Sermon Outline

Sermon Outline

Absent From the Party

KEY PASSAGE: Luke 15:25-32

SUPPORTING SCRIPTURES: Matthew 11:28 | Luke 15:1-24 | John 3:16 | 1 John 1:9


Jesus was a master storyteller who knew His audience as well as the condition of each heart.

When He presented the parable of the prodigal son, tax collectors and sinners in the crowd drew near in order to hear what He had to say, but there were also scribes and Pharisees in the audience who came with grumbling attitudes and critical hearts. Jesus masterfully crafted a story that addressed exactly what both the sinners and the religious leaders needed to hear.


The 15th chapter of Luke contains three separate stories—a man with 100 sheep who lost one, a woman who lost a coin, and a father who lost his youngest son. In each case, when the sheep, coin, and son were found, there was great rejoicing.

We’re probably all familiar with the parable of the prodigal son, and he is usually our main focus. However, there are two other characters in the story, and we learn valuable lessons from them. In fact, we can probably each identify with one of the characters—a wayward son, a loving father, or a resentful brother.

The tax collectors and sinners in the audience could readily see the similarity between their lives and that of the Prodigal Son, because he had wasted his life on sinful pleasures and had found himself in the lowest state he could imagine—in a hog pen feeding pigs. He was so hungry he would have gladly eaten the pods he gave the pigs. The only way out of the situation was to return to his father in repentance as a servant because he felt unworthy to be called his son. But instead of shaming and reprimanding him, his father welcomed him home, forgave him, and threw a party for him.

However, there was one person who was definitely not happy that the Prodigal Son had returned—the older brother who had faithfully remained at home serving his father. As he came home from the field, he heard music and dancing. After asking a servant what was going on and hearing that his father had thrown a party because his younger brother had returned, he became angry and refused to go inside. Even when his father came outside pleading with him to join the party, he refused, and what he said to his father revealed what was in his heart.

The Attitude of the Elder Brother

  • Anger. This was his first reaction when he discovered his father had welcomed his rebellious younger brother despite all he’d done (v. 28).
  • Jealousy. He thought his father was being unfair to him. “Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends” (v. 29).
  • Bitterness. “But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth ... you killed the fattened calf for him” (v. 30).
  • Resentment. He resented the fact that his father had never recognized him for his faithfulness but rewarded the disobedient son for simply coming home.
  • Rejection. He viewed his father’s celebration of his younger brother’s return as rejection of him (v. 29).
  • Unforgiveness. He focused on his brother’s sins and not on his repentance, saying that he “devoured your wealth with prostitutes” (v. 30).
  • Disrespect. He wouldn’t even acknowledge the prodigal as his brother but addressed him as “this son of yours” (v. 30).
  • Accusation. He found fault with his father because he had never given him a party like the one he was throwing for his rebellious brother (v. 29).
  • Self-righteousness. He saw no sin in himself.
  • Caustic, Biting, and Piercing Words. “This son of yours … who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes” (v. 30).

In the story, the Prodigal Son pictured the tax collectors and sinners, but the older son was an illustration of the scribes and Pharisees who considered themselves righteous. They faithfully attended synagogue every Sabbath, prided themselves in keeping the Law, and looked down on the sinners and tax collectors.

Lessons From the Elder Brother

In the same way, we too may be critical of people who live a sinful lifestyle and make a mess of their lives. Therefore, let’s learn some valuable lessons from the attitude of the older brother before becoming too critical of other people’s sins.

  • There are two pig pens in this story. The obvious one is in a far off country where the Prodigal Son ended up as a result of his wasteful, foolish choices. But the obedient older brother was in a hog pen at home because of his sinful attitudes. He thought he was pious because of his external obedience to his father, but in his heart he was wallowing in a pig pen of resentful, self-righteous attitudes.
  • We can be in a far country without realizing it. A far off country is anywhere we choose to go outside of God’s will. The prodigal left home to go where he could live as he pleased without any restrictions, but although the older brother stayed home physically, he was still in a far off country because his heart was filled with antagonistic attitudes. Even though he’d remained with his family, he was miserable and separated from them emotionally. One brother was feeding on pods for pigs, but the other one had a heart full of unforgiveness, jealousy, and bitter resentment toward his brother and father.
  • The path of freedom from the hog pens of life is paved with repentance and surrender to the will of the Father. The condition of our hearts is not revealed so much by outward religious behavior but by our attitude toward people and God. The scribes and Pharisees resented Jesus for welcoming sinners who desired forgiveness, but in reality, they were in a worse condition because they refused to recognize the sinfulness of their hearts, and therefore, saw no need to seek forgiveness from God. If we want out of the pig pens of life, we must be willing to admit our sin and come to Jesus for the forgiveness of both our sinful behaviors and attitudes.


  • Which of the brothers can you relate to the most? Why?
  • Have you ever been in a hog pen of sin without even realizing it? What opened your eyes to your condition?


25 Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing.

26 And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be.

27 And he said to him, `Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.'

28 But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him.

29 But he answered and said to his father, `Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends;

30 but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.'

31 And he said to him, `Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.

32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.'"

28 Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

1 Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.

2 Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ``This man receives sinners and eats with them."

3 So He told them this parable, saying,

4 What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?

5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, `Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'

7 I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

8 Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?

9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!'

10 In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

11 And He said, ``A man had two sons.

12 The younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.' So he divided his wealth between them.

13 And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.

14 Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished.

15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

16 And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.

17 But when he came to his senses, he said, `How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!

18 I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, ``Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight;

19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men."'

20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

21 And the son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'

22 But the father said to his slaves, `Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet;

23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate;

24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate.

16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.