The Elder Son Would Not Go In

From the late David Jones

And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him” (Luke 15:28).

The younger son mentioned in Luke 15 has received a lot of attention by preachers of the gospel. He is the prodigal who returned repentant and received an exceptional reception by his merciful father. Less attention has been given to the elder son at the end of the chapter. His attitude clearly shows he was not in fellowship with the father, and less so with the treatment given to his brother.

The younger son, the prodigal, is a figure of the sinners whom Jesus received and for which He was criticized by the Pharisees, for they were not in agreement with the way Jesus received “the publicans and sinners” that came to hear him (Luke 15:1-2). The older son is a figure of the Pharisees themselves.

The attitude adopted by the elder son toward his younger brother was the same kind of rejection manifested by the Pharisees in their words of criticism against the Lord Jesus. The elder son would not enter into the house of the father to manifest joy at the return of his brother. He preferred to remain outside. With this display of rejection, he not only despised the house of the father, but he also showed contempt for his loving and merciful heart.

When informed by his servant of his older son’s attitude, the father could have sent a message ordering him to enter, promising to talk about the matter later on. Instead, the mercy of God is beautifully seen in the father: “Therefore came his father out, and entreated him” (Luke 15:28). The love of the father was the same for both of his sons. In God’s dealing with the human race there are no favorites, there are no privileged ones. Everyone is treated the same.

What was the reaction of the elder son to the entreaties of the father? He would not enter. Do you know someone who despises the kind entreaties of God through the gospel? Their attitude makes us think of 2 Thessalonians 2:10 which speaks of “them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”