Parables of the Lost Sheep & Lost Coin
To have lost a dog which has wandered off, brings a deep feeling of concern as the owner roams the neighborhood calling for “Rover” over and over. When a dollar goes missing the purchase cannot be made with just nine dollars until the tenth dollar is found. The most horrifying loss of all is a missing child. Jesus in this chapter uses three parables to show the relief and joy of finding something of great value which had been lost. All three have in common: someone or something is lost, sought for, found, and rejoiced over with others.
The motive for these three parable is given in the first three verses. “Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, ‘This Man receives sinners and eats with them.’ So He spoke this parable to them, saying:” (Luke 15:1-3). The singular use of the word “parable” indicates that these three need to be studied, compared, and contrasted together. Each parable is not an isolated drawing but three panels of one picture. It is the same story told three different ways. They represent Jesus’ defense of His relationship with publicans and sinners.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.
All men like sheep have gone astray and are lost wandering in sin. Unlike a coin which had nothing to do with being lost, sheep tend to wander away from the flock. Unlike the son who deliberately chose to leave the father the sheep are simple and careless.
The identity of the sheep as part of the flock was known to the shepherd. The Good Shepherd said, “I…know my sheep, and am known of mine” (Jn. 10:14). Many of the prophets spoke of the lost multitudes of Israel of sheep in need of the care of shepherds (Ps. 23:1; Ezk. 3:4; Zech. 11:16,17, etc.).
If a shepherd lost a sheep he must at least bring home the fleece to show how it had died. The Jewish leaders and religious leaders were constantly warned in the Old Testament to be responsible for the flock. In the church the elders are to shepherd the church of God (Acts 20:28). They must do this in order to give account for their souls (Heb. 13:17). Every eldership should have an ongoing list of sheep that have gone astray and actively seek their recovery. Never should they adopt the attitude of Cain who refused to be his “brother’s keeper.”
The shepherd left the ninety-nine immediately in search of the one that was lost. This is not the careless attitude of Little Bo’ Peep who lost her sheep leaving them alone in hopes they would come home bragging their tails behind them.
Respect for the Value of a Soul
One out of one hundred sheep were lost. For a shepherd every sheep and little lamb was to be accounted for. They were valuable. The shepherd could not keep his job or his flock with an attitude that this one percent loss was acceptable. He left the rest and sought for the lost one as if it were as valuable as the rest. God saves lost souls one at a time not in groups. True evangelism never loses sight of the value of the individual.
The wilderness presumes danger. It requires courage to seek souls. It cost Jesus His life.
It takes time to save the lost. Token efforts will not find lost sheep. Seeking the lost involves more than just sending one card and making a single phone call.
Once found the shepherd does not kick and chase the sheep all the way back to the flock. The good shepherd put the sheep on his shoulders and carried it home.
Shepherds would know each other. They would mix their flocks when they were grazing the fields. Each knew the pain of loss and could sympathize with the losses of their fellow shepherds. A shepherd who causes joy in Heaven is not working for the Devil. This joy in heaven is in contrast with the grumbling Pharisees and scribes.
Jesus did not mean that the Pharisees did not need to repent. For the sake of argument he dealt with them as if their view of themselves was correct.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ 10 Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
A married woman had a headdress which had ten silver coins to make a chain. It was the equivalent of a wedding ring, called a semedi. It could not even be taken from her by debtors. It had sentimental value. It was hers and her duty to maintain it. If lost she would search her home for it. Homes were dark with limited light from the outside. The floor was pounded earth covered in reeds or straw.
Respect for Value
She could have reasoned, “only one piece is lost”. A coin worth a whole day’s wage for a working man in Palestine. This parable would have had a great appeal to women. Many of whom may have lost or been very concerned about losing part of her semedi. One coin out of ten was still of great value to her. It was symbolic of her marriage. She would have looked for it as any woman would have if her wedding ring when missing
She may have had to sweep every inch of her home before she recovered the coin. Her effort represents the earnestness which both Christ and His disciples had to have in order to carry out the mission of rescuing the perishing. She would not stop “till she found it.” The pain of the sheep representing the lost is in contrast with the point of the one who has lost the coin.
In the parable of the Lost Sheep the Shepherd said, “Rejoice with me, ..which was lost” in this parable the woman says, “…for I have found the piece which I had lost.” The Pharisees should partake in Heaven’s rejoicing over the salvation of the lost. Whereas the Pharisees knew no sense of loss or pain over the sinner, they would have an equally hard time being able to rejoice over the repentance of a single sinner.
– Daniel R. Vess