his Father,’

[] John 14:2, ‘There is … enough room in my Father’s home … I am going to prepare a place for you.’

[] John 14:12, I am going to be with the Father.’

[] John 14:28, ‘I am going away … to the Father.’

[] John 16:5, ‘Now I am going away to the one who sent me.’

[] John 16:17, ‘I am going to the Father.’

[] John 16:28, ‘I … return to the Father.’

[] John 17:11, ‘Now … I am coming to you … Holy Father.’

[] John 17:13, Now I am coming to you.’

  1. Angels are household servants who help prepare apparel, adornment and nourishment for family members!

We have not yet looked into John chapter 15. Now, as we consider its contents, a couple of matters come to light. In Father’s house are found not only servants, there are also family members who are friends.

The prodigal recalled that ‘in my Father’s house’ there are ‘the hired servants’ who ‘have food enough to spare’ (Luke 15:8). These correspond to the angelic spirits referred to in Psalm 103:20-21, ‘you angels … who serve him [God] and do his will.’ Compare Hebrews 1:14, ‘Angels are only servants – spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation.’ So, consider Hebrews 13:2 TPT which bids us to ‘show hospitality to strangers, for they may be angels from God showing up as your guests.’

In John 15:15, Jesus remarked: ‘I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.’ And he had just explained to them what friends are like: ‘You are my friends if you do what I command’ (John 15:14).

And, of course, there are two kinds of obedience: (i) that of a slave who must do what he is told, no questions asked, and (ii) the co-operation of friends because they understand why they are being asked to do so – and that co-operation is carried out with love as friend to friend. And note, you qualify as ‘true disciples’ by Christ-like motives and behaviour, ‘when you produce much fruit’ of the Spirit (John 15:8). So, let us aspire to be true friends of Jesus!

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