"He heard music and dancing." This line introduces the first main action of the "older brother" in Jesus's parable of the Prodigal Son. The rest of the story culminates with what he doesn't do.
Once There Was a Party
On his way home from the field, the older brother heard the commotion. "Music and dancing," we're told. And we'd expect, if there's music and dancing, there's laughter and cheers. This is a party. The father had ordered a celebration: "Let us eat and celebrate" (Luke 15:23). Which is what happened: "And they began to celebrate" (Luke 15:24).
It doesn't take us readers long to see that this is a big deal. The word for "celebration" is used four times in this parable, and it means merriment! It was the kind of rejoicing that if found in other contexts for different motives it would be wrong, which is the case when this word is used two other times in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 12:19; 16:19).
But the older brother wants no part in this party. He got mad when he found out the news behind this noise. Literally, "he did not desire to enter"” (Luke 15:28). He refused to join the joy. So his father came out to him and entreated him. The father pleaded, implored, urged his eldest son to share in his pleasure. But the eldest son still refused. He complained, twisting what the father had graciously done for his brother to be about what he had not done for him. He recoiled at the display of mercy and no doubt exposed several signs of corruption deep inside. But his father's response simply called out the obvious...
[Read the rest of the article at Desiring God.]