I must have seen the theatrical masterpiece Black Sheep next to a thousand times. Cinematic brilliance, if you ask me. The movie starred the late Chris Farley as Mike Donnelly, the loveable jackass brother of an aspiring politician. I might stop short of comparing the work to Shakespeare, but I think I remember reading Romeo and Juliet once in high school, so I suppose I will let you do the math. Sometimes if you listen close enough, even the work of Farley and his snide sidekick David Spade can cut to your heart. The story is about more than a fat guy crashing into a wall. It is about an older brother.
As Mike’s big brother, Al, runs the political gambit, he is challenged with the swelling tide of idiocy and misdemeanor activity of his not-so-little younger brother. Time and time again, Al stands up for Mike. He is there for him when Mike is framed for arson. He stands up for him when the mud slinging commences at a major debate. Al defends Mike to everybody, from his public audience to his closest advisors, who are pleading with him to disown his brother. And who could blame them? Mike could not be hindering his big brother’s chances any more if he were trying.
But we see Mike’s side of the story, too. As he bumbles around, he is constantly spreading the gospel of his brother’s candidacy. He is striving desperately to love Al, but he finds himself only hurting him the harder he tries to keep his approval. In the midst of the laughs, the story sounds eerily familiar. In fact, Jesus told a similar story when he was teaching his disciples about the love of God for us.
We know Jesus’ version as “The Prodigal Son”, but it could just as easily be titled, “The Bitter Big Brother.” This is the story about the youngest son who wakes up one morning and decides he is finished with the whole “family” thing he has been drafted into- he wants to take the hidden buy-out clause of the contact. And so he does. He takes his inheritance and blows it all on parties. It is not long before he wakes up in a pig sty, begging for scraps. He decides to go home.
And his father- who has been waiting for him to come home- greets him with a kiss, a ring, a new wardrobe and a party. All is forgiven. All is made right. The youngest, jackass son has come home and his dad was glad to see him- not to laugh at him but to embrace him. Everybody is happy- except big brother. And who can blame him? He has been faithful, studious, responsible and respectful of his dad. The big brother’s whole system has been thrown out of whack. Acceptance is for the acceptable, after all, right?
So we have two stories, two big brothers and one little brother- irresponsible, incapable, inconsiderate, foolish, reckless. Make that three. I am the little brother- maybe you are too. Who is your big brother?
In the act of God becoming man, he has become our brother- just like us, in every respect. Same range of emotions. Same fears. Same flesh and blood. Just like us- only good, acceptable and pleasing to our Father.
The story of Black Sheep comes together at a final speech when Mike’s big brother says the simple words: I am proud of my little brother. This is acceptance for the unacceptable. This changes everything. But it is only a re-telling of our story. Jesus’ brotherhood with a bunch of idiot siblings is summed up in one simple statement, hidden in the book of Hebrews:
He is not ashamed to call them brothers.