Points: The Other Son
by Mickey Chiang
One of the best known of Jesus’ parables is entitled the “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” in the King James’ Version of the Bible; the New International Version calls it the “The Parable of the Lost Son” (Lk 15). It is about a wealthy man’s younger son who prematurely claimed his inheritance, and squandered it all on prostitutes in a faraway country. But isn’t there another parable in Luke 15?
After all, what was the context of the Parable of the Lost Son? Wasn’t it the muttering of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law that, “This man (Jesus) welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Lk 15:12)? Did the Parable of the Prodigal/Lost Son answer these mutterers?
Let’s look more closely at Luke 15. The part that answered the mutterers came
after the well-known words uttered by the father, “This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” (Lk 15:24). Jesus then described how the elder son was displeased at what he saw as the unfairness of the grand celebration for the homecoming of the wastrel son (he refused to call him his brother). Didn’t the Pharisees and teachers of the Law feel the same contempt when they said “tax collectors and sinners”? To these religious leaders, the sinners deserved nothing, much less the loving attention Jesus was giving them!
Well, Jesus did something wonderful and unique in Luke 15. He gave us a two-parables-in-one package: the Parable of the Prodigal Son, and the Parable of the Other Son!
The focus of the first parable was the Prodigal Son; we know a lot about him. The focus of the second parable is the Other Son; what do we know about him? Can we say he was the opposite of his brother?
The Prodigal Son was highly impertinent and disrespectful to demand a “share” of his father’s property. In those times, an inheritance was passed down only when the father died. Until then, no one had a share. So, wasn’t the Prodigal Son implying that his father was as good as dead to him? The Other Son made no such demand. He was much more respectful towards his father and the Mosaic laws.
It is amazing that the Other Son did not claim his “share” of the estate, for a precedent had been set. Moreover, he could have got a double share (Deut 21:17). How much greater the temptation to claim his “share”, leave his father and family to fend for themselves, and pursue worldly pleasures like his brother! The fact that he did not speaks to us of loyalty to the father and to the family. Could we also say that the Other Son was more level-headed, mature and responsible, and of good character?
We learn more about his character from what he said to his father: “All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders” (Lk 15:29). He was apparently a hard worker and an obedient son. When his wayward brother returned home, he was in the field (Lk 15:25), presumably at work.
He regarded all the property as his father’s, for he said bitterly, “Yet you never gave me even a young goat to celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf” (Lk 15:29). He could have just taken a goat at any time and given his friends a feast, but he did not.
What was the root of the Other Son’s bitterness? To answer this we must ask: Who was the apple of the father’s eye? The Parable of the Prodigal Son makes it clear that it was the Prodigal Son. The father had indulged him, and given him his “share” of the property. The undeserved warmth of his welcome home (covering him with the best robe, putting a ring on his finger and sandals on his bare feet, killing the fattened calf and holding a celebratory feast with music and dancing) tell the whole story. Despite knowing his father’s heart, the Other Son slaved for his father. What a good son he was.
But he had one flaw that we know of. He had put himself in a position to pass judgement on his brother. To him, the Prodigal Son was a disrespectful wastrel who did not deserve to be welcomed back as a son, much less be given a lavish celebration.
Are we like the father, like Jesus, looking out for sinners, talking to them and welcoming them into the family of God? Or are we like the Other Son, good in many ways, but falling short in one important way?
Council members ...
Dr Quek Swee Hwa received his Ph.D. in Biblical Studies at the University of Manchester, UK. As Principal of BGST he heads the Faculty Team and reports to the BGST Council. He was introduced to biblical studies at New Jersey, USA, where he completed his first degree in Hebrew and
Hellenistics. His graduate studies were in Divinity at Faith Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, and in Education at Temple University and University of Pennsylvania.
After completing his dissertation on Adam and Christ under the supervision of the late Prof. F. F. Bruce, he did post-doctoral research at Tyndale House and the College of Divinity, Cambridge, as well as at several institutions in Jerusalem: the Institute of Holy Land Studies (now Jerusalem University College), L’École
biblique, the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, and the University of the Holy Land (formerly the Center for the Study of Early Christianity). He is on the accrediting team of Visiting Examiners with the Asia Theological Association and has been involved in promoting biblical, theological, missiological and marketplace ministry studies both in developed countries (USA, Canada, Japan and other East Asian countries) and other countries (Indonesia, India, Philippines, and Bangladesh). In recent years he has been leading many church groups as well as BGST students on Bible Lands Study Tours to Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Greece and Egypt.
Dr Quek is also the Senior Pastor-at-Large at the Zion Bible-Presbyterian Church in
Bishan, where he also serves as the Mission Director of the foreign mission work of his church in some 18 countries. He is deeply involved in ministries to ex-drug addicts, and ex-prisoners. He is also the General Secretary of the International Council of Christian Churches. His passion is first to continue making disciples as we are commanded to do so in Matthew 28:19. Dr Quek finds great joy also in bringing the fruits of biblical exegesis and theological reflections and studies to Christian leaders engaged in pastoral and missionary ministries as well as lay Christians and leaders. He wants to help them understand and feel the pulse of what God is saying to the world both in His written Word, the Bible, and in the material remains of biblical archaeology which point to momentous biblical events which took place long ago in the Bible lands.
Power and Spiritual Abuse
25 Oct 2008 (Saturday)
7.30pm to 9.00pm
Zion Bible-Presbyterian Church, Sanctuary,
4 Bishan St 13
Rev Adrian van Leen is the Founder/Director of Concerned Christians Growth Ministries Inc. which is based in Nollamara, Western Australia. He has 17 years of experience in pastoral ministry and is the author of no less than five books and many articles on cults. Police and media regularly consulted him for his expertise on cults both in Australia and Singapore. He has a widespread speaking and teaching ministry both in Australia and Southeast Asia.
Register at http://www.bgst.edu.sg/online_reg
by 17 Oct 2008 to receive a $5 BGST Bookshop voucher!
For more details about the public lecture, please visit http://bgst.edu.sg/oct_public_lecture.htm
Chapel Summary. Last week's chapel was led by Mr Chou Fang Soong, BGST Provost and Executive
Vice-Principal.message was entitled "Doing God's Will", the phrase taken from Jesus' saying in Mark 3:35. He directed our attention to the need of living a life of true discipleship, reflected in our self-denial and doing God's will
(Lk 9:23), in the midst of our busy lifestyle in Singapore. Speaking from his own life experience, he encouraged us to be attentive to God's voice in our desire to follow Him and obey His will. Despite his caveat that this was the first sermon he has ever preached in his whole life, his message was well presented and helped us reflect on our personal relationship with God and our need to align ourselves with His will. (Dr Aquila Lee)
Chapel This Week. This week we shall have Mr Lim Chin Keng, Council member and Prayer Director of the Dinner Organising Committee 2008 to share the Lord’s word.