Second Lost Son (and the Dance of God) – Gospel in Life

Second Lost Son (and the Dance of God)

Tim Keller |  January 25, 1998

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  • Sin
  • Forgiveness
  • Understanding the Gospel
Luke 15:20-32
RS 87-3


We’re studying the parable of the prodigal son. We read that the younger brother comes to the father and says, “Give me my slice of the inheritance.” He says basically, “Even though you’re not dead, I want your things, but I don’t want you. I don’t want you involved with my life. Give them to me. I’m leaving.”

You have to understand in that culture this was an absolute outrage. He had brought tremendous humiliation on the family. He essentially destroyed the family estate by insisting it be liquidated and then he goes off and squanders it. This is immense, and yet when he returns, we see the father he betrayed, the father he humiliated, welcomes him with open arms and a kiss.

What we’re going to see is that this string of parables is not ultimately about an assurance to bad and immoral and messed-up people, but it is an in-your-teeth warning to good people. In this entire chapter Jesus Christ is saying nothing comes between you and God like morality and goodness and decency and respectability. How can this be? To answer this, let’s consider two things about the elder brother: 1) The elder brother is lost; and 2) he is more lost than the younger brother.

Luke 15:20–32

The story of the prodigal son, about a boy who wastes his inheritance and is still loved by his father, is a deep tale about forgiveness and acceptance. It also warns those who think being good and moral is enough without needing God. This story draws in those who feel like outsiders, but can offend those who see themselves as good and moral, asking them to rethink their views on morality and faith.

1. The older brother is lost

In the story of the prodigal son, Jesus uses the older brother to show that even people who are religious and good can feel distant from His message, like how the younger son feels distant from his father. Even though the older brother obeys his father, he is still lost, showing us that it’s possible to be around God but not close to His heart. This highlights how important it is to know the heart and ways of the Father, not just follow His rules.

2. The older brother is even more lost than the younger brother

The story of the prodigal son also shows us that the older brother’s obedience and goodness can ironically make him more lost spiritually, as it can hide a struggle with God and a wish to save himself. This can lead to blaming God when things don’t go right and using one’s own goodness to demand things in life. The way to fix this is to understand the Gospel, find joy in God’s laws because they are good, and accept forgiveness and inclusivity, which goes against the judgmental attitude that can come with thinking you’re better than others.



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