Sunday, November 04, 2012

Luke 15:1-10 - The Lost Sheep and Lost Coin

English: Good shepherd
English: Good shepherd (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sometimes I wonder if Jesus were to walk into many of our churches, if He were to be unrecognized, or worse, asked to leave. First of all, he didn’t look like someone of Northern European descent. He had a Middle Eastern complexion, dark hair, dark eyes. He grew up in the irreverent town of Nazareth, worked 30 years with His hands as a carpenter. He chose hardened full-time fishermen, a crooked tax collector, and a Jewish terrorist zealot for his companions. He chastised “good” people who sold religious products at the Temple (John 2:13-16). He publicly defended an adulteress. 

He called the venerated leaders of Israel “blind guides” and “hypocrites.” He refused to play by their legalistic rules. He enjoyed rubbing elbows with the unseemly crowd, the kind of people who ruin your reputation. They called him a gluttonous man, and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners!” (Luke 7:34). Jesus was a radical, and he was like sand paper on the legalistic upper crust of His day. He didn’t try to gain a following. Instead, He thinned the crowds with hard sayings and exacting terms of discipleship. Jesus was no ordinary man. He genuinely loved people. He loved the lost. Today’s passage tells us how much joy He found in seeking out and finding those who had somehow lost their way.

Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 15:1-10 to teach the Lord’s love for sinners, His great effort to find them, and His joy when the lost are redeemed.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about His love for the lost.
Pray and Read:  Luke 15:1-10

Contextual Notes:
There are 14 parables found only in the Gospel of Luke. The first seven are parables of divine mercy. In chapter 15, Jesus tells the last three parables of that set in response to the criticisms of the Pharisees for Jesus’ association with “tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 18:1-2).  The Parables of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin teach heaven’s joy over the repentance of a single sinner (Luke 18:3-10). In both there is rejoicing on earth and in heaven. The Parable of the Prodigal Son teaches the Father’s joy and mercy for one who repents (Luke 15:11-35). In a picture of the Trinity, we see the God the Son, the Great Shepherd, God the Holy Spirit, the diligently seeking the lost, and God the Father anxiously yearning for the return of the Prodigal.[1] Let’s pay attention to these three parables, because they depict the central theme of Luke’s Gospel, God’s love for the lost and the joy He has when they walk in faith and return.

Sermon Points:
1.   The Lord’s great love for sinners (Luke 15:1-2)
2.   The Son’s great joy for redemption (Luke 15:3-7)
3.   The Spirit’s great search for the lost (Luke 15:8-10)

Exposition:   Note well,

a.   Luke 15:1-2 – Jesus is still addressing the crowds (Luke 14:25), and for the third time Luke tells us of Jesus’ willingness to associate with tax collectors and sinners (Luke 5:30; 7:39). The issue will arise again with Zaccheus (Luke 19:7). The religious leaders criticize Jesus for this penchant for undesirable people. Jesus thus tells three parables.
b.   Luke 15:1 – Tax collectors and sinners: This occupation was considered immoral or dishonest. The taxes were extremely heavy burdens for the poor, and the Jews who collected them were considered traitorous to Israel and greatly resented. The Herods and the Roman government used local agents to collect taxes for them. It was the agents’ responsibility to charge enough to cover their own expenses. Just as long as the government received what its full amount, the collectors could charge whatever they wanted above that. As a result, many were indeed dishonest and charged exorbitant amounts above the stated tax. Luke uses Sinners to show how much contempt the Pharisees held for the ordinary people who were not as strict in observing the minute traditional rules of the Law. The most important point is that both tax gatherers and sinners were excluded from worship in the Temple and the synagogue (Prov 1:15; 13:20; 14:7). Not wanted. Not allowed. No chance of repentance.
c.   Luke 15:1 – Welcomes: The Pharisees taught that “there is joy before God when those who provoke him perish from the world.”[2] Jesus’ attitude welcomed toward social outcasts who constantly came to see and hear Him.
d.   Luke 15:2 - Eating with them shows his intimate association with them, a fellowship the Pharisees would never lower themselves to join to keep from being contaminated. There were great dangers after all, of eating untithed food, the appearance of acceptance of these people should they dare eat with them. Their grumbling reminds us of Israel’s unbelief and murmering in the Wilderness.
e.   APPLICATION: We too ought to be so loving that we attract the “wrong kind of people.” Jesus reminds us with his stories in this chapter why we should welcome them.
a.   Luke 15:3-7 – The shepherd is a frequent OT image of God and sheep a frequent image of Israel, God’s people. Despite this, Pharisees considered shepherding an unclean profession.
b.   In this story, God actively searches for the individual who strays. Jesus’ story draws attention to the joy the shepherd feels as he finds the lost sheep and swings it up on his shoulders to bring it home again. The joy in heaven over the repentant sinner is God’s joy.
c.   Luke 15:3-4 – Does He not leave? This is not an irresponsible act. A fold of one hundred was an average sized flock. Shepherds traveled together and worked in teams, so this man likely left the flock with some of his companions. “In the wilderness” means that the shepherd delayed taking the rest home until he found the lost sheep.
d.   APPLICATION: The Trinity works in community as a team to shepherd the people of God. He will not take His people “home,” not complete End-time events, until the last one has come in.
e.   Luke 15:5 – joyfully puts it on his shoulders: Jesus is using a familiar image from the OT where God carries his people as sheep (Psalm 28:9; Isaiah 40:11; Jer 31:10-14; Ezek 34:11-12, 16). It is the easiest way to carry a rambunctious lamb, with the legs crossed over one’s chest.
f.    APPLICATION: Notice that neither the sheep nor the coin can repent on their own. They must be returned by the Finder. This may suggest that the sinners’ repentance itself is a gift from God, a consequence of being found, not the condition to be found.[3] Notice also that God’s character is to seek and save the lost, not choose to un-elect them. In fact, when Matthew relates this parable, he ends it with the note, “In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost” (Matt 18:14).
g.   Luke 15:6-7 – Joy: The moral of the story is this: As the shepherd’s friends rejoice when he finds that which is lost, so do God’s friends rejoice when he recovers what was lost to him, thus Jesus’ accusers, who resent his fellowship with sinners he seeks to restore, may not really be God’s friends (Luke 15:1-2).
a.   The key to this parable is the intense search effort to find what is lost, and the joy experienced when it is found. In the same way they viewed shepherds, Pharisees were generally unimpressed with the moral character of women, so Jesus’ choice of protagonists itself makes a point that these pseudo-righteous cannot identify with the righteous God.
b.   Luke 15:8 – Ten silver coins: Notice how the value of the lost in each of these three parables increases. In the first, one of a hundred. In the second, one of ten, and in the next one (Luke 15:11), one of two. The coin here is a Greek drachma (equivalent to a Roman penny, a denarius), worth about a laborer’s day wage. The coin was precious to the owner even though it didn’t know it had value. A drachma had the image of a king stamped on it.
c.   Luke 15:8 - The woman’s lost coin was likely part of her dowry (ketubah) and thus especially precious to her. It is the only money she brings into the marriage, and it is technically hers even if the marriage is dissolved. First century women often wore dowry coins as a headdress or necklace, stringing them together on a cord. The woman’s lamp is a small, hand-held oil lamp. It puts out only a little light, but it was useful to look tediously into one of the many crevices along the rough stone floors where the coin could have fallen. It was so common that today, archaeologists use the fragments of pottery and coins found in these crevices to date the age of the homes they are excavating. She sweeps the house in the hope of hearing the coin rattle.
d.   APPLICATION – In the same way, the search is so important to the Holy Spirit, that He will sweep the area with things or events to see if we will ‘rattle,’ or cry out to the Lord in repentance.
e.   Once again in this story, Jesus emphasizes the thoroughness of the woman’s search for the lost coin, and thus God’s thorough search for the lost. To call  a man or woman lost is not an insult. It is to pay him or her a high compliment, for it means that he or she is precious in the sight of God. Here the joy is shared with all her friends and neighbors. Jesus’ point is that the repentance of a lost sinner is a cause of celebration throughout heaven. How is it that on earth the Pharisees are so sour and critical? How can they be so out of touch with God?
f.    APPLICATION: You should get hold of the irony. There is a real question of whether they know God and His character. Get to know some of your neighbors in the bar crowd, and give them a chance to know you. More importantly, give them a chance to know Jesus. He’s been looking for them, and He longs to bring them home.
g.   APPLICATION: The sheep in the first parable went astray out of simple stupidity. The coin in this story is simply lost. The son in the third parable goes astray by sheer self-will. Which one are you?

F.F. Bruce, gen. ed. The International Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 1213.
Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1993), 231-232.
David W. Pao and Eckhard J. Schnabel, “Luke,” G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson, gen. eds., Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 341.
Dwight J. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 332-336.
Lawrence O. Richards, The Victor Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Wheaton: Victor, 1994), 191-192.
Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Reader’s Companion (Wheaton: Victor, 1991), 666.
A.B. Simpson, The Christ in the Bible Commentary. Vol. 4 (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1993), 4:305.
David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996), 131.
Mark Strauss. “Luke.” Clinton E. Arnold, gen. ed. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 1:446.
Charles R. Swindoll and Bryce Klabunde, The Declaration of Something Mysterious: A Study of Luke 10:38-16:18 (Anaheim, CA: Insight for Living, 1995), 121-125.
J. Willcock, The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic Commentary on the Gospel according to St. Luke (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1896), 24:403.
Harold L. Wilmington, The Outline Bible (Nashville: Tyndale House, 1999), 543.
11am Sunday, November 4, 2012, at Union Missionary Baptist Church, Rocky Mount, NC

[1] Some have seen these three parables as Luke’s allusion to Jer 31:10-20 in a shepherd gathering his flock (Jer 31:10-14), Rachel weeping for her children (Jer 31:15-17), and Ephraim the son of Joseph who repents and receives God’s mercy (Jer 31:18-20).
[2] Pentecost, 333.
[3] G.W.H. Lampe in Peake2, 836, found in Bruce, ed., IBC, 1213.