The Parable of the Lost: Part 2 (Coin)

When I was ten years of age, I had a very realistic dream. My brother, who works nights and shared the room with me, walked in to me looking all around my bed, under the covers, under the box springs, everywhere I could. He watched for a few moments and then asked me, “What are you doing?” I responded, “I’m looking for the mayor’s wife!” He figured it was a book I was reading for my 5th grade class and walked out. In reality, I dreamed that the mayor’s wife had been kidnapped and I was called in to find her. I apparently was still half-asleep and half-dreaming when he walked in. I was ready and willing to do anything and look anywhere (within the confines of my room, that is) to find the mayor’s wife. In case, you were wondering, I never found her–it was a dream!

Yesterday, I wrote a quick article on the parable of the lost sheep. You can read it here, if you’d like. Today’s parable deals with a woman who lost a coin. This was no dream. It was a costly reality.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8-10, ESV)

Jesus was still dealing with the scowls and whispers of the Pharisees and scribes in Luke 15:1, as he told this parable. Whereas, in the first parable of the lost sheep, there was 1 of 100 missing, in this parable there is 1 of 10 coins missing. But also notice, all the coins are the same. She had ten silver coins. She lost one of them. That one was of equal worth as the other coins. Why not be happy with the nine left over? Because while it may be a great deal of money and worth more collectively, the sum total is not more than its individual parts. Each individual coin is worth something. Each has equal value.

I find it interesting that Peter, in his second letter, wrote about not doubting Christ’s return by explaining why he delayed it. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance,” (2 Peter 3:9, ESV; italics mine). Not one should perish. Every single one of the elect must reach repentance. It is not enough to have a billion souls through 2,000 years, not if there is one more soul to have. Each is valuable. He will not stop seeking and saving those who are lost as long as there is one who will reach repentance.

Again, like the shepherd who rejoiced greatly when he found his sheep, so the woman rejoiced greatly when she found her coin. She had swept her whole house looking for it. She took a lamp and looked in every nook and cranny for the coin that had rolled away. After much hard-work, she called her friends to come and rejoice with her. There was no time to lose. What was once lost, was now found; everyone should feel the pleasure of seeing that. All should desire to celebrate it.

Jesus pointed out that the same happens in the presence of the angels of God when a lost soul is found. It’s almost a restatement of verse 7, but a little different; it’s a little more specific. It is not just that there is rejoicing in heaven, but that there is rejoicing in the presence of angels. God himself is rejoicing over the lost being found. If God can rejoice–the very one who is sinned again–how is that the Pharisees and scribes could not, or rather would not. And as Herschel Hobbs wrote, “If one sinner is so precious to God why should not Jesus receive them and eat with them?”* I would point out here, that it was not these coins were not yet found, but were still lost. The eating and receiving of such sinners was the searching part; not the finding. Many would be found; many would stay lost.

There are precious, valuable coins out there. Every one of them stamped with the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Most of them are lost, hiding in the crevices of society, in the couch cushions of addictions, under the pantries of pleasure. Finding those valuable coins will not be easy. It will be exhausting and dirty work, but the joy of finding them will help us to forget all grime, sweat, and tears.

Herschel H. Hobbs, An Exposition of Luke, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1966), 233.

The Parable of the Lost: Part 1 (Sheep)

Jesus loved to tell parables in order to open up the eyes of the people. Some parables confounded his hearers and some were figured out pretty quickly. The three parables that we are looking at for the next three days were, I think, those that were figured out pretty quickly. Today’s is the parable of the Lost Sheep.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 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 that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance, (Luke 15:1-7, ESV).

It was well-known that God’s people, in this case the Jewish people, were often called sheep. Often the prophets of old would refer to the people in such a way. At the same time, their leaders were considered to be shepherds. They watched over the common-folk. When the shepherds (the Pharisees and scribes) reacted badly to Jesus’s eating with “sinners,” Jesus asked the question as to which of them, having lost a sheep, would not go find it.

If we were to stop and think about it, we might think for a moment that it would be ludicrous to risk losing all the other sheep and go search for the one. Ninety-nine are more valuable than one measly little sheep. That may be true if we were simply to see them as a group, but if we were to stop and think of these 99 as individuals, we may realize that each has value on its own. How many sheep must be lost before the profit-to-loss ratio turns on its head? Two? Four? Thirty? To the shepherd, at least a good shepherd, that number is one. That sheep has value all by itself.

Think for a moment. If it were you or I, we may not have even notice a sheep was missing. There are 100 sheep out there to count. We might wonder if we miscounted. We may not even count them at all; they look like they’re all there. But to a good shepherd, who knows his sheep by name, and whose sheep hear his voice and follow him, he notices when one of his sheep are missing. Thabiti Anyabwile wrote, “A poverty comes to their owner when they are missing. There is a wanting in the owner’s heart. The owner feels their absence. That’s why he can’t remain with the ninety-nine but must go after that solitary sheep.”* That’s true even though it may have been a “problem-sheep.” After all, we are talking about Jesus eating with “sinners.” Maybe this sheep wanders away often. Maybe it doesn’t stay with the flock. Maybe it gets caught in the brambles and has to be released and then have all the pickers and pokers and thorns pulled from its wool. Why bother?

The Pharisees and scribes were probably more like us than we care to think. These were not the right kind of people to hang around, let alone go after. Let them go. We’ve got enough. We’ve got plenty. No need to bring back the “problem-sheep,” those “sinners.” But a good shepherd doesn’t think that way. That’s why he not only goes after the sheep but places it on his shoulders. He keeps it close so it can hear his voice clearly, be comfortable, hopefully stay out of as much trouble. Caring for the sheep–the sinner–is no chore for the shepherd, but a delight. “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 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 that was lost.’”

As co-heirs with Christ and as ambassadors of the Father, we are to care as much about the lost sheep as the Good Shepherd does. We are to seek and save those who are lost just as he would. We are to rejoice at their being found and brought back to the flock. After all, if we are followers of the Good Shepherd, it is only because he found us and brought us back.

*Thabiti Anyabwile, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Luke, (Nashville: Holman Reference, 2018), 233.