Everyone loves the parable of the Prodigal Son. It’s my favorite because I was that Prodigal Son myself. We know what the father did when his son returned home: he ran to him. Embracing his lost son was all that mattered. But what about that other brother? Whatever happened to that guy?
This past Holy Week led me to reflect on this familiar parable. Where do those brothers come into the Easter story, you ask? One of the brothers, the prodigal, knew the full weight of Easter. He had descended as far in the human experience as one could. He had abandoned his family, given himself over to the world, and become destitute in a faraway land. His only hope was mercy, and he threw himself at it. Indeed, when we are at our lowest, most times, all we can do is throw ourselves at mercy. I have.
The “good brother” though, what did he know of this mercy? Luke 15:28 tells us that he became angry at the father’s act of mercy and forgiveness. You can almost feel the intensity and anger of his response. “But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!” (Luke 15:29-30).
The brother’s rage is palpable. “How could you do this? How could you forgive him? Don’t you know what he has done?” The good brother’s need for understanding mercy is shown clearly in that response. He has been the obedient one. He has tended his father’s estate. He did all the things that a good son should do. But even though he has been in the presence of the father, the one who constantly yearned for his son to come home, he didn’t understand mercy. He could not fathom the forgiveness that resided in the father for his lost son.
Wherever we find ourselves, either as the prodigal on his knees or the scoffing brother we need to feel the weight of the mercy of God. We need to feel the betrayal that Jesus went through. We need to feel the loneliness. We need to be cognizant of the knowledge that He had of what was coming. And mostly, we need to embrace again and again and again that He willingly chose it.
He chose to experience this utter despair. He chose to be betrayed. He chose His own execution. He chose it so that you would be free to choose Him. I always chuckle to myself a bit when I hear someone say “I’ve found Jesus”. I chuckle because it was Jesus who went searching through persecution, death, and the grave to find you and me.
Reflecting back on this past Easter, know that you are loved by a Savior that would choose His own death as a bridge for you to be returned to right relationship with God.