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Confronted By Upside Down

• Greg Boyd

There are two sons in the parable of the Prodigal Son, and in this passage we find out how the older son responds when the younger son returns home. He’s judgmental of his brother, but it’s easy to understand why because his reaction stems from a sense of justice that we all share. However, the Kingdom of God challenges us to avoid judgments and instead, extend God’s grace to others.

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There are two parts to the parable of the Prodigal Son. The first part deals with the leaving and returning of the younger son. The second part deals with the reaction of the older son to the party that his father was throwing to celebrate his brother’s return. Upon returning home and seeing the party, he became angry with his father at the unfairness of the situation.

This story is one of the most famous of the Bible, not because it highlights fairness, but because it demonstrates what is beautiful. Our world knows what is fair, but it does not get much of a taste of what is beautiful and gracious. The older son could not get this. He was locked into a system of fair and unfair. He was the good boy and his brother was bad. Therefore why didn’t he get the party? Why is the bad boy being celebrated?

The elder brother is trapped and cannot see the beauty of the father. His view of life is distorted. He could not see how he himself had been blessed by the father. Instead of gratitude for his life, he entered into judgment or others.

He did not realize that he was actually in the same situation as his younger brother, dependent upon only grace. He may have been ethically right. He may have lived up to social expectations. But the fact is that no one can get their life right with God. It is like asking people to jump across the Grand Canyon. Some might be able to jump further, but even the best jumpers are still going to fall. The older son’s reaction points out how people who are good ethical people can actually miss out on the grace of the Father because they are so focused on themselves and how well they play the ethical game.

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Topics: Grace, Judgment, Justice

Sermon Series: The Great Reversal


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Focus Scripture:

  • Luke 15:25-32

    "Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'

    "The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'

    "'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'"

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