The Parable of the Lost Coin and the Lost Sheep are two parts of the same parable. The Lost Sheep is considered Part “a” while the Lost Coin is considered Part “b.” The audience, plot and ending are quite similar. I considered grouping these together in one chapter, but thought it wise to keep them separate as there are subtle and unique differences between the two. The text is found in Luke 15:8-10 and is as follows…
“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.”
Jesus begins this section in like manner by asking a similar rhetorical question. This is done not only to acknowledge the women in the audience by directing a question to them (as opposed to the men in Luke 15:4), but also to parallel the man from the Lost Sheep with the woman from the Lost Coin. Jesus is the true picture of the man in the Lost Sheep parable and the church, his bride, is the true picture of the woman in this, the Lost Coin, parable. The Lost Sheep parable speaks to Jesus’ loving concern and care for the sheep which was lost, while the Lost Coin parable speaks to the church’s diligence in reaching the lost as she turns the light on and sweeps the house diligently to find the coin. Both the sheep and the coin are representative of the unrepentant sinner. One particularly important difference is the value assigned to the coin when compared to the sheep. The sheep was 1 out of 100 while the coin was 1 out of 10. We will see next week, in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, that the value is further increased to 1 out of 2. This is important because as humans, we are likely to think losing 1% is small and insignificant in size, so it could be easily withstood. Now considering the woman and her coins, 10% is a much larger hit and thus a more difficult loss. Now thinking ahead to next week, 50% is a huge hit and thus splits a family. As Jesus continues, the value he places on the unrepentant sinner increases.
Much has been discussed concerning the true meaning behind the light and the broom and while it may lend to reading too far into the parable, I think it is safe and helpful to say that they are the tools in which we, the church, are given to help find the lost. The heavenly tools the church is given to work repentance are found through the proclamation of the law and the gospel. The law both condemns and exhorts to good works while the gospel gifts freedom from the weight of the law and motivates one to strive toward good works. Both proper preaching of the law and the gospel are necessary proclamations to bring the unrepentant sinner to true repentance. Therefore the true church searches diligently for the lost through the preaching of the law and the gospel.
The resulting celebration upon finding her lost coin elicits a similar response to that of the man finding his lost sheep. Overwhelming joy. Sadly, the result that caused great rejoicing in heaven only garners murmuring and malcontent from the Pharisees (Luke 16:14) in the presence of Jesus as he spoke these very parables. By telling this parable to a crowd full of sinners, Jesus uses the very same tools as the woman used to find the coin; the law and the gospel. This is the job of the church; to utilize these tools as the means to call lost sinners to repentance.
The message of the Parable of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin deal with repentance. Each of the following parables build on what follows after repentance. Please tune in next week for “Chapter 2 – The Prodigal Son.”