Luke 15:29
And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
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(29) Lo, these many years do I serve thee.—The very word “I serve,” as a slave serves, is eminently suggestive. The obedience had all along been servile, prompted by fear and hope, even as the slave’s obedience is. The language put into the mouth of the elder son is clearly meant to represent the habitual thoughts of the Pharisees. They are taken, as it were, after our Lord’s manner, as seen in the previous parables, at their own valuation of themselves. They are conscious of no transgressions; but in that very unconsciousness lies the secret of the absence of any sense of joy in being forgiven, of any power to sympathise with the joy of others, even of any satisfaction in the service in which they pride themselves. (Comp. Notes on Luke 7:47-50.) They are scandalised at the gladness which others feel when a penitent returns to God. It seems like an insult and wrong to themselves. Their life has been one of uniform obedience; they have performed their religious duties. Why is so much stir made about those who have fallen as they never fell?

Luke 15:29-30. But he answering, said to his father — The kindness and respect which his father showed him on this occasion, did not soften him in the least. He stubbornly persisted in his anger, and answered the affectionate speeches of his parent with nothing but loud and haughty accusations of his conduct. These many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time — This branch of the parable is finely contrived to express the high opinion which the Pharisees, here represented by the elder brother, entertained of their own righteousness and merit. Yet thou never gavest me a kid, &c. — Perhaps God does not usually give much consolation to those who never felt the deep sorrows of repentance. But as soon as this thy son was come — The ungracious youth disdained to call him his brother, and at the same time insolently insinuated, that his father seemed to despise all his other children, and to reckon this prodigal only his son; which hath devoured thy living with harlots — Hath wasted thy property in a long course of scandalous debaucheries, to his own ruin, and the infamy of the family. Thou hast killed for him the fatted calf — And made him as welcome as if he had been the most dutiful child upon earth. And he said — With great gentleness, when he might have taken offence at his son’s unbecoming reply, Son, thou art ever with me — And art every day receiving some token of my kindness. By calling him his son, after the insolent speech he had made, the father insinuated, that he acknowledged him likewise for his son, and that neither the undutifulness of the one, nor the frowardness of the other of his children, had extinguished his affection, or cancelled the relation subsisting between them. All that I have is thine — As thou hast formerly lived in my family, and hast had the command of my property, as far as thy exigencies required; so thou art at present heir to the bulk of my estate. This is a material intimation, and suggests a strong reason against murmuring at the indulgence shown to the greatest sinners. As the father’s receiving the youngest son did not cause him to disinherit the elder, so God’s receiving notorious sinners will be no loss to those who have always served him: neither will he raise these to a state of glory equal to that of those who have always served him, if they have, upon the whole, made a greater progress in inward as well as outward holiness.

15:25-32 In the latter part of this parable we have the character of the Pharisees, though not of them alone. It sets forth the kindness of the Lord, and the proud manner in which his gracious kindness is often received. The Jews, in general, showed the same spirit towards the converted Gentiles; and numbers in every age object to the gospel and its preachers, on the same ground. What must that temper be, which stirs up a man to despise and abhor those for whom the Saviour shed his precious blood, who are objects of the Father's choice, and temples of the Holy Ghost! This springs from pride, self-preference, and ignorance of a man's own heart. The mercy and grace of our God in Christ, shine almost as bright in his tender and gentle bearing with peevish saints, as his receiving prodigal sinners upon their repentance. It is the unspeakable happiness of all the children of God, who keep close to their Father's house, that they are, and shall be ever with him. Happy will it be for those who thankfully accept Christ's invitation.A kid - A young goat. This was of less value than the calf; and he complains that while his father had never given "him" a thing of so little value as "a kid," he had now given his other son the "fatted calf."

Make merry with - Entertain them give them a feast. This complaint was unreasonable, for his father had divided his property, and he "might" have had his portion, and his father had uniformly treated him with kindness. But it serves to illustrate the conduct of the scribes and Pharisees, and the folly of their complaint.

29. these many years … neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment—The words are not to be pressed too far. He is merely contrasting his constancy of love and service with the conduct of his brother; just as Job, resenting the charge of hypocrisy by his friends, speaks as if nothing could be laid to his charge (Job 23:10-12), and David too (Ps 18:20-24). The father attests the truth of all he says.

never … a kid—I say not a calf, but not even a kid.

that I might make merry with my friends—Here lay his misapprehension. It was no entertainment for the gratification of the prodigal: it was a father's expression of the joy he felt at his recovery.

thy son … thy living—How unworthy a reflection on the common father of both, for the one not only to disown the other, but fling him over upon his father, as if he should say, Take him, and have joy of him!

See Poole on "Luke 15:25".

And he answering, said to his father,.... Commending himself, and reflecting on his father:

lo, these many years do I serve thee; for though he was called a son, yet differed little from a servant; he was of a servile disposition, and under a spirit of bondage; he served his father, not in the Gospel, but in the law, moral and ceremonial; in the letter of it, and not in the newness of the Spirit; externally, and not internally; from fear, and not from love; with mercenary views, and not freely; with trust in, and dependence on his service, seeking justification and eternal life by it, and not with a view to the glory of God; and this he had done "many years"; from his youth upwards, as the Pharisee in Matthew 19:20 whereas his younger brother had never served him, but his own lusts; and yet as soon as ever he was come home, before he could enter upon service, this entertainment was made for him, and which he therefore resented: moreover, he does not say I have served thee, but "I do"; denoting the continuance and constancy of his service; and intimating that his life had been, and was one continued series of obedience:

neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment; which though true of the elect angels, can never be said of any of the sons of men; and which shows, that he had never been under a work of the Spirit of God, who convinces of sin; and had never seen himself in a true light, in the glass of that law, he pretended to serve God in; that he was a stranger to the plague of his own heart, and was a self-deceiver, and the truth of grace was not in him: he could not be a good man, for so to say, is contrary to the experience of all good men; to their groans, complaints, and confessions; to their prayers, for fresh application of pardoning grace; and to the observation of all wise and good men in all ages; and most fully proves him to be, a Pharisee:

and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends; some by a "kid", or "goat", as Theophylact, understand a persecutor, as Saul was of David, and Ahab of Elijah; and so means that God had not delivered up such an one into his hands; or took him away by death, that he might have some peace and rest, amidst his labours and service; and others understand this of the Jews, desiring Barabbas, a goat, and not Jesus, the Lamb of God; but his meaning seems to be, that he had never received any favour in proportion to the services he had done; and so charges his father with ingratitude.

And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
Luke 15:29. ἔριφον, a kid, not to speak of the fatted calf.—μετὰ τῶν φίλων μου: he would have been content if there had been any room made for the festive element in his life, with a modest meeting with his own friends, not to speak of a grand family demonstration like this. But no, there was nothing but work and drudgery for him.

29. do I serve thee] Rather, I am thy slave. He does not say ‘Father:’ and evidently regards the yoke not as perfect freedom but as distasteful bondage. The slave is ever dissatisfied; and this son worked in the spirit of a ‘hired-servant.’

neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment] This is the very spirit of the Pharisee and the Rabbi, Luke 18:11-12. “All these things have I kept from my youth up.” Such self-satisfaction can only spring from an ignorance of the breadth and spirituality of God’s commandments. The respectable Jews, sunk in the complacency of formalism and letter-worshipping orthodoxy, had lost all conception that they were, at the best, but unprofitable servants. Like this elder son they “went about to establish their own righteousness” (Romans 9:14); and though they kept many formal commandments they ‘transgressed’ the love of God (Luke 11:42). Observe that while the younger son confesses with no excuse, the elder son boasts with no confession. This at once proves his hollowness, for the confessions of the holiest are ever the most bitter. The antitheses in the verse are striking, ‘You never gave me a kid, much less sacrificed a fatted calf;—not even for my friends, much less for harlots.’

thou never gavest me a kid] The reward of a life near his father’s presence, and in the safety of the old home, was nothing to him. He is like the rescued Israelites still yearning for the flesh-pots of Egypt.

Luke 15:29. Τοσαῦτα ἔτη, these so many years) In antithesis to ὅτε, as soon as, in Luke 15:30.—δουλεύω, I serve) A confession of the slave-like spirit which influenced him. He does not add [in the spirit of Sonship], Father.—ἔδωκας, thou hast never given) much less wouldest thou kill [ἔθυσεν, mactavit, Luke 15:27],—ἔριφον, a kid) much less the calf, Luke 15:27.—φίλων, my friends) In antithesis to πορνῶν, harlots, Luke 15:30.

Verses 29-32. - Lo, these many years do I serve thee. Bengel quaintly comments here, "Serous erat." This was the true nature of this later Jewish service of the Eternal. To them the eternal God was simply a Master. They were slaves who had a hard and difficult task to perform, and for which they looked for a definite payment. Neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment. We have here reproduced the spirit, almost the very words, of the well-known answer of the young man in the gospel story, who was no doubt a promising scion of the Pharisee party: "All these things have I kept from my youth up." The same thought was in the mind, too, of him who thus prayed in the temple: "God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are," etc. (Luke 18:11, 12). Yet thou never gavest me a kid... All that I have is thine. Thy brother has the shoes, the ring, the robe, the banquet; thou the inheritance, for all that I have is thine. Why grudge to thy brother an hour of the gladness which has been thine these many years? As soon as this thy son was come,... For this thy brother was dead. The angry elder son will not even acknowledge the prodigal as his brother; with bitter scorn and some disrespect he speaks of him to his father as "thy son." The father throughout the scene is never incensed. He pleads rather than reproaches, and to this insolence he simply retorts, "Thy brother was dead to us, but now - It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad." What was the end of this strange scene? The last words, breathing forgiveness and joy, leave a sweet sense of hope upon the reader that all would yet be well in that divided household, and that the brothers, friends again, would clasp hands before the loving father's eyes. But when Jesus told the parable to the crowds, the story was not yet played out. It depended on the Pharisees and rulers how the scene was to end. What happened at Jerusalem a few weeks later, when the Passion-drama was acted, and some forty years later, when the city was sacked, tells us something of what subsequently happened to the elder son of the Lord's parable. But the end has yet to come. We shall yet see the brothers, Jew and Gentile, clasp hands in loving friendship before the father, when the long-lost elder son comes home. There will be joy then indeed in the presence of the angels of God.

Luke 15:29Kid (ἔριφον)

Some read the diminutive, ἐρίφιον, "a little kid." In any event a contrast is intended between the kid and the farted calf.

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