This thy brother - Or, This brother of Thine. To awaken this ill-natured, angry, inhumane man to a proper sense of his duty, both to his parent and brother, this amiable father returns him his own unkind words, but in a widely different spirit. This son of mine to whom I show mercy is Thy brother, to whom thou shouldst show bowels of tenderness and affection; especially as he is no longer the person he was: he was dead in sin - he is quickened by the power of God: he was lost to thee, to me, to himself, and to our God; but now he is found: and he will be a comfort to me, a help to thee, and a standing proof, to the honor of the Most High, that God receiveth sinners. This, as well as the two preceding parables, was designed to vindicate the conduct of our blessed Lord in receiving tax-gatherers and heathens; and as the Jews, to whom it was addressed, could not but approve of the conduct of this benevolent father, and reprobate that of his elder son, so they could not but justify the conduct of Christ towards those outcasts of men, and, at least in the silence of their hearts, pass sentence of condemnation upon themselves. For the sublime, the beautiful, the pathetic, and the instructive, the history of Joseph in the Old Testament, and the parable of the prodigal son in the New, have no parallels either in sacred or profane history.
The following reflections, taken chiefly from pious Quesnel, cannot fail making this incomparable parable still more instructive.
Three points may be considered here: I. The degrees of his fall. II. The degrees of his restoration; and, III. The consequences of his conversion.
Not many days, etc., Luke 15:13. The misery of a sinner has its degrees; and he soon arrives, step by step, at the highest pitch of his wretchedness.
The first degree of his misery is, that he loses sight of God, and removes at a distance from him. There is a boundless distance between the love of God, and impure self-love; and yet, strange to tell, we pass in a moment from the one to the other!
The second degree of a sinner's misery is, that the love of God being no longer retained in the heart, carnal love and impure desires necessarily enter in, reign there, and corrupt all his actions.
The third degree is, that he squanders away all spiritual riches, and wastes the substance of his gracious Father in riot and debauch.
When he had spent all, etc., Luke 15:14. The fourth degree of an apostate sinner's misery is, that having forsaken God, and lost his grace and love, he can now find nothing but poverty, misery, and want. How empty is that soul which God does not fill! What a famine is there in that heart which is no longer nourished by the bread of life!
In this state, he joined himself - εκολληθη, he cemented, closely united himself, and fervently cleaved to a citizen of that country, Luke 15:15.
The fifth degree of a sinner's misery is, that he renders himself a slave to the devil, is made partaker of his nature, and incorporated into the infernal family. The farther a sinner goes from God, the nearer he comes to eternal ruin.
The sixth degree of his misery is, that he soon finds by experience the hardship and rigour of his slavery. There is no master so cruel as the devil; no yoke so heavy as that of sin; and no slavery so mean and vile as for a man to be the drudge of his own carnal, shameful, and brutish passions.
The seventh degree of a sinner's misery is, that he has an insatiable hunger and thirst after happiness; and as this can be had only in God, and he seeks it in the creature, his misery must be extreme. He desired to fill his belly with the husks, Luke 15:16. The pleasures of sense and appetite are the pleasures of swine, and to such creatures is he resembled who has frequent recourse to them, 2 Peter 2:22.
The first is, he begins to know and feel his misery, the guilt of his conscience, and the corruption of his heart. He comes to himself, because the Spirit of God first comes to him, Luke 15:17.
The second is, that he resolves to forsake sin and all the occasions of it; and firmly purposes in his soul to return immediately to his God. I will arise, etc., Luke 15:18.
The third is, when, under the influence of the spirit of faith, he is enabled to look towards God as a compassionate and tender-hearted father. I will arise and go to my father.
The fourth is, when he makes confession of his sin, and feels himself utterly unworthy of all God's favors, Luke 15:19.
The fifth is, when he comes in the spirit of obedience, determined through grace to submit to the authority of God; and to take his word for the rule of all his actions, and his Spirit for the guide of all his affections and desires.
The sixth is, his putting his holy resolutions into practice without delay; using the light and power already mercifully restored to him, and seeking God in his appointed ways. And he arose and came, etc., Luke 15:20.
The seventh is, God tenderly receives him with the kiss of peace and love, blots out all his sins, and restores him to, and reinstates him in, the heavenly family. His father - fell on his neck, and kissed him, Luke 15:20.
The eighth is, his being clothed with holiness, united to God, married as it were to Christ Jesus, 2 Corinthians 11:2, and having his feet shod with the shoes of the preparation of the Gospel of peace, Ephesians 6:15, so that he may run the ways of God's commandments with alacrity and joy. Bring the best robe - put a ring - and shoes, etc., Luke 15:22.
First, the sacrifice of thanksgiving is offered to God in his behalf; he enters into a covenant with his Maker, and feasts on the fatness of the house of the Most High.
Secondly, The whole heavenly family are called upon to share in the general joy; the Church above and the Church below both triumph; for there is joy (peculiar joy) in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. See Luke 15:10.
Thirdly, God publicly acknowledges him for his son, not only by enabling him to abstain from every appearance of evil, but to walk before him in newness of life, Luke 15:24. The tender-hearted father repeats these words at Luke 15:32, to show more particularly that the soul is dead when separated from God; and that it can only be said to be alive when united to him through the Son of his love. A Christian's sin is a brother's death; and in proportion to our concern for this will our joy be at his restoration to spiritual life. Let us have a brotherly heart towards our brethren, as God has that of a father towards his children, and seems to be afflicted at their loss, and to rejoice at their being found again, as if they were necessary to his happiness.
In this parable, the younger profligate son may represent the Gentile world; and the elder son, who so long served his father, Luke 15:20, the Jewish people. The anger of the elder son explains itself at once - it means the indignation evidenced by the Jews at the Gentiles being received into the favor of God, and made, with them, fellow heirs of the kingdom of heaven.
It may also be remarked, that those who were since called Jews and Gentiles, were at first one family, and children of the same father: that the descendants of Ham and Japhet, from whom the principal part of the Gentile world was formed, were, in their progenitors, of the primitive great family, but had afterwards fallen off from the true religion: and that the parable of the prodigal son may well represent the conversion of the Gentile world, in order that, in the fullness of time, both Jews and Gentiles may become one fold, under one Shepherd and Bishop of all souls.
God does not deal with us as finite men deal with one another. His thoughts are thoughts of mercy, love, and tenderest compassion. He says, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins.” Isaiah 55:7; 44:22. SC 53.1
“I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” Ezekiel 18:32. Satan is ready to steal away the blessed assurances of God. He desires to take every glimmer of hope and every ray of light from the soul; but you must not permit him to do this. Do not give ear to the tempter, but say, “Jesus has died that I might live. He loves me, and wills not that I should perish. I have a compassionate heavenly Father; and although I have abused His love, though the blessings He has given me have been squandered, I will arise, and go to my Father, and say, ‘I have sinned against heaven, and before Thee, and am no more worthy to be called Thy son: make me as one of Thy hired servants.’” The parable tells you how the wanderer will be received: “When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” Luke 15:18-20. SC 53.2
But even this parable, tender and touching as it is, comes short of expressing the infinite compassion of the heavenly Father. The Lord declares by His prophet, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3. While the sinner is yet far from the Father's house, wasting his substance in a strange country, the Father's heart is yearning over him; and every longing awakened in the soul to return to God is but the tender pleading of His Spirit, wooing, entreating, drawing the wanderer to his Father's heart of love. SC 54.1Read in context »
When the woman found the silver, she called her friends and her neighbors together, saying: “Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” If the angels of God rejoice over the erring who see and confess their wrongs and return to the fellowship of their brethren, how much more should the followers of Christ, who are themselves erring, and who every day need the forgiveness of God and of their brethren, feel joy over the return of a brother or a sister who has been deceived by the sophistry of Satan and has taken a wrong course and suffered because of it. 3T 100.1
Instead of holding the erring off, their brethren should meet them where they are. Instead of finding fault with them because they are in the dark, they should light their own lamp by obtaining more divine grace and a clearer knowledge of the Scriptures, that they may dispel the darkness of those in error by the light that they bring to them. And when they succeed, and the erring feel their error and submit to follow the light, they should be received gladly, and not with a spirit of murmuring or an effort to impress upon them their exceeding sinfulness, which had called forth extra exertion, anxiety, and wearisome labor. If the pure angels of God hail the event with joy, how much more should their brethren rejoice, who have themselves needed sympathy, love, and help when they have erred and in their darkness have not known how to help themselves. 3T 100.2Read in context »
This chapter is based on Luke 15:11-32.
The parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son, bring out in distinct lines God's pitying love for those who are straying from Him. Although they have turned away from God, He does not leave them in their misery. He is full of kindness and tender pity toward all who are exposed to the temptations of the artful foe. COL 198.1Read in context »
The lesson of the prodigal is given for the instruction of youth. In his life of pleasure and sinful indulgence, he expends his portion of the inheritance in riotous living. He is friendless, and in a strange country; clad in rags, hungry, longing even for the refuse fed to the swine. His last hope is to return, penitent and humbled, to his father's house, where he is welcomed, forgiven, and taken back to a father's heart. Many youth are doing as he did, living a careless, pleasure-loving, spendthrift life, forsaking the fountain of living waters, the fountain of true pleasure, and hewing out to themselves broken cisterns, which can hold no water. MYP 408.1Read in context »
The parable of the prodigal son and that of the lost piece of silver teach the same lesson. Every soul that is especially imperiled by falling into temptation causes pain to the heart of Christ and calls forth His tenderest sympathy and most earnest labor. Over one sinner that repenteth, His joy is greater than over the ninety and nine who need no repentance. 5T 604.1
These lessons are for our benefit. Christ has enjoined upon His disciples that they co-operate with Him in His work, that they love one another as He has loved them. The agony which He endured upon the cross testifies to the estimate He places upon the human soul. All who accept this great salvation pledge themselves to be co-workers with Him. None are to consider themselves special favorites of heaven and center their interest and attention upon self. All who have enlisted in the service of Christ are to work as He worked, and are to love those who are in ignorance and sin, even as He loved them. 5T 604.2
But there has been among us as a people a lack of deep, earnest, soul-touching sympathy and love for the tempted and the erring. Many have manifested great coldness and sinful neglect, represented by Christ as passing by on the other side, keeping as far as possible from those who most need help. The newly converted soul often has fierce conflicts with established habits or with some special form of temptation, and, being overcome by some master passion or tendency, he is guilty of indiscretion or actual wrong. It is then that energy, tact, and wisdom are required of his brethren, that he may be restored to spiritual health. In such cases the instructions of God's word apply: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in a spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” But how little of the pitying tenderness of Christ is manifested by His professed followers! When one errs, others too often feel at liberty to make the case appear as bad as possible. Those who perhaps are guilty of fully as great sins in some other direction, will treat their brother with cruel severity. Errors committed through ignorance, thoughtlessness, or weakness are exaggerated into willful, premeditated sin. As they see souls going astray, some fold their hands and say: “I told you so. I knew there was no dependence to be placed upon them.” Thus they place themselves in the attitude of Satan, exulting in spirit that their evil surmisings have proved to be correct. 5T 604.3Read in context »