“We use the word Pharisee in a negative manner. It conveys something distasteful to us. No one loves a Pharisee, in our understanding of the word. We find ourselves much more at home with the prodigal [son], whatever crimes he may have committed against his father, than we do with the elder brother. But we have given what is surely a very wrong connotation to the word. In the Palestine of Christ’s day it not only meant the self-righteous hypocrite, the man who regarded himself as immeasurably holier than others and who paraded his religiosity before the world, being proud of nothing so much as of his superior standing before God. The Pharisee was very often an upright man, a man of substance, a pillar in his community, a man of integrity in his business relationships, a man who took his religious faith with great seriousness and put it into practice in every area of life. There was something very wrong indeed with the Pharisee, but it was not that he lacked honesty, or that he was immoral, or that he was insincere. And it was precisely to point up and to illustrate in as graphic a manner as possible what the real trouble was in the life of these Pharisees and scribes that the Lord Jesus added these verses to the parable of the prodigal son about the elder brother.” -John R. DeWitt, Amazing Love
BTW NOTE: More often that not, what makes a person a Pharisee is not what’s going on on the outside, it’s what’s going on on the inside. As Jesus said they are ‘whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones.’ Good outward behavior, but the motives behind the behavior are all off.
“Christ is the One who gives effect to the Father’s mercy and upon the basis of whose person and completed work we sinners may be saved.” -John R. DeWitt, Amazing Love
“The parable of the prodigal son is after all in the highest and holiest and deepest and grandest sense a parable of Christ, because, as the Apostle Paul tell us, ‘there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus‘ (Rom. 8:1).” -John R. DeWitt, Amazing Love
“The Pharisees, the so-called spiritual leaders of the people, did not feed the flock of God, but rather burdened them with the weight of a legalism under which in the keeping of many commandments they hoped to be saved.” -John R. DeWitt, Amazing Love
“Scribes and Pharisees, publicans sinners, are all of one national background, one high position of spiritual privilege, one outward covenant relationship to God, and it is as such in the first instance that the Lord Jesus Christ addresses them.” John R. DeWitt, Amazing Love
“It should be pointed out at once in this connection that both sons, and both categories, are said to be the sons of a common father. They belong together, in one family, one people. In the same way the other two parables indicate that the hundred sheep, of which one becomes lost, constitute a single flock, and the ten pieces of silver compose a single treasure.” -John R. DeWitt, Amazing Love
“Thus, while it is quite true that Christ’s parables are earthy stories with a heavenly meaning, yet that fails to tell us enough about them. We need to know that the stories Jesus told not only speak to us about the ‘other world’–the word of spiritual reality, the world of God–but that they are also intended to reveal to us something of what God has done, and is doing, and will yet do in the present world, through and in his kingdom, by the person and work of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.” -John R. DeWitt, Amazing Love