May 24 – Luke 15:8-10
This week we’re between series; we just finished our Matthew 13 series on the parables of the Kingdom, and next week we’ll start a ten-week series on the Sermon on the Mount. This week though we’ll keep the parable theme rolling, this time turning to Luke for the Parable of the Lost Coin.
The Parable of the Lost Coin is the often skimmed parable between the more familiar Parable of the Lost Sheep and Parable of the Prodigal Son. We tend to emphasize the first and last of the three for a number reasons, if only because it’s easier to see yourself in those stories as a sheep or a son than as a coin. Plus, if you take the time to read it, the parable seems a little off-kilter. A woman loses a coin, finds it, then gets all her friends together for a party? Isn’t that like having a cookout because you found your phone in the couch cushions? Seems like a small, self-congratulatory reason for a shindig. Also, if hosting her friends cost money, did she find the lost coin just to spend it on snacks?
Keep in mind that these three parables, sheep, coin, and son, are all roughly the same story told three different ways. The occasion for these stories was a meal Jesus was eating with a number of “disreputable” people, at least according to the Pharisees. In response to their comment, “This man receives sinners and eats with them,” (Luke 15:2) Jesus tells them three stories about the way God himself receives sinners. These three share the same overall movement. In all three a valuable item is lost, and the lost item is sought out. Even in the Prodigal Son the father sees the son from a distance and runs out to meet him. In all three the Seeker leaves the items that are securely in their possession (99 sheep, 9 coins, the older brother) in order to secure the remaining. And in all three there’s a party.
Again, remember the context of these stories. Jesus is literally at a party receiving sinners, so the lesson couldn’t be any more plain. Which, on a broader level, Jesus’ practice of dining with the disreputable shows up again and again in the Gospel of Luke. Robert Karris, a New Testament scholar, points out, “In Luke’s Gospel Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal.”(ref) And these meals often contrast those who just want the prestige of Jesus’ attendance with those who celebrate his presence. In Luke 11 Jesus is invited to dine with the Pharisees and says, “Woe to you Pharisees!”, but in Luke 19 he invites himself to lunch with Zaccheus and says, “Today salvation has come to this house.” Luke summarizes the response to Jesus’ social life in Luke 7:34, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'”
In the three parables of Luke 15 and in his very life, Jesus shows us that God comes to seek and save the lost.(Luke 19:10) He doesn’t sit grumpily on the porch, waiting for sinners to get their act together and come home. He runs out to meet them. He doesn’t leave them out in the wilderness or lost in the couch cushions, he goes to find them. And when the lost are found, all of heaven rejoices; God is glad, even his angels are glad!
Pause, if you will, for just a moment and dwell on this. When you became a follower of Jesus, whenever that was and whatever it looked like, the angels rejoiced before God over it. There was a cry of joy in heaven when you came home to your Father. I don’t think Jesus was speaking in encouraging exaggerations; when he said there’s joy in heaven over a sinner’s salvation, I think he meant it. God welcomed you home as his beloved child, and he was glad to.
Now imagine the joy God would have over your co-worker, friend, or loved one who is still far off from him. Does that create a longing in your heart that they would come to him?
Questions for Discussion
• Would someone read Luke 15:8-10 for us?
• What stands out to you from this parable?
• What can this parable tell us about salvation?
• How do we see this parable lived out in Jesus’ life?
• What do you think this parable means for those around us who don’t follow Jesus?