Saturday, May 28, 2011

The true elder brother Jesus

Besides disagreeing over the emphasis shift from the younger brother to the older brother, I disagree with the interpretation of Jesus being the true elder brother. In chapter 5 Tim Keller put forth his argument as to why Jesus is the true elder brother.

Keller does admit that the father is the one who goes out to each brother. He goes out to the wayward son coming home, and he goes out to persuade the elder brother to come into the party. I do like this quote, "It shows that even the most religious and moral people need the initiating grace of God, that they are just as lost..."

Keller also shows us his cards in how he interprets the entire parable (as if we did not already know implicitly). Keller is interpreting the parable as a sinner finding repentance. As stated before, I believe this is a valid interpretation. But Keller adds, "This, however, only brings us to the brink of Jesus's message, not to its heart." It's what follows that I am not sure I accept.

Here is the argument. Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees who have accused him of eating with sinners (Lk 15:2). Thus, he told the 3 parables. Keller points out that in all three something is lost and then gotten again. But a big difference between the first two and the last one is that in the first two someone "goes out" to find what was lost. In the third one, no one goes out. This is the shock Keller attributes to the last parable. We are expecting someone to go out and no one does.

But wait. I thought the point was the elder brother. Didn't we say that the father went out to him to try to convince him to come into the party?

Next, Keller appeals to Cain's "Am I my brother's keeper?" It is assumed that Cain was supposed to be his brother's keeper and therefore every other elder brother has the responsibility of looking after his wild younger brother. The elder brother is to spend his money to bring back the younger brother. Keller's lesson is that it costs someone to bring about restoration. But sadly this younger brother doesn't get a responsible older brother.

"But we do..." Keller says.

Keller is forced to put Jesus in this speculative role. Since the main thrust of the parable is the wayward elder brother, we need the means of his salvation. His means of salvation is no different than anyone else; Jesus. Otherwise, we already have the salvation part, that of the younger brother being accepted back into the family by the father.

We don't need to make up an application from the Prodigal Son parable. The elder brother is angry because of how kind the father has treated his brother. As stated above, Jesus is telling the parable in defense of why he is eating with sinners. He's eating with sinners because they need saving. Salvation from the Heavenly Father comes to sinners who accept the grace of the Father. The reaction of the elder brother is exactly the same as the Pharisee's reaction. They can't believe lost people can be saved. Jesus is not the so called true elder brother. He's the father (not the Father, although they work together for salvation's sake). Just like he's the shepherd and the woman. This makes more sense since now we have harmony among the three parables. Something dear is lost and something dear is found.

No comments: