March 22nd, 2009 – Luke 15:1-10

The Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin

Luke 15:1‐10


These two parables represent Jesus’ explanation of why He relates to tax collectors and sinners. As pointed out in a previous study, we need to be careful not to read too much into a parable – they are intended only to emphasize a key point. In this case, the point is that God will go to great effort and rejoice with great joy to find and restore a sinner to Himself. Though there are three parables in this section, we will only consider two of them in this study.

In a culture where tax collectors were hated and sinners were mocked, Jesus gives a word that encourages the rejected to come to Him. The way to God is through repentance. God’s arms are open to the person who will seek Him on His terms. God’s arms are close around the child ready to run to Him and receive what He offers. It is not mere humanitarianism that Jesus offers, but a chance to acknowledge who one is before God and to respond to the opportunity for the transformation that God offers.1

Our Study of the Text

    1. The setting (15:1‐3).Given Jesus’ call to “hear” in 14:35: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”, it is ironic that those who come to Him in such large numbers are the “reprobates” of society, the tax collectors and sinners! And as usual, those who criticize Jesus are the religious leaders, “the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.”
    2. The parable (15:4‐6).The parallel to this parable is found in Matthew 18:12‐14: “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety‐nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety‐nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”

      Much discussion has taken place as to whether the parable is speaking to the issue of salvation or restoration to fellowship with God (here, those who belong to the covenant community of Israel)? Our Lord’s words in John 10:27‐29 are helpful: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” In the same context, He told the Pharisees: “you do not believe because you are not my sheep” (John 10:26).

      To make a distinction, therefore, between salvation and fellowship is unnecessary. The sheep in question is a sheep. If it is in need of salvation, the appeal is to come – and according to Jesus he will! If the need is restoration to fellowship, the appeal is the same: come. God relentlessly pursues those who are His. And those who have strayed take priority!

    3. The application (15:7).
      Those who recognize where they stand before God and respond accordingly are the cause of great joy in heaven – and among the shepherd’s “neighbors”!
    1. The parable (15:8‐9)This parable has the same intent as the first: to show that God will go to great effort and rejoice with great joy to find and restore a sinner to Himself. The intensity of the search is illustrated by the woman’s search for the coin. And in the end, not only does the woman rejoice in the found coin, but her neighbors join the celebration as well.
    2. The application (15:10).The point of this parable is the same as in 15:7: there is much joy in heaven over a single repentant sinner.

      Jesus is the model for us and His activity reflects the very heart of God. We are not to withdraw into a cocoon, inoculated from people of the world. Rather, our mission is to love people and draw them to God. God searches for sinners who need to find their way to Him. Among the tools He uses is the caring concern of a disciple. Disciples are to look for lost sheep and missing coins and to celebrate finding what was lost. Evangelism is grounded in the joy of discovery.2

    • As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we need to share His passion for the condition of His sheep.
    • Evangelism is the natural overflow of a holy life. Our spiritual growth can be seen in our involvement in ministry: sharing the gospel with the lost and ministering to other believers.
    • If we are to be effective in seeing sinners come to God – for salvation or restoration to fellowship, we must be willing to spend time with them.

1 Baker Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament, Luke 9:51‐24:53, Darrell L. Bock, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996, p.1295.
2 Ibid, p.1305.

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