It Doesn’t Add Up

Parables of Jesus for the Modern Pilgrim

Parables of the Lost Sheep and Coin

Luke 15:4-10

Let’s step into the scene: Jesus is talking among his friends –  the tax collectors and sinners. Pharisees and teachers of the law are there as well. You can imagine the tension. Those two groups don’t usually mix.

The Pharisees begin to criticize Jesus. To eat with a sinner was against the Old Covenant law of Moses. Instead of defending Himself and starting an argument, Jesus tells a couple of parables.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

Jesus begins this story by making it personal…

“Suppose one of you had 100 sheep and lost one of them.” He wants them to think about what they would do in this situation. Some might say, “No problem. I have 99 sheep. One lost sheep won’t make a difference.”

But Jesus is pointing out the difference between the way He sees the lost compared to the Pharisees. In His story, the owner leaves the 99 and goes after the one – he searches until he finds it. When he finds it, he carefully puts it on his shoulders and carries it home. But he doesn’t stop there. He calls everyone together to celebrate!

Jesus then tells another parable with the same truth.

The Parable of the Lost Coin

Perhaps he knew the greed of the Pharisees and wanted to connect. But it seems that Jesus can’t resist using the lowly of their culture to make a point on righteous living. First, it was the outcast shepherd; now it is a woman who is the hero in this story. She loses one out of ten coins. You better believe she turns the house upside down to find it. Jesus says she “searches carefully.” That is Jesus’ heart for the lost. Like the shepherd, she throws a party to celebrate when she finds what was lost.

Lessons for the Modern Pilgrim

  • Jesus is telling the religious leadership that they are responsible for all of the people, not just the “righteous.” All the sheep and all the coins belonged to the owner. The Pharisees did not see the lost as their responsibility.

The time for God’s people to be separate was over. Jesus was bringing in the new Kingdom – one that was entirely inclusive. Everyone could belong. That was a massive shift for the religious leaders.

Do we do that today? Do we look at those in our community who are perhaps homeless or in prison or just plain lost as our responsibility? I believe Jesus is telling us we should.

  • The 99 sheep and the nine coins were not the focus of the owner. They were fine. They could wait. There is urgency in the search. It was the one that was lost that became the most important. Finding it was priority #1. The shepherd joyfully places the sheep on his shoulders to carry it home. Compassion. Can we carry the lost home with joy?

It is so easy to become focused on our ministry and who we have inside the church. Yes, that is important. But we can’t become so inward focused that we forget the mission Jesus gave us… Go out! Search carefully for the lost!

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were comfortable with things the way they were. They believed that the sinners had to repent on their own to be allowed into God’s family. Jesus knew that wasn’t going to happen. Someone had to search and find them.

Are we waiting for the lost to walk through the church doors? How’s that working for you? Leave the found to find the lost.

  • Celebrate the lost being found. The shepherd didn’t scold the sheep for wandering off. There was no judgment for the coin that was lost. Regardless of the reason, we must celebrate the finding. That is what the Kingdom of Heaven values above all things!

There is more rejoicing over the one than the 99. I think we forget that. The reality of our day is that our fellowships grow one person at a time. It’s not that we don’t love and appreciate and care for our flock. But everytime someone finds salvation or returns to Jesus, we must make that the highest value we celebrate. Heaven loves a good party!

Artists have used the parable of the sheep to depict Jesus, lovingly carrying the lost sheep home. Spiritually, that is what’s happening. But we are the hands and feet of Jesus. Guided by the Holy Spirit, we are the ones who search and we are the ones who carry them home.

Jesus had more to say about this in the next parable. We’ll tackle the Parable of the Lost Son next.