Posts Tagged 'parable'

Parables of the Lost, Part Two

The Lost Coin, Luke 15:8—10


The beauty of Luke 15 is that in three simple stories—this one being the second and simplest—Jesus illustrates one of the most profound attributes of God the Father:  His amazing grace.  In the first parable, the parable of the lost sheep, we learned to what extent the shepherd would go to in order to find and bring a lost sheep back into the fold.  These three stories were told in response to a comment made by some religious leaders, who slighted some in the crowd listening to Jesus teaching.   These “righteous” and orthodox religious-types were shown to be not nearly as kind as God; they would have written off the tax collectors and undesirables in the crowd as being beyond help, as being so sinful as to be beyond the pale.  But not God; God in fact loves people who stray away from His fold just as much as He loves those who never stray, and there is great  joy in His heart when the lost one is found and comes home.

In the first parable, then, we see the love that compels God to search for the lost sheep.  In the second parable, we move from the pastoral landscape of shepherding to the peasant life.

1.  The coin, verse 8

Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one…

The message of this second parable is similar to that of the first one, except that we are introduced to different aspects of how God seeks that which is lost.

The silver coin Jesus mentioned amounted to roughly a day’s wages for a common laborer.  It was not uncommon for women to wear these coins on a chain around her neck if she did not have some kind of change purse.  If she was really poor, she probably did not even have money enough to buy a change purse!  These 10 coins represented over a week’s wages; likely all the money she had.  Perhaps the chain broke or the knot came untied and all the coins fell from her neck and onto the dirt floor of small home.  Being poor, she probably had no windows or small windows and no light except for a borrowed lamp, or when the door was open.  We can picture her stooping over, looking under tables and chairs, sweeping every nook and cranny in search of her coins.  She found 9 of them, but for some reason, she one eluded her.

What will she do?  She needs every coin to pay rent, buy food, or whatever.  Can you imagine how heartbroken she must have felt when she found all but one?  Have you ever lost your wallet?  Or lost some money?  Do you remember how you felt?  How you tore your house apart looking for it?

2.  Lighting the lamp and sweeping, verse 8

Does she not light a lamp…

Because her small one or two room typical Palestinian dwelling had limited exposure to outside light, she would have needed light.  Somewhere she found a lamp, perhaps it was hers or perhaps it was borrowed, and she lighted it.   It would have been the obvious thing to do; we would do exactly the same thing if we lost something precious to us.  Of course, we would run and get a flashlight and look in every single dark corner of the room in which we think we had lost our article.  Like the searching for the lost sheep was the obvious thing to do, so lighting a lamp would have been the normal thing for this woman to do.

…sweep the house…

In addition to more light, the desperate woman would next be expected to grab a broom so she could gently sweep behind and under and around the furniture, just in case the lost coin rolled under there.  Again, the way Jesus taught this, using the broom would have been the obvious and natural thing to do when looking for this lost coin.

3.  A determined search, verse 8b

…search carefully until she finds it?

Just like the determination of the shepherd, this woman will search and search and search and she won’t give up until finds and retrieves the lost coin.  This woman won’t be deterred from finding that coin; she will search for it as if her life depended on it.  Once again, we should note the beginning of the sentence which this phrase ends:

Does she not…

In other words, the things this woman does in search for her lost coin—

  • Lighting a lamp;
  • Sweeping the house;
  • Not giving up.

–are all things that a normal person would do.  These three things would be in keeping the normative behavior of a human being; not one thing this woman did was out of character for a human being.

4.  The desired result, verse 9

And when she finds it…

There was never a doubt in this woman’s mind that she would find the lost coin.  The phrase is matter-of-fact:  she set out to find the coin, and “when she finds it” indicates that her goal was reached.   This woman did not get lucky in finding the coin and she did not “stumble upon it,” she began as she ended:  knowing she would eventually find the lost coin.

…she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’

Once again, our eyes are drawn back to the phrase of verse 8—

Does she not…

Calling her friends and neighbors together would be considered the normal thing for her to do.  And why not; this woman would have been thrilled about finding the coin and, like most of us; sharing good news with others makes the good news even better.  However, the thing that should be noted is this:  it is implied that her friends and neighbors knew she had lost the coin.  How did they know this?  Obviously she told them.  Perhaps she told them in desperation or perhaps she told them so that they could pray for her as she set about to find the coin.  Or maybe they saw the fevered activity around her small home and came to look and to make sure she was all right.

5.  Jesus’ interpretation, verse 10

In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Is Jesus teaching that angels rejoice when a sinner repents?  The Bible clearly teaches that angels are deeply interested in man and his salvation—

It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.  (1 Peter 1:12)

In fact, angels probably know far more about our salvation and the plans of God because they continually dwell in His presence.  No wonder they rejoice so much!

However, that is not the main point of this short parable.  The main point of this parable is that almighty God, who lives in the presence of the angels, actively seeks the lost and rejoices when as few as one repents.   That being the case, should we not have the exact same attitude?  It is part of God’s character to do everything within His power—as the woman did—to track down the lost person and find them.  Do we do that?  Or do we treat backsliders the way those self-righteous religious leaders treated the tax collectors?  Do we consider them lost for good?  Have we simply given up on them?  God gives up on no one.  Do we exhaust our resources in seeking the sinner?   Jesus’ point, because He really is addressing the Pharisees, is that they—the orthodox religious leaders—should be as concerned about backsliders and sinners as God is and that they should do everything in their power to help them.

Neither the sheep nor the coin is actively looking to be found; the initiative is on the One doing the searching:  the shepherd and the woman.  Someone once wrote these beautiful words:

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew, He moved my soul to seek him, seeking me; It was not I that found, O Savior true, No, I was found, was found of Thee.

Ancillary interpretations of the parable:  Rightly dividing the word

Jesus’ very simple interpretation of the story He Himself made up and told has not stopped Bible scholars from coming up with other interpretations and applications.

The most interesting one I have read is that, by the process of elimination, the woman in the story represents the Holy Spirit.  Proponents of this interpretation believe that the each of the three parables shows a member of the Trinity in action:  the shepherd represents Christ, the prodigal’s father represents God the Father, and therefore the woman has to represent the Holy Spirit.

The lamp represents the Gospel and the broom (yes, the broom!) represents the law.

While these ideas are interesting, it is better to stick to our Lord’s own assigned meaning to His own story.  It is doubtful that the woman represents the Holy Spirit for nowhere in Scripture is the third Person of the Trinity ever referred to as a woman, while Jesus is referred to as “the Good Shepherd” and God as our “Heavenly Father.”

(c)  2009 WitZend

Parables of the Lost, Part One

Folks, we at Mike’s Place took a week off to do some much needed renovations around the house.  I’ll be posting a number articles over the next couple of days.   Thanks for your patience.

The Lost Sheep, Luke 15:1—7

There is a connection between chapter 14, specifically the last 10 verses, and chapter 15.  Remember, the chapter divisions were added much later and the doctrine of inspiration does not extend to either the chapter divisions or the verse numbers.

Luke 14:25—35 deals with what it costs to be a true follower of Jesus Christ.  Those who profess allegiance to Christ must be prepared to pay dearly.  But notice what Jesus says in verse 25—

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said.

Jesus is not teaching His disciples only; He is speaking to the large crowds that followed Him around.  The same crowd of hangers-on is being addressed in chapter 15, and among those in that large crowd were Pharisees, teachers of the law, and tax collectors.

What we have here is an interesting situation:  Jesus is teaching what being His true follower is really all about, which was important because many of His teachings were attractive, as He was an attractive personality, and it was likely that some in the crowd were following Him but for the wrong reasons.  Over-hearing this teaching on discipleship was a group of “outcasts” in Jewish society; tax collectors.  The religious leaders of the day, were also in the crowd and they noticed this group listening to what Jesus was saying, and that prompted those religious leaders to say this—

Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  (15:1, 2)

This murmuring of self-righteous people prompted our Lord to tell three stories called parables; simple illustrations of a profound truth.   The order of these parables is significant and serves to drive home that profound truth:

  • Parable one:  one sheep out of one hundred goes lost;
  • Parable two:  one coin out of ten is missing;
  • Parable three:  one son out of two leaves.

What is that profound truth?  What do these lost sheep, coins, and sons all represent?  How do we make proper interpretation of these parables?  Let’s examine the first parable, the parable of the Lost Sheep.

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

1.  An awful discovery:  one sheep is lost.

Sheep all look the same to most people, and they all tend to stay lumped together, so it is remarkable to think that the shepherd of the parable could notice one that went missing.  Imagine trying to count each sheep, keeping in mind that they would be constantly moving around, bumping into each other, hiding under each other, and so on.  At the very beginning of this illustration, we are struck by how well the shepherd knew his sheep.

2.  A new mission:  looking for the lost sheep.

Consider the profound meaning behind what the shepherd did when he discovered one of his sheep had strayed—

Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  (verse 4b)

In our mind’s eye, we can see the shepherd counting and recounting his sheep and each time coming up one short.  We might be prone to say, “What is the big deal?  He still had 99 after all.”  But the shepherd’s concern was not for the 99, but on the one that was lost.  The 99 were safe, probably in a pen, but the lost one was outside in the rocky desert of Palestine, exposed to the elements, to hunters, both human and animal.  From a cost-benefit perspective, the shepherd taking time to look for that lost sheep and risking his own life for the life of that sheep did not make sense.  What motivated the shepherd?  It must have been something other than money; love perhaps, responsibility certainly.  These sheep were in his care.  It was the shepherd’s job to care for the sheep.  But now, with one missing, his mission suddenly changed; now the shepherd’s purpose was one of pursuit and rescue.

Of His mission, Jesus Christ said this—

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.  (Luke 19:10)

3.  A purposeful search:  he searches until he finds.

Verse 4 makes it clear:  the shepherd searches for the lost sheep until he finds it.  He does not give up, he presses on until that sheep is found.   Christ is equally determined to save the “lost ones.”  In John 12:32, Jesus said this—

But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.

Of course, Jesus is referring to His crucifixion; the climax of His earthly mission to save those who are lost.  Jesus the Shepherd did all that was necessary, He gave all He had to give, to save the lost.  But that verse has another, more ominous meaning.  If lost man is not drawn to Christ by the power of the Cross, they will be drawn by the power of His judgment throne.  The Son of God will find every lost soul as Savior or Judge.

4.  A time to rest and rejoice, verses 5, 6

And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’

Even though the search was long and arduous, once he found the lost sheep the shepherd placed it over his two shoulders, wrapping it around his neck.  This was a typical way to treat a sheep in the Middle East.  The sheep would have been exhausted, perhaps weakened for lack of food and water, maybe even injured.   The weary, aimless wandering sheep was not spanked or beaten; he was carried, all the sheep had to do was abide with the shepherd.  The rescued sheep paid no toll to be carried nor did it ask to be carried.  The sheep did absolutely nothing but get found.  The shepherd did all the work.  We are reminded of these powerfully comforting words—

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  (Matthew 11:27—29)

Loaded down with this burden, the shepherd returned home, rejoicing, not so much because he saved himself from a loss, but because he loved his sheep and was concerned about its welfare.  So the sheep was, in reality, no burden at all.

So happy was the shepherd that he threw what Hendriksen referred to as “a stag party.”

Meaning and application

Verse 7 constitutes Jesus’ application of this parable, so we are not free to change it.  Here is His application—

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Here we are reading what the attitude of Jesus is toward the lost that have been found.  Reflected in the shepherd, His attitude, and the attitude of heaven is that of .   When a sinner is found, all heaven rejoices.

Clearly, the shepherd represents Christ.  But who do the 99 represent?  There has been much debate in Biblical scholarship since the days of Martin Luther over this very point.  Luther, for his part, taught that the 99 represented genuine believers; they those who had previously repented and were a part of Christ’s fold.  Such believers who stand in good stead with Christ need not repent over and over again.  Van Ooosterze, another scholar, thought that Jesus was referring to those who thought they were righteous—namely, the Pharisees, who were part of the crowd being addressed by Christ.  Still others think the 99 represent angels in heaven.

What is the correct view?  The lost sheep was part of a greater community; there were 100 sheep that belonged to the shepherd, then one went missing.  That missing sheep never stopped being a part of the greater community—the 100—even though it was separated from them by its own volition, for it deliberately wandered off.  Even though it is true that the Pharisees and teachers of the law were being addressed by Christ, we need to go back to 14:25—35 and Christ’s discussion of the cost of being a disciple.  The majority—the 100—clearly have reference to the body of genuine followers of God.  The 99, then, represent faithful members of the covenant who have never wandered off, away from God.  They live according to law of God and have no need for repentance for they already have it.

Are they Jews or Christians?   At this point, we would say that the 99 simply represent true followers of God.  There was no Church established yet, so true followers of God were those who had regulated their lives around the light they had; the light of the Old Testament Scriptures that carried the Divine Law.  These were considered righteous because of the faith planted in them, the faith that was growing even then by the teaching and presence of Christ on earth.  The one lost sheep would have to be considered a backslider, one who strayed from the truth he knew.

What a comforting message.  What a message of hope.  Though a believer may wander from God, like the lost sheep, he never stops being the property of the Great Shepherd and Christ, that Great Shepherd, will do what He can to bring the errant believer back to a place of repentance.

The love of God can never be overstated!

(c)  2009 Witzend

Bookmark and Share

Another great day!

Blog Stats

  • 353,400 hits

Never miss a new post again.


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 287 other subscribers
Follow revdocporter on Twitter

Who’d have guessed?

My Conservative Identity:

You are an Anti-government Gunslinger, also known as a libertarian conservative. You believe in smaller government, states’ rights, gun rights, and that, as Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

Take the quiz at