23rd October 2013

The Elder Brother: The Love of Christ

“Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound,’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him…”
Luke 15:25-28 RSV

I have an older brother and I’m glad he doesn’t take after the one in Jesus’ parable, though I must admit in childhood he seemed a bit of a mixed blessing sometimes. Being the firstborn in a family doesn’t count for very much now in the West, but in other cultures their place and high status still remain, and it certainly has importance in the Bible. God called the whole nation of Israel his firstborn (Exodus 4:22).  As they came into the Promised Land Moses charged them with a commitment to be an example to the nations around them. (Deuteronomy 4:5-8).

But as we know, Israel didn’t exactly appreciate their privileges or live up to their responsibilities. The vast majority pretty much forgot him and got on with their lives; while their leaders put up hurdles to make a pole-vaulter wilt, for any who wished to know the true God (Matthew 23:13,15; Luke 11:52). In fact, the angry elder brother in Jesus’ parable is said by some commentators to have been directed at the Pharisees.

So after Pentecost we find the church referred to as first fruits, and as the first born – a body of believers now given the privileges of grace and, led by the Spirit, in Christ also given the responsibilities on earth of welcoming returning sinners (James 1:18; Hebrews 12:23).  How have we done?   In all honesty, we can’t put our hands up and say that we have done anything like a first class job of looking out for our brothers and sisters.

But the family of man has been given a true and perfect elder brother—the One who related the parable. He’s the first born from the dead (Colossians 1:15), and the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Romans 8:29). Unlike the elder brother of the parable, he is not ashamed to call any of us brothers and sisters either (Hebrews 2:11-12).  He actually gave up his privileges to serve us (Philippians 2:5-8). He loved and obeyed as a true elder son, faithful to all the wishes of his Father even to death. Resurrected to glory, he is the one who stands at the door and welcomes us, washes our feet and invites us all to the celebration banquet and makes sure we have a place at the table.

Our words are inadequate to thank you, Father, for giving us your Son, who counts each one of us as family and looks out for all of us in all our needs.

Study by Hilary Buck

hilarybuck1About the Author:
Hilary Buck attends Grace Communion in Lewes.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion – Lewes
The Priory School
Mountfield Road

Meeting Time:
Saturday 11:00am

Local Congregational Contact:
Hilary Buck
Email: hilarybucksbox@mypostoffice.co.uk

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