Luke 15:11-32 Homecoming; Faithful Son

But what about me?

But what about me?

Today we are going to walk in the shoes of our last character in our story of the prodigal son. Jesus shared this message and we have been taking our time looking at it. We looked at the crowd and why Jesus used this parable, the youngest (prodigal) son, the father, and now the oldest (faithful) son. Just as a reminder I named the prodigal son Levi, the father James and the faithful son Philip. I also want to remind you that there will be VERY familiar scenes throughout the stories as some scenes involve more than one character. Feel free to skip ahead if you feel like it. Let’s see where Philip takes us.

Philip and Cassandra have been married for five years. After trying for many years, they are finally expecting their first baby. Cassandra was afraid she would never be blessed with a child, but now she is grateful that God waited. They had time to build their own home and deepen their relationship. She knows they are ready for this new adventure as husband and wife.

Philip loves Cassandra dearly and is overjoyed that she is giving him a child. He is hoping for a son to carry on his name, but he will be happy with the child God has blessed them with, no matter what. Philip too, is ready to enter this stage in their lives.

Philip shares freely with Cassandra his daily struggles and successes. Cassandra helps oversee the household activities for both her home and James’, as James’ wife died many years ago. The servants perform the actual work in James’ home, but Cassandra used to be very active in the daily care of her father-in-law’s home. When she first came into this family she felt enormous love from James and a kindly respect from Levi. Over the years the relationship with Levi remained cool but amicable. Since becoming pregnant though, Levi has become downright hostile towards her. Due to this friction, Cassandra has left the duties of caring for James’ home in the hands of the servants. Now she contends herself with preparing her home for their new arrival.

Philip has noticed Levi’s change in behavior too. Levi and Philip were close when they were younger but Levi always seemed to be eager to compete with him. Also as the older brother Philip thought it was his duty to steer Levi away from trouble. But since marrying Cassandra, Levi has seemed distant and angry. Philip has tried talking with Levi about this but Levi tells him he is imagining things. Since learning about the baby Levi has really been short with Philip and pushes him away any time Philip offers any advice or help. Philip is hoping things settle down after the baby is born. He is keeping Cassandra away from as much tension as possible because it is not good for her or their baby.

As the supervisor for the field hands, Philip is responsible to ensure that each day’s tasks get done. Levi works alongside the laborers under Philip. Levi has become difficult to handle. On more than one occasion Levi has refused to do the tasks Philip has assigned him to, or to do them in the way Philip has directed. Usually Philip is able to work out the issue with Levi and get the task completed, but again, since Philip’s marriage and especially since the baby announcement, Levi has gotten harder to deal with. Philip doesn’t want to burden their father with this and simply resolves to work through the difficulties with Levi on his own. Philip believes that Levi is simply jealous of the life Philip has made for himself. “I wish I knew what would motivate Levi. If I knew what he actually wants to do, I could steer him in the direction of those kinds of jobs. I wish he would talk to me. I’m so tired of guessing what is going on inside that head of his.”

Philip soon finds out what Levi is thinking when he is asked to join Levi and his father in his father’s office one evening. Once all are assembled, James gets right to the point. “Philip, Levi brought up a matter this morning that I felt was worth considering. He pointed out that I am getting older and that your baby is due soon. He thought it might be a good time for me to put down on paper what each of you will receive as your inheritance.”

Philip is shocked to the core to hear about Levi’s request. What is Levi up to? “Father, surely you are not considering this. You are still very healthy and have many years to make this kind of decision.”

“I agree Philip, I am in fine health. But Levi has made some fine points in his argument that I am inclined to agree with. Therefore, I have decided to honor his request. Philip, as the eldest son, you will receive the double portion, according to our customs. Levi will receive His portion as well. But I am holding a small portion aside for any grandchildren. It will be equally divided amongst all my grandchildren at the time of my passing. So my estate will be divided as thus: Philip, you will receive 60% of my property. Levi, you will receive 30% and a trust of 10% will be held for the grandchildren.”

“Thank you father. That is very generous. Don’t you agree Levi?”

“Father, would you be willing to let me know which parcels would be included in my portion”, asks Levi.

James thinks for a few moments before showing Levi and Philip exactly where the boundary lines of each of the inheritances would lie. Levi nods his head after viewing their father’s plans. Levi thanks their father once more. Philip is too puzzled by why Levi brought this request to their father to engage in any more discussion. He goes to his home to ponder what has just taken place.

Philip shares with Cassandra the events in his father’s office. She too is puzzled by Levi’s behavior but is also pleased that her father-in-law has included his grandchildren in his inheritance plan. This is not the usual custom and it shows her how much he cares about their upcoming addition to the family.

Life returns to normal the next morning and nothing more is said about inheritance. “Maybe Levi was just curious and now he is satisfied. I certainly hope so anyway.” Levi seems quieter to Philip and they don’t have any real conflicts for several days.

Almost a week later, James comes to Philip and tells him that he is going to let Levi have a little more responsibility. “Levi asked for permission to work on the property he is to inherit. I have given him permission to do so and have assigned ten men to serve him as laborers. I want you to keep an eye on him, just to be on the safe side. Don’t step in too soon though. Levi needs to know he has our support and that we have confidence in him. But be ready to lend a hand or offer advice if Levi asks. He needs this opportunity if he is ever going to make something of himself.”

Philip is all too familiar with Levi’s reaction when offered advice, but he will do as his father requests. “I will do as you ask father, but I’m not sure I understand where he is going with all this. He could just as easily work in one of the barns near us instead of working on ‘his property.’”

“I agree, but he seems excited for the first time in a long time and I believe that may motivate him to put more effort into this experience than he would if he had nothing to personally gain or lose.”

Philip goes over to where Levi is working with his crew each evening. Philip tries to engage Levi in conversation about how things are going but it seems to make Levi angry. “I just wanted to know if you needed anything or if there was anything I could do to help you.”

“I’m doing just fine on my own. I don’t need your ‘help.’ You are not my boss or my father, so just leave me alone.”

“I’m sorry Levi. I didn’t mean to insult you. I’ll let you be, but if you need me all you have to do is ask.”

As Philip walks away he hears Levi say, “Don’t hold your breath.” Philip continues walking and shakes his head. Because Levi doesn’t appear to be making any great mistakes or progress, as far as Philip can see, Philip hasn’t felt the need to bring his concerns to his father. Philip has heard from some of the laborers working under Levi. They don’t seem to be impressed by Levi’s ideas or his methods, but so far, they aren’t saying anything that should be brought to James either. “What is Levi up to? I sure hope father knows what he is doing.”

On Levi’s birthday Philip is again asked to meet with his father and Levi in his father’s office. “I wonder what Levi is up to now”, thinks Philip. After all are assembled, James shares with Philip Levi’s request. “Levi has asked that I transfer ownership of the properties each of you is to inherit over to you now instead of waiting until after my death. He believes it will help him in his relationship with the workers as he would then be the actual property owner.”

Philip truly believed that Levi was up to something, but this is beyond his wildest imaginings. Philip can’t believe his father would go along with such a disrespectful proposal. “Surely you are not considering this father!” Philip then turns to Levi with fire in his eyes and says, “Levi, you have taken this too far. It wasn’t enough for you to have father divide his property while still in his prime. Now you want to take it right out of his hands! How could you even propose such a thing?”

“Please Philip, I know this is irregular but Levi has made some fine point in his argument again. I have decided to do as he requested. I have signed over ownership of your inheritance to both of you. The land is yours to manage as you each see fit.”

“Thank you father. You will not regret this decision”, said Levi.

“I want no part of this father. I will receive my inheritance at the proper time. I do not wish to rush you to your grave.” Philip gets up and gives Levi a look of disgust as he leaves the room. He goes straight to his home. He needs to talk to Cassandra. How could Levi be so heartless! This is not the brother he once knew!

When Philip tells Cassandra about the meeting with his father and Levi she suggests they pray for Levi. “You pray for him. I want to string him up!” Cassandra sits quietly as Philip paces the room. She prays for all three men in her heart. Philip begins run out of steam after pacing the room for fifteen minutes. He shakes his head and sits down by Cassandra. “Maybe I should pray for him. I don’t know what else to do. I should pray my father wises up too. I have a feeling this is not over yet.” Together they ask God to show them what to do and to intervene in this situation. Afterwards Philip goes out to the fields to begin his daily routine.

When Philip approaches a group of his workers they immediately begin to question him on the events of the day. “Is it true that Levi asked for his inheritance now?”

“Yes it’s true, and my father agreed to it.”

“That is the most disrespectful thing I have ever heard of! Now what happens?”

“I don’t know. I guess we just have to wait and see.”

“Well I won’t be helping him! I could never work for a man who dishonors his family so boldly!” The rest of the workers all agree and decide that they will refuse to work under Levi. They say they would rather be whipped than to serve under Levi.

Philip accepts their statement and promises not to force any of them to do anything against their conscience. He secretly thanks them for their loyalty. Philip wonders who Levi will get now to carry out his master plan.

Philip keeps his head down and his mind on his work. He has stopped checking on Levi. He knows Levi will never ask for help from him, and even if he did, Philip is sure he wouldn’t be inclined to provide it. He hopes that this is the end of the surprises from Levi. He doesn’t know how much more he could take, or his father either.

Five days after Levi is given ownership of his “inheritance” James comes out to the field where Philip is working. “Philip, have you seen your brother? I didn’t see him all day yesterday and I can’t find him this morning.”

“The last time I saw him was when he was paying those three “workers” he hired from town night before last. I can’t believe he hired those worthless men. I know none of your workers would lift a finger for him after he treated you so shamefully.”

“What do you mean? Why wasn’t I told about this? Did you offer to speak with the workers on his behalf?”

“He never asked for my help. I didn’t tell you because as he said, if he succeeds or fails, it will be on his own head. Besides, I am just as disgusted with his behavior as the workers. I am sorry that his behavior has caused you alarm. I will ask around and see if anyone has seen him in the last day. I will bring you word as soon as I know anything.”

“Thank you Philip. I will go back to the house and see if I can find any clues there as to his whereabouts.”

Philip begins asking the workers if any of them have seen Levi in the past two days. Several share in his recollection of Levi paying his “hired hands” their wages. One servant said that he saw Levi leading a fully loaded donkey down the road. Philip wonders where he could have been going. He goes to inform his father about what the servant saw.

When Philip gets to the house and tells James that one of the servants saw Levi leaving with a fully loaded donkey very early yesterday morning. “The servant said he hadn’t asked Levi where he was going but by the look of the donkey it was probably going to be a long trip.”

“I came to the same conclusion myself after looking in Levi’s room. So many of his belongings are missing. I have no doubt he is planning on being gone for a while. I just wonder where he went, how long he is planning on staying, and why he left.”

“I don’t know father. I don’t believe it would do any good to send someone out looking for him since he has at least a day’s lead on us. I imagine all we can do is wait and see.”

“I believe you are right. But I believe I will add prayer to my waiting.”

Philip leaves his father sitting in the house. There is nothing more he can do for him. He thinks about praying for Levi, but he is too angry with for once again hurting their father. “Doesn’t he care about anyone but himself? Doesn’t he realize how this hurts father? One more thing to add to the growing list of sins Levi has indulged in. Maybe his leaving will let things settle back down finally.” Philip heads back to the fields to continue his routine.

A week later Philip hears strange voices coming from the area his father passed to Levi. He stands up from where he has been kneeling and sees two men walking about on the property. They are deep in conversation as Philip approaches. He hears the older one talking about building something near the stream that runs through the property. Philip hasn’t heard of any new building projects from his father. Maybe Levi sent these people to build something for him. He needs to let his father know that something is going on so he rushes back to the house to get him. Once Philip reaches the house he tells James that he needs to come with him quickly. “There is something going on over on Levi’s property.”

“Is it Levi? Has he returned?”

“No father. I don’t know who this is, but they are saying some very strange things. You need to see for yourself.”

James and Philip hurry over to Levi’s property where they find a young man and his father walking about. James calls out, “Hello neighbor. May I help you with something?”

“My name is Titus and this is my son Arran. We are just looking over our new property. Arran wants to build his home here for his new bride. We are looking for the best location.”

Philip looks over at his father and notices him begin to tremble. He looks like he is about to fall over. Philip puts a steadying hand on James’ arm. Philip is in shock himself, but he has to act strong for his father. Inside, Philip is boiling! “This is low even for Levi. I never would have believed him this callous!”

James addresses the older man, “Can you tell how you came to be in possession of this land?”

“A young man named Levi came to my shop last week and enticed me to buy this property from him. He described it so beautifully that I couldn’t resist. I have been looking to purchase something away from the city for my son and his new family. I don’t want my grandchildren growing up in the city streets.”

Philip has remained silent throughout the exchange. He is doing everything he can to keep from yelling at the man and his son. He wants his father to tell them that they have no right to be there. He wants to grab Levi and shake some sense into him! “Come Philip, let’s leave these men to their work.” James turns and heads for home.

Philip remains watching for a few minutes longer, then he turns and catches up to James. “Father, surely you are going to do something about this. That is YOUR property. Levi had no right to sell it.”

“No Philip. There is nothing I can do. When I gave you both your inheritance lots, I removed myself completely from ownership. Levi had every legal right to sell the property, even if he didn’t have a moral right to. The only hope is for the land to be returned to our family in the year of Jubilee. Until that time, we leave it in God’s hands.”

“You can be assured that I will never touch my inheritance as long as you live. I’m furious with Levi. If I ever get my hands on him I’ll wring his neck!”

“No Philip. We have to trust God to work this out. Please do not harbor hate in your heart towards your brother. This would not please God, or me.”

“For your sake and for God’s sake I will forgive. But not for Levi’s.” Philip’s heart is so angry with Levi right now that he doesn’t know if he can, or even wants to, forgive Levi. He needs to talk this through with Cassandra. She always helps him put things in perspective. But that will have to wait until the day’s work is done. “Maybe I should take on the most physically demanding job there is today. That way I can get some of my anger out before going home to Cassandra.” Philip decides that chopping wood would be an excellent way to tire himself out.

At the end of the day Philip shares with Cassandra the events of the day. She is shocked also at Levi’s behavior, but is willing to do as her father-in-law requested; pray for Levi. She adds Philip and James into her prayers too.

Time passes and the life takes on a new normal for Philip. He watches his father wait for Levi every day. He seems to age more with each passing day. It breaks Philip’s heart to watch him long for something that is never going to happen. Philip tries to distract his father by having his two children visit as often as possible. Philip and Cassandra now have a daughter, a son, and a third child on the way. When James holds the children is the only time Philip sees joy on his face. “If only I could do something to ease his suffering.”

One evening as Philip is coming in from the field he hears music coming from James’ home. He sees one of the servants outside drawing water from the well. Philip approaches him and asks what is going on. “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him back safe and sound” (verse 27).

At that moment a servant steps out of the house and walks over to Philip. “Your father sent me to find you. He says for you to join him in celebration.”

“Tell my father that I’m NOT going in to celebrate with Levi. If my father wishes to speak with me, he will find me right here.”

A couple of minutes later James steps out of the house and approaches Philip. “Philip, please come in with me. I am so happy to finally have both my sons again. I know Levi will want to see you. Please join me is celebrating Levi’s safe return.”

“All these years I have served you and I never disobeyed you. But you never gave me a party or let me take one of the goats and have a party with my friends. But when Levi comes home, after wasting your property and money on prostitutes, you kill the fatted calf and throw him a party the likes of which hasn’t been seen here before. Why father?”

“I love both of you Philip. You have always been with me and I’m grateful for that. Everything I have is yours now, but it is appropriate for us to celebrate Levi’s return. He was dead and is now alive. He was lost and now is found.”

“I will be happy for you father, but I will not celebrate with Levi.” Philip turns and walks away. “How can father forgive Levi so quickly? What am I supposed to do with all the hurt? At both of them?” Philip knew where he needed to go right now; to sit with Cassandra and maybe pray with her too.

Father God, I don’t know if it was because I am getting tired of the same story or if I identify less with this character than the others, but I found this story very hard to write. I have been the prodigal on many occasions. I am also a parent who tries to please her children. I drew firmer lines that this father did. And I have also been the one who gets hurt and harbors unforgiveness. But I have been the prodigal most often. I see my need for repentance clearly. But the faithful brother needed to repent too. He was full of anger and jealousy. Yes, what Levi did was detestable on all fronts, but if James could forgive him then Philip needed to too.

“If you don’t forgive, neither will your Father who is in Heaven forgive you of your trespasses” (Mark 11:26). No one said that forgiving would be easy but it is essential. Help me Lord to live according to Your word. Thank You for sharing Your parables with us. There is SO much more still to learn. Help me always come home to You, even when I think I’m already there. Help me invest in our relationship and grow it deeper every day.

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2 Responses to “Luke 15:11-32 Homecoming; Faithful Son”

  1. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with a few pics to drive the message home a little bit, but other than that, this is excellent blog. An excellent read. I’ll definitely be back.

    • Annette Vincent says:

      Thank you for visiting my site. Thank you also for your kind words. I pray this story touched you in some way and that you are able to take some of the ideas shared into your walk with Jesus. Please feel free to join in anytime.

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