This study © 2000 by David Humpal
The Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin
The little boy was lost. He looked up and down the street, but sadly could not find whom he was looking for. He then went up to a policeman on the corner. “Sir,” he asked, “did you see a lady walk by without me?”
All parents have experienced the panic when one of their children wanders off. My youngest was the one who liked to explore. One day when my son was quite young, we could not find him anywhere. He had been visiting with Grandma who was two doors down, but now he was nowhere to be found. He wasn’t anywhere in our house or yard, and we called all his friends on the street and he wasn’t there either. So the whole family started going down the street and around the corner calling his name. Even some of our neighbors got involved in this. About the time we were ready to really panic, Grandma found him. He had crawled under a chair in her back bedroom and fallen asleep. He was completely oblivious to all our worry and concern.
Probably all of you, at one time or another, have experienced that concern when someone or something was lost. In Luke 15 Jesus tells two stories about finding lost things.
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.
Isn’t it amazing that the tax collectors and the sinners were the ones most attracted to Jesus! They were perhaps the least spiritual and certainly the most sinful, and yet they came to Jesus to hear his words. He did not turn them away, nor make them feel unwanted. Do immoral, sinful people feel welcome in your church? Do they find Christ there?
A church should be not only a place to worship and to have fellowship with other believers, but also a place that sinners can feel welcome. Christian fellowship is great and important, but we should also be here for those who are suffering, who are in anguish and torment, who feel abandoned and unwanted. We should be the place where people can come for healing, for deliverance, and for encouragement. Let us be willing to be the church that shows love to all -- even the worst sinners.
And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:
The religious leaders were not happy that Jesus was entertaining sinners. Perhaps some of us feel uncomfortable around the poor and the afflicted, around the drug addict and the prostitute, around the shabbily dressed and the unwashed. It’s one thing to feel a little uncomfortable, but it’s quite another thing to become self-righteous and look condescendingly at others. The religious leaders in Jesus’ day had become so self-righteous that they didn’t see the needs in these people’s hearts. Let us not be so blinded that we don’t see the needs either.
Jesus wanted to teach the religious leaders something, and we need to learn from this teaching. Jesus taught two parables in this chapter -- the first about the lost sheep, the second about the lost coin. He also taught a third parable in this chapter about the lost son, which is the most famous parable in this 15th chapter of Luke. But I don’t want these first two parables to be overshadowed by the third. Jesus had some very important instruction for us in these first two parables.
Fausset gives some of the reasons Jesus taught in parables, “The rabbis of Christ's time and previously often employed parable... the commonness of their use was His first reason for employing them, He consecrated parables to their highest end. A second reason was, the untutored masses relish what is presented in the concrete and under imagery, rather than in the abstract. ... As in the prophecies, so in parables, there was light enough to guide the humble, darkness enough to confound the willfully blind. A third reason was, gospel doctrines could not be understood fully before the historical facts on which they rested had been accomplished, namely, Jesus' death and resurrection. Parables were repositories of truths not then understood, even when plainly told, but afterward comprehended in their manifold significance, when the Spirit brought all Jesus' words to their remembrance.”
What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it?
A shepherd could not afford to lose a sheep. If one wandered off, he would try to find a safe place for the grazing sheep and leave them to find the stray sheep. This is the perfect picture of Christ reaching out to the lost sinners to bring them into God’s sheepfold.
G. Campbell Morgan comments, “What an illustration is there of lost humanity. First, a lost sheep. A sheep is one of the most stupid things. It goes anywhere where it sees a gap. It does not stop to think. It cannot think. A gap appears in a fence, and the animal goes through it, and away it goes, wandering on, until it is lost upon the mountains, and does not know its way back. There are multitudes of people who exactly fit in with that description....”
There are three things this shepherd does in verse 4 -- he leaves, he goes out, and he finds. If we want to find the lost in Merced, we have to do the same three things.
First, we must leave the confines of the church and the comfort of our home. We like to stay where we feel safe, but the one who cares for the lost sheep is one who leaves the place of ease and safety. If we truly want to find the lost sheep in Merced, we must leave the doors of the church and our comfort zone to reach those that are hurting and are in need of the Savior.
Second, we must go out. Not too many people decide to go to church on their own, and even fewer decide to accept Christ on their own. If we want more people to hear the gospel message, we must be the ones who go out to share it with them. Christ ministers to us so we can minister Christ.
And third, we must keep searching until we find the lost ones. We may invite many people to come to church with us, and have little or no response. But we must keep searching until we find the ones who are searching for God or hurting so much that they want to come to Christ. The shepherd kept searching until he found the sheep. Let us be willing to do the same.
Has this ever happened to you? I once turned the television on to watch an important football game and discovered the game wasn’t on? What did I do? I searched all the other channels to see if anyone was carrying it. I can tell you I searched diligently! Have you ever done the same? Maybe we should search for God’s lost sheep just as diligently.
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 which was lost.”
In these two verses, when the shepherd finds his lost sheep, he does four things -- he rejoices, he takes the sheep home, he calls together his friends, and he encourages them to rejoice with him. We can apply these four actions to our own efforts at finding the lost.
Rejoicing -- when we are able to share the gospel message with someone who is lost in sin and they receive Christ as their Savior, then we rejoice with them. Taking the sheep home -- when someone accepts Christ, then we want to take them with us to God’s home, to church. Calls together friends -- as the one who was lost makes his confession of faith, we call together our friends to meet this new member of God’s family. Encourage others to rejoice -- whenever a lost soul enters into God’s kingdom, we encourage our fellow Christians to rejoice with us that a sinner has found Christ.
All of us at one time were lost sheep. Fortunately for us, someone went out to find us and share with us about Christ. What lost sheep do you need to be searching for? Every Sunday morning we meet Jesus in the communion to share Jesus in the community.
Boice tells us, “If you are lost, apart from God, this is the first application of these parables to you: you are valuable to God even in your lost condition. You may be worthless in your own sight because you can only see what you have made of yourself, but you should learn that you are valuable to God because He is able to see what you were created to be and what He can yet make of you.”
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.
The point of this parable is aimed at the religious leaders who condemned these tax collectors and sinners. Jesus says that God rejoices over the one sinner who repents more than the ninety-nine that believe they are so righteous that they need no repentance. The Pharisees were filled with ideas of their own importance, so they could not see the needs in the lives of the common people.
Sometimes Christians can become very self-righteous. We can have such a good time being with other believers and spending so much time together, that we forget there is a community of needy people surrounding our church and surrounding our homes. We need to repent of our self-righteous and uncaring attitudes, and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to us those who have wandered away and need someone to go searching for them.
The lost sheep in this parable had at one time been part of the sheepfold. But he had traveled down the wrong path and left the safety of the flock. Let us have a heart of compassion for those who have wandered astray. Let us be like the shepherd willing to bring the stray sheep back to repentance.
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?
This next parable is about a woman who lost one of her silver coins. A few years ago my wife Lorna could not find her wedding rings. When she wasn’t wearing them, she always placed them in her jewelry box, which I gave her before we were married. She searched throughout the area, and to her dismay could not locate the rings nor remember where she might have left them. Just as the woman searching for the coin, she hunted all over the place. She finally found them. Apparently, she had left the jewelry box drawer open and our cat was playing with them and knocked them down the side of the dresser. I can tell you this. She never left her jewelry box open again!
In verse 8 there are three actions that the woman takes to locate her coin -- she lights a lamp, she sweeps the house, and she seeks diligently. If we are to find God’s lost treasures of humanity, we need to do the same things. Lighting the lamp -- we must be sharing the light of Christ with others. We cannot keep our message hidden, but must bring the light to every dark corner of our community. Sweeping the house -- sin makes a mess of people’s lives. Sometimes we have to spend time helping people clean up just so they can begin to understand God’s love. Meeting people’s physical and emotional needs is an important part of reaching out to our community. Seeking diligently -- we must be searching diligently for those opportunities to share the gospel message. The woman was searching for her lost treasure. That’s the way we should be witnessing to others, they are God’s lost treasure.
Morgan asks, “How was the silver lost? It was not to blame at all for being lost. There was something lost through the carelessness of others. Mark it well, lost at home, but lost. There are multitudes in our Churches today who are lost at home through the carelessness of others.”
And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.”
There’s a joy we experience when we find something which was lost, and we usually want to share that joy. Do we view lost humanity the same way we view a lost coin? Are people in bondage to sin as important to us as lost money or jewelry or treasure? Too often we Christians adopt the values of the world on material possessions and overlook the values of the eternal. More important to us than finding lost treasure should be finding lost souls. We need to be viewing things through spiritual eyes.
Trench remarks, “...the Church is the organ in and through which the Holy Spirit seeks for the lost. Keeping the fact prominently in view that it is only as the Church is dwelt in by the Holy Spirit, that it can appear as the woman seeking her lost....”
Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
Have you experienced the joy when someone has made a commitment to Christ? Everyone is so happy for that person. There is apparently even more joy in heaven. There was rejoicing in heaven when you came forward to make that commitment to Christ. There is rejoicing every time a lost soul returns to God. Let us be willing to be part of this joyful process.
Let us be the man who goes out to find the wandering sheep. Let us be the woman who seeks diligently for God’s lost treasure. God has called the church to find the lost. Let us be willing to fulfill our commission. That is why this church has been placed here in our neighborhood. We can keep God hidden in the four walls of the church, or we can proclaim God to the four corners of the city.
This study on Luke 15:1-10 © 2000 by David Humpal, all rights reserved.
The story of the little lost boy from the Complete Speaker’s Sourcebook pg. 246 © 1996 Zondervan Publishing House
Fausset’s Bible Encyclopedia and Dictionary pg. 538, Zondervan Publishing House
G. Campbell Morgan: The Parables and Metaphors of Our Lord pg. 213 © 1943, Fleming H. Revell Company
Boice: The Parables of Jesus pg. 51© 1983, Moody Press
Morgan: The Parables and Metaphors of Our Lord pg. 213 © 1943, Fleming H. Revell Company
Trench: Notes on the Parables of Our Lord pg. 139, Baker Book House (originally written in 1861)