Pharisees – sought honour from people and were not bothered about their inner-life or qualities. Lord dubbed them as ‘white-washed tombs.’ (Matthew 23:27) In the Parable of Prodigal Son, the Pharisees enjoyed the first part. The younger son who left home with inheritance when father was alive deserved punishment. He has violated Ten Commandments. Yes, he got right punishment as he landed among pigs, which is abominable for a Jew. However, Lord did not stop the parable there. There was a dramatic turn or an unexpected climax. Pharisees were happy with the ‘Truth’ part but did not expect the ‘Grace’ part. Younger son comes to senses! He has a flashback about his home where servants were better treated. As a spiritual step, he repents. Then he rehearses his statement that he would tell his father. Then walks back home.
Pharisees were more upset, irritated and furious; when father welcomed the wayward son: that too by embracing, providing robe, giving him a signet and calling for a celebration of a great feast. In fact, the Elder Son was personification of legalistic Pharisees.
1) Pride Vs Humility: Elder son was proud and did not accept others whom he thought were below certain standards. He was proud about his heritage and did not accept his brother or his father who had accepted him. Younger son was humble to accept even status as servant.
2) Accusation Vs Confession: Younger son confessed his sins and came home. Older son justified himself or proved himself better by bringing allegations against his brother. A Pharisee’s prayer exemplifies this. (Luke 18:11)
3) Rejection Vs Repentance: By rejecting his brother, he rejected his ‘repentance and return.’ Elder son was interested in his ‘honour’ than ‘forgiveness’ or ‘reconciliation’ with his brother. He felt it was below his dignity to receive his brother.
Am I like Pharisee or Penitent son?
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