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The True Elder Brother

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(4/5) Lost! What do you think of when you hear that word?

  • A popular TV show?
  • Those not found in the West Coast mud - slide
  • The airplane in the Indian Ocean
  • Not knowing how to get to a concert?
  • A favorite piece of jewelry that you can’t find?
  • A pet that has wandered off?
  • Not knowing where you are?
  • Your investment in the stock market 6 years ago?
  • One’s possessions in a disaster like a fire, flood, tornado, or hurricane?
  • Not knowing what to do in the midst of so many problems?
  • A spouse, parent, or child that has died.
  • Anyone who is just existing from one day to the next, perhaps on drugs and alcohol?

There may be many more things that pop into your mind when you hear that word-lost. The first time I used the text I am going to use this morning and I told the story that I have told many times about my son Joshua and I when the Wal-Mart in Westminster was new. I went in to by oil and a filter for my truck. At that time the auto dept. was next to the sporting goods. As I was looking at the chart to make sure I got the right filter. I noticed that Josh was not with me. No problem, I thought, he is looking at the sports stuff. So I peeked around the isle but he was not there. I looked down every isle in the sports and toy sections and he wasn’t there. I panicked. I thought I had lost my son. Did he wander off, did someone take him. I ran through the store yelling my son’s name. People must have thought I was crazy. Then a voice came over the loud speaker, "Would a Mr. Buchman come to the service area, we have someone here for you." Somehow when I was looking at the chart, he didn’t see me, but he saw someone in a blue smock and asked him if he had seen his daddy. I hugged my son and with relief took him home, and came back another day to get oil and a filter.

I cannot imagine what parents feel when a son or daughter is missing or kid-napped. But I do know what our God feels about those who are lost.

Consider this definition from the Dictionary:

Past tense and past participle of lose.


1. Unable to find one's way: a lost child.

2. a. No longer in the possession, care, or control of someone or something: a lost pen.

b. No longer in existence; vanished or spent: lost youth.

c. No longer known or practiced: a lost art.

d. Beyond reach, communication, or influence: The expedition was lost to the world for two months.

3. Not used to one's benefit or advantage: a lost opportunity.

4. Having not been or unlikely to be won; unsuccessful: a lost battle; a lost cause.

5. Beyond recovery or redemption; fallen or destroyed: a lost soul.

6. a. Completely involved or absorbed; rapt: lost in thought.

b. Bewildered or confused

The word that the Bible uses in the New Testament is the Greek word, ‘apollumi,’ and it means,

1. to be alienated or separated – like the lost sheep or coin, or the people who are separated from God that Jesus said he came to seek and to save.

2. But apollumi means more than just alienation and separation, it means to be lost utterly and completely-to perish-be destroyed or completely ruined. In fact, apollumi, is the word used in these verses:

• John 3:16, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

• 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

• 2 Cor. 4:3-4, But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.

The Lost are those who are separated and alienated from the life of God and destined to perish; that is, to be utterly destroyed, ruined, completely lost for eternity. They are your children, grandchildren, spouses, parents, neighbors, co-workers, and the majority of the masses of people you pass by every day. They are about 2 out of every 3 people in the United States. Did you know that there are more missionaries coming into the United States than are coming into any other country in the world, except Brazil? African countries and Asian Countries are sending missionaries here.

Did you know that if the un-churched population in the United States were a nation it would be the 5th most populated nation in the world? The United States is the largest English speaking mission field in the world. Remember the scene in John 4 where our Lord has been speaking to a Samaritan woman and she leaves in amazement to tell the town’s people about Jesus. The 12 had gone to a Subway for some sandwiches and cokes and were bewildered when they saw Him speaking to a Samaritan woman. Good Jewish boys do not ever in any way speak to Samaritan women. When they offer a cheese steak sub to our Lord, He declines it and says in

John 4, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!

What did the disciples see when they saw the Samaritan woman or the crowd that was coming to see Jesus? Chances are they saw people they detested, and a culture they hated, much like the Pharisees saw in the Tax-Collectors and Sinners that came to hear Jesus that day in Luke 15. It was one thing for them to host Jesus in Luke 14:1, and hear his teachings, but they could not fathom that He would want to be with these kind of people. These were the people they joked about, and used as a source of defaming others, and compared themselves to in order to make themselves look good. But what did Jesus see?

What do you see when you see the Hispanics in your community? What do you see when you drive through the poorer sections of your community or Baltimore, or Washington? Do you see lost people? Do you see anything? Do you see people that you want to be angry with, avoid, or to use as jokes or to slander someone with? Do you see mere mortals, or do you see eternal horror without Jesus?

When the Pharisees and Lawyers criticized Him, He told 3 stories, the most famous of which we have called, the Prodigal Son. Timothy Keller has suggested that it is really the story of the Prodigal God, who lavishes grace on people who don’t deserve it. Still the story may be said to about the moral, self-righteous, Elder Son who despised his father for the grace he gave to his sinful brother.

It is about two sons—one immoral and "bad", one very moral and "good"—who are both alienated from the father and therefore spiritually lost. That is a remarkable message. But there is much more—though it too is easy to miss. We must remember that this is the third of three parables, told to the same audience, meant to be pondered all together. What do we learn if we do that? We learn: 1) the cost of reconciliation, 2) that there is a missing elder brother, and 3) that we have a true elder brother.

1. The Cost of Reconciliation—verses 29-31.

  • What did it cost to bring the younger brother home?
  • At first glance, it seems not to have cost anything. There is no punishment—he is just taken in. The father opens his arms, puts new clothes on him, and that’s that. It’s free.
  • Many people have pointed this out and then argued like this: "God in heaven is like this father. He just accepts and forgives anyone who asks. There is no need for the classic Christian doctrine of the atonement. Christians have taught that God cannot simply forgive, that there must be payment for sin—but here we see that reconciliation is completely free."
  • However, this is a great mistake. The reconciliation is free to the younger brother. But it is very costly for someone else.
  • The elder brother is furious with the father for receiving his younger brother back into the family. He alludes to it when he says, "you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But… you kill the fattened calf for him!" The elder brother is angry because of the cost of this reconciliation.
  • Remember—the father had given the younger brother his entire legal part of the inheritance. 1/3 of his estate. And it was all spent—all gone.
  • Yet now the father is restoring him into the family. He has already put a robe on him, and given him a ring, which was probably the signet ring with which family members ratified contracts. The younger brother’s fair share of the wealth is all gone, but now he is back, and every robe, pair of shoes, ring, & fatted calf is coming out of someone else’s pocket.
  • Everything the father has, now is legally the elder brother’s. It is a life estate with powers. It is deeded to the elder son, but the Father still has control until his death or disability. The Elder son is the only heir of all the father has left. So every robe, every ring, every shoe, every fattened calf, every cent of the father’s, is ultimately the elder brother’s. When the father says to the elder brother, "everything I have is yours" (v.31) he is speaking the literal truth.
  • So the salvation of the younger son is not free after all. It has already been extremely expensive— look at the feast. And it will be extremely expensive. The father cannot forgive and restore the younger brother, except at the expense of the elder brother. He is the one who must bear the cost of the reconciliation.

2. There is a Missing Elder Brother—verses 1-10.

  • The elder brother knows all this—that forgiveness and reconciliation is never free. Someone has to pay. Either the younger brother has to come and earn his way back into the family, as he offered to do (see verse 19) or he can come back in immediately, through forgiveness, and then the elder brother will have to bear the cost. Salvation cannot be free. Someone has to pay, either the sinner or his elder brother.
  • The elder brother knows this and refuses to do it. So we listen to the story and see the elder brother "being a Pharisee," and we are saddened. But that is not where Jesus wants our minds and hearts to remain.
  • Jesus told his listeners three parables together—the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.
  • In each of the first two parables there is a lost object and someone who goes out, searches for it, and brings it home with joy. The shepherd searches until he finds the lost sheep. The woman searches until she finds the lost coin. So when we get to the parable of this lost son, the listeners fully expect that someone will set out to search for the lost brother and bring him home.
  • To our surprise, no one does. Jesus is leading us to ask, who should have gone out to search for this lost boy? And the answer would have been quite clear to 1st century listeners: it should have been the elder brother.
  • That was the reason that the oldest son got the lion’s share of the estate. It was his job to sustain the family’s unity and its place in the community. It is the elder brother in the parable who should have said something like this: "Father, my younger brother has been a fool, and now his life is in ruins. But I will go look for him and bring him home. And if the inheritance is gone—as I expect—I’ll bring him back into the family at my expense."
  • • Jesus doesn’t put a brother like that into the story. Instead the younger son and the father have to deal with a head-strong, resistant, self-righteous elder brother.
  • • But we don’t. The elder brother in the story is there to make us long for a true elder brother, one who, if we go astray, won’t hold it against us but seek us and bring us back at any risk and any cost to himself.

3. We Have a True Elder Brother.

  • Think of the kind of elder brother we need. We need one who would not just go into a far country, but who would come all the way from heaven to earth to find us. We need one who would not just open his wallet for us, but pour out his life. One who, would pay not just a finite cost but an infinite debt, to bring us back into God’s family. And we do! It’s Jesus.
  • See! When the father says to the elder brother "everything I have is yours" that is literally true of Jesus. Jesus had all God’s glory. He had equal glory with the Father, but He emptied himself (Phil 2:4-10.) He lost it all—for us.
  • How do we get the father’s robe? Because Jesus was stripped naked on the cross. How do we get the father’s feast? Because Jesus took the cup of wrath that we might have the cup of joy. He is our true elder brother—and He says so. Hebrews 2:11 says, "Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers." He says, ‘I will declare your name to my brothers’."

In Matthew 28:10 and John 20:17 the Resurrected Lord Jesus says to the women to go and tell His brothers that he would see them again, but for now He was going to His Father and their Father. Before His death and resurrection He called them disciples, friends, servants, but now they are brothers, adopted by the Father, and co-heirs with Him.

  • Jesus came to earth and truly obeyed his Father and never disobeyed His orders. He truly had the right to all the Father owns. But instead, He came out and searched for us, and found us in the pigsty, and carried us home on His shoulders singing with joy. And He gave us His robe, His ring, His shoes, His place, His wealth—it is all at His expense.

Jesus is searching, pursuing, seeking the lost, AND, He has told us to join Him. To take the message of His love and grace and find the lost and tell them of His grace. Every person that enters eternity will either share in His eternal glory, or His eternal condemnation. We are to participate with Jesus as True Elder Brothers and seek the Lost, in Maryland, Pennsylvania, America, Mexico, India, China, and wherever. The father wants Children to come home. The Pharisees and Rule keepers, missed the point. We must not. Jesus never intended that our faith be a private affair. He wants us to tell everyone, everywhere, that the Father and Elder Brother wants children to come home and enjoy the celebration of salvation, forgiveness, and grace that has been paid for by Jesus.

Any elder brothers here that need to repent of thinking God owes you for your goodness? You have snubbed those who don’t measure up to your level of righteousness. It’s time to repent and remember that no one is saved apart from Grace.

Any younger brothers here that realizes the world doesn’t have the peace, or the solutions to your desire to be home. It doesn’t matter where you have been sleeping. God says, "Come Home and be find Grace, because it has been paid for by your True Elder Brother. Come home.

A verse of Jesus Paid It All.

This is the manner in which we remember the expense that He went to bring us home. This is the Lord’s Table. The Bread is the reminder of His body that He came in to bear our punishment. Listen to Isaiah.

Surely He has borne our griefs, And carried our sorrows;

Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.

5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities;

The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.

6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way;

And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth;

He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.

8 He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living;

For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. 9 And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death,

Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief.

When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.

11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.

Let’s remember together.

This cup can also remind us of the cup of wrath that He drank so we can drink from the cup of joy, and know that all that Father has also belongs to us, we have been made partakers of His inheritance. Listen to Romans 8:14 ff. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

Peter adds, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,"

Let’s remember.

Jesus paid it all (last Verse)


Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman