The Elder Son

[This appeared first at]

May 19, 2017

Over the last two weeks during our worship gatherings, we have taken a deep and reflective journey into one of Jesusʼs most well-known and familiar parables – The Parable of the Lost Son. As we come to the part of the story where the younger (or prodigal) son returns home, we find the Father giving some pretty specific instructions on how his once-lost, now-found son is to be welcomed back. While the Father is still embracing his filthy son, he directs his servants…

Quick! In other words, Do not delay. Do not let another moment pass where this son of mine doesnʼt know beyond any shadow of a doubt that he is my son. Do not leave any room for this son of mine to think that he will be received back as a mere servant; He is my son, and he will be received back for nothing less. pointed out that there is great significance of the Fatherʼs words and what he is.

Bring the best robe and put it on him… Because there are no second-bests in the gifts of the Fatherʼs forgiveness.

Put a ring on his finger. The son had most likely left with a ring on his finger – a symbol of his sonship. The son had also most likely sold his ring while he was in the distant country as a means of supporting himself when he began to feel the pinch. Remember, weʼre told he spent everything on wild, riotous living. A new ring was a new symbol of a fresh start.

Put…sandals on his feet. As weʼve pointed out, sandals were an indication of a free-man. To be barefooted was to be assumed to be a slave or a servant. The son returned to his father with nothing, in the form of a slave, with a request to be restored to his father as such. By having sandals placed on his sonʼs filthy feet, it was made abundantly clear… You are not a slave. You are my son; my child. And no amount of wandering has or will ever change that.


All Godʼs Chillun Got Wings

There is an old Negro spiritual that captures the joy and the significance of this detail in the story quite beautifully, titled All Godʼs Chillun Got Wings. (Not to be confused with the play by the same name.) I encourage you to take 3 minutes to listen to it HERE. There was asimilar dynamic at work among African slaves in the 18th and 19th century, where shoeless-ness was a common indication of their slavery. However, regardless of circumstances here on earth, the song points to the hope that one day, all Godʼs children will be given robes, crowns and shoes. There will be a day when we will no longer be reduced to slaves but elevated as free-men, free-women; restored to what we were created to be – Son, Daughters and Heirs to our Father.

While historical events like the American Civil War and the American Civil Rights movement have served to undo this regretful, dark, and inhumane part of our history, there remains much work to do in the way of healing, reconciliation and restoration to take place. However, regardless of our history, there remains a spiritual dilemma that affects us all…

For those who are in Christ, we are no longer slaves. We are the Redeemed of God. His daughters. His sons.

So why do we keep choosing to live as anything less?

What difference would this truth of the Gospel make in your life today if you actually believed it?

This is the reality of both the weight and the liberation of grace in our lives. We have all run; we have all rebelled. And we are all welcomed back by the uncomfortable, unfair grace of the Father that reinstates us to full sonship, full daughter-ship in the Fatherʼs house. The story of the Prodigal son is also our story.

Now, the attention turns to the Elder son. And as we will see this Sunday, this too is our story…sons and daughters who refuse to enter the celebration because of our bitterness. Sons and daughters who have received the mercy of the Father but who refuse to give it. And yet, the Father comes after us in the midst of our inner lostness just the same.

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