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Communion Meditations (2021)

 

Older Brother

Originally scheduled for August 8

"Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. "And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. "And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.' "But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. "But he answered and said to his father, 'Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.' "And he said to him, 'Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. 'But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.'"

(Luke 15:25-32 NASB)

 

The older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son is often thought of as one of the finest instances of a “bad example” in the New Testament. However, like most bad examples, he can always be used for instructional purposes in righteousness. Sometimes bad examples lead to some very good examples, as we shall see.

His problem, basically, is one of envy. His kid brother spent all the money on prostitutes and high living while the older brother was righteously working the farm — and that is hard work. He phrases his complaint in terms of justice; it’s not fair that the kid brother got what he got. And it’s not. The motive behind this is envy — tinged with the suspicion that the older brother would’ve liked to try those prostitutes also. You cannot help but notice, too, the contempt that he has for the kid brother. But if you’re supposed to love your neighbor, wouldn’t that include your kid brother?

You might think this has nothing to do with us today. May I submit that very often Christians make the mistake of assuming that there are two kinds of people in this world: the righteous and the sinners. When judgment day comes the righteous will line up under a sign (bright neon) labeled “Justice.” The sinners will line up under rather beat up old sign that says, “Mercy.” The righteous will be richly rewarded; some of the sinners will scrape through into heaven anyway. But some churches today have already anticipated this division. We are willing to put up a Celebrate Recovery program for the sinners, as long as they don’t mingle too much with the real saints.

But may I point out something? If someone tells you they are a Christian they have just told you that they are also a sinner. They are just as much in need of God’s mercy. You see, the most important thing in the story of the Prodigal Son is not the sinfulness of the younger brother nor the righteousness of the older brother. It’s the love of the Father. As Paul put it:

It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. (1 Timothy 1:15 NASB)

Communion is the ceremony where we remember the love of the Father expressed at the cross. It is the greatest love that man can have. The cross is the supreme example of such love. Both of these brothers take communion from the same set of trays. And that communion would come from the same source for both of them.

So, as you prepare for communion today, looking your heart and see if there is envy of one of your Christian brothers or sisters. If so resolve to clear it so that you may take communion in a worthy manner. Examine yourself, repent as needed and then partake of your Lord’s communion.

 

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