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  • The True Older Brother (Discussion Notes)

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    Here are some Life Group discussion notes from my message this morning. If you're not in one of our Life Groups then email me at dan.smith@crown-church.org.uk and I'll get in touch to recommend a good one!

    The True Older Brother (Discussion Notes) - primary image

    Photo by Fer Montero

    Great Expense

    At first glance it can seem like the reconciliation of the younger brother seems to have cost nothings. The father opens his arms, throws a big party and that’s that. It’s free.
    Look closer though and you’ll see that there was someone footing the bill. With his brother having wasted his portion of the inheritance, everything that the father has, literally belongs to the older son and he was furious at how much the reconciliation was costing him.
    The modern equivalent of the fattened calf might be a savings account with 4k sitting in it, waiting for an emergency or to be used for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. Can you imagine if you came home from work to find that your family had spent all of this money on an elaborate party for your returning, selfish, wasteful brother?

    Great Expectations

    Taking a step back for a moment to look at the three parables that Jesus told together, we’ll see that Jesus was dramatically building up an expectation and then completely shattering it to make an important point.
    Firstly, a sheep wanders off and a shepherd puts his life on the line to rescue it. He leaves 99 other sheep, probably under the watchful eye of some colleagues and sets off. On hearing this, the crowd would have thought, ‘Yes, good, that’s what the shepherd should do, that’s his job!’. Next we hear about a coin that is lost and a woman who turns the house upside down to find it. Again, the crowd would have expected that, it was her responsibility having lost it in the first place. Finally we hear about the reckless and selfish younger brother who runs off with bags full of cash. Surely a great rescue comes next! Surely it will be the older brother who is the hero; he’s the one responsible for family unity; It’s his job to maintain the honour of the family name. But in a dramatic move, Jesus introduces a cowardly, love-less and self-seeking older brother; jaws would have dropped in the crowd surrounding the master story-teller.

    Jesus shattered expectations to make an important point. The religious leaders thought they were helping people by making them feel worse about themselves. Jesus is telling them loud and clear that they are neglecting their responsibility towards those on the bottom rung of society. Jesus wanted them to be loving the unlovely, hugging the unhuggly and serving the undeserving. He wants them and us to be good ‘older siblings’ in society, and He points us towards Himself as the true older brother. 

    Our Big Brother!

    Jesus is our big brother! Isn’t it incredible that God wants to relate to us in such an intimate way. Often, people don’t feel that they ‘need God’, or that they are ‘far from Him’. You’ll never realise how far away you are until you realise how close God intends you to be! In Matthew 18:1-4 Jesus tells His disciples that they can only be part of His kingdom if they enter like little children. Like little kids, we can do nothing on our own. We are dependent completely on Jesus for our rescue. But forget the dependency for a moment and focus on the intimacy - God is our Father - a perfect, loving, parent with none of the flaws that earthly parents have. He is completely good, full of joy, always loving, always life-giving.

    But how can we go from hopeless, flawed, selfish creatures to being as confident as a beaming child in the arms of their dad?

    And How can we avoid repeating the hypocritical lives of the Pharisees and become the big brothers and sisters that our Father intends us to be?

    Great Exchange

    In the first two verses of this passage in Philippians 2:3-11 we see a glimpse of the ‘older sibling’ traits that our Father wants us to exhibit. Then verses 6-10 tell us how we can ever hope to live like this. They point us to Jesus; to His great humility in giving up his heavenly glory to become a man, living an obedient life and then maintaining that obedience all the way to a brutal execution. On the cross He took on our debt in order to give us all His credit.

    We can only enjoy being children of God, because of Jesus’ finished work.

    We can only become the life-giving big brothers and sisters that our society needs when we learn to truly enjoy God’s grace and rely on the power of The Helper to help us show grace to others.

    As you read this passage, don’t feel weighed down by the commands at the start. We’ll only ever live like that if our eyes are completely fixed on Jesus, which this passage facilitates so magnificently…

    Philippians 2:3-11
    3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


    1) “God doesn’t just want to let us off, He wants to let us in. He doesn’t only sign a cheque to pay our debt, He signs an adoption certificate.” Discuss.

    2) “Only someone of infinite worth could pay an infinite debt.” Confer.

    3) How has your relationship with your parents affected your relationship with God?

    4) How good are you at coming to your Father with childlike humility and excitement?

    5) Are there areas of your life where you overly competitive? In what areas do you tend to be selfish?

    6) Can you think of some specific ways you can demonstrate to others this week that you see them as more significant than yourself?

    Some big things might have been unearthed, so it would be good to pray for each other with the authority, love and empowerment of Father, Son and Helper.

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