Note: Read verses 1-10 in order to remind the congregation of the context of this parable. Verses 1-3 tell us that this parable is a part of Jesus' response to the complaints of the scribes and Pharisees about His interaction with tax collectors and sinners. So, as with the Parable of the Lost Sheep in verses 4-7, so with this parable Jesus contrasts His own attitude toward repentant sinners with that of the Jewish leaders. In the process, He shows that it is His own attitude that reflects the heart of God toward repentant sinners.
Introduction: The Parable of the Lost Coin is often forgotten, it seems to me, because it occurs between two more popular parables – the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Lost Son(s). But this parable plays an important role in the trilogy, because it reinforces the essential point made in the first parable, and it prepares us for the third one. It also adds a couple of emphases that do not occur in the other two parables. We will see what both of these added emphases are as we make our way, verse by verse, through the parable today.
NKJ Luke 15:8 Or what woman, having ten silver coins [δραχμή], if she loses one coin [δραχμή], does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully [ζητεῖ ἐπιμελῶς] until she finds it?
As with the Parable of the Lost Sheep, so also with this parable, Jesus begins with a rhetorical question that expects a certain answer. He expects an answer something like, “Of course a woman who loses one of her ten silver coins will search carefully until she finds it.” But in order to fully understand the situation Jesus is describing here, let's focus our attention upon the basic elements of the scenario He presents.
First, we are told that the woman loses a “silver coin.” The word translated silver coin is drachmḗ, which was indeed a Greek coin made of silver that was worth about a denarius, which would make it equivalent to a day's wages. So it was no small amount.
Second, we are told that the woman would “light a lamp” to search for the coin. This fact doesn't necessarily mean that the woman was searching at night, because the typical house in Palestine in those days had small windows that were about six inches high and placed high up on the walls (Kenneth Baily, Finding the Lost: Cultural Keys to Luke 15, p. 101). This meant that the house would have been pretty dark even in the daytime, dark enough, at least, to need a lamp when searching for something small.
Third, we are told that the woman would “sweep the house” in her search for the coin. The reason for this had to do especially with the kind of floors such houses had. They were typically made of rock with deep, wide dirt cracks between them (Ibid).
Fourth, we are told that the woman would “search carefully” for the coin. When Jesus said that she would light a lamp and sweep the house in her search for the coin, He intended to communicate implicitly what He then said explicitly, namely that she would search carefully for it.
* This emphasis upon the careful nature of the search is one point that distinguishes this parable from the ones preceding and following it, so we can see that it is a key point Jesus wants to make in this parable. The woman's search is a picture of God's searching for lost sinners, and she pictures Him as searching with great care.
Application: The application to us is at least twofold. First, we should be thankful for God's care in searching us out and bringing us to Himself. Think about where we would be of He hadn't carefully sought us out! As Paul told the Ephesians, we would be among those “having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:2). Second, we see that, as His servants, we should take the same kind of care in seeking out lost sinners, the kind of care Jesus took with the tax collectors and sinners with whom He spent so much time. In fact, this parable is part of His explanation for why He took such care in seeking the lost. Jesus is searching for lost sinners just as He did for those first sinners in the garden of Eden:
NKJ Genesis 3:6-9 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. 8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
Even so, God is still seeking lost sinners in order to bring them to repentance. And this is why Jesus was seeking them out. This should have brought great conviction to the scribes and Pharisees, whose lack of concern and lack of effort in seeking to restore sinners was being exposed as being against the purposes of God.
But what about us? Can we, too, sometimes think ourselves closer to God than others because we separate ourselves from certain sinners, while in reality we may be far from sharing God's own heart toward them? Sadly, this may be true of far too many Christians, which is why we need to hear the Word taught regularly and to help each other to be accountable. In fact, we should want to celebrate together whenever a sinner repents, as the next verse teaches.
NKJ Luke 15:9 And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece [δραχμή] which I lost!”
The woman was so filled with joy that she couldn't contain herself! She just had to share it with her friends and neighbors! And since the parable is intended to show a higher reality, namely the joy of the Lord over lost sinners that have been found, we see that He wants to share His joy with us as well.
Application: This theme of joy over repentant sinners is shared by all three of the parables in this teaching of Jesus, so we should take special note of it. God rejoices when sinners repent, and so should we! Indeed, He wants to share His own joy over it with us! But just in case we might miss the point, Jesus spells it out clearly in the next verse.
NKJ Luke 15:10 Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
* This explicit reference to the angels of God sharing in His joy over the repentance of sinners is another point that distinguishes this parable from the ones preceding and following it. So it is another key point Jesus is trying to make with this parable. It thus behooves us to stop and think about the role of the angels and their interest in what God does in our lives. Let's focus our attention, then, on some of the other passages of Scripture that might bear on this theme. For example:
NKJ 1 Corinthians 11:10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
Here Paul is speaking about how men and women should conduct themselves in church gatherings, and he apparently assumes that angels will be looking on. Thus he expects it to matter to the Corinthians and to us what the angels witness.
NKJ Ephesians 3:8-10 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers [referring to angelic beings] in the heavenly places ….
Here Paul says that part of God's purpose in saving us was so that the angels in the heavenly places might see His multifaceted wisdom. And we know that they rejoice over it, as Jesus has indicated in the Parable of the Lost Coin.
NKJ 1 Timothy 5:21 I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.
Again Paul assumes that angels are present and watching as he charges Timothy to conduct his ministry without partiality. Thus he again expects it to matter to Timothy and to us what the angels witness in our lives.
NKJ Hebrews 1:7, 13-14 And of the angels He says: “Who makes His angels spirits And His ministers a flame of fire.” … 13 But to which of the angels has He ever said: “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?
Here we see that angels serve the Lord by aiding us, so they play an important role in our lives and share in His concern for us and for our salvation.
NKJ Hebrews 12:22-23 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect ….
When we come to God in faith and in worship, we come also to “an innumerable company of angels,” who we know are watching us and care about what happens in our lives for God's glory. In fact, when we worship God, we are joining with them as they worship Him.
NKJ Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.
The author of Hebrews again assumes the role of angels in our lives will be so common that we might even entertain an angel who appears in human form without knowing it!
But, of course, we have already seen that angels are always around and looking on, especially when the churches are gathered.
NKJ 1 Peter 1:10-12 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven-- things which angels desire to look into.
Here Peter tells us of the curiosity the angels have about what God is doing in saving His elect. They desire to look into what God is doing in our lives, and – as we have seen this morning – they share in the joy God has when we repent and trust in Him for forgiveness and when they see Him transforming us into the likeness of Christ.
Conclusion: Jesus has stressed quite strongly in this parable that “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” But, as William Barclay has observed, the Pharisees had quite a different saying. They were known to have said, “'There will be joy in heaven over one sinner who is obliterated before God.' They looked sadistically forward not to the saving but to the destruction of the sinner” (Daily Study Bible, e-Sword).
I wonder if, when we are so quick to strongly speak out against the sin of our own culture, we might not sometimes give off the same impression. Perhaps like me you have known some sour Christians who sound as though they believe that God came through Jesus Christ on a seek and destroy mission rather than a seek and save mission. It is not that Jesus never spoke of judgment, for He most certainly did! But He did so most often as a warning in order to call people to repentance. Let us all remember to keep things in perspective by recalling the teaching of this parable along with other passages such as John 3:16-18:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.