Today we are going to examine the popular parables given in Luke chapter 15.
Luke 15:1-10 Now all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." And He told them this parable, saying,
"What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? "And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. "And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' "I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
"Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 "And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!' "In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
Now the scribes and Pharisees don’t have it completely wrong. We really shouldn’t be hanging out with some sinners because they can tempt us to sin as well. If you are married and there is a co-worker flirting with you, you probably shouldn’t be hanging out with that person because they might tempt you to sin. Yet these tax-collectors and sinners are gathered to hear what Jesus has to say about the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven. The scribes and Pharisees were grumbling because they were looking down at those sinners from pride. They were looking down upon those sinners as if they themselves had conquered sin. In general though it is good to kind of hang out with sinners so we can attract them to the truth of Jesus. IN doing this we will be imitating Jesus which is what we want to do in all things.
The Parables in General
Jesus, to instruct both groups – the tax-collectors and sinners, as well as the scribes and Pharisees – tells the following parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin. In both stories there are two parties; the thing lost and the one searching for them.
The things that are lost represent the sinners and tax-collectors, and Jesus is trying to tell this group. “Hey, God will go through great lengths to find you and bring you home and there is going to be so much rejoicing you won’t believe it. Angels and the whole of heaven is going to rejoice, just respond to the grace God is giving you, turn around and get on the path to God.”
The one searching for them is of course God, but God’s usual method for searching for sinners isn’t be knocking people down and blinding them like he did with St. Paul, but by working through other people like scribes and Pharisees. These are the one who are suppose to be searching for those who are lost and bring them back. And when they bring them back it is to be with a spirit of rejoicing. Jesus is trying to tell this group “Hey, You have been blessed with brains and high social status, you should be seeking out people like these sinners to bring them back to God.”
The problem is that they aren’t rejoicing with Jesus when he is bring back sinners to God. Yet in the parable Jesus says that the shepherd and woman called her friends and neighbors to rejoice with them. If they refuse to rejoice with them, then it is implied that they aren’t friends and neighbors of the shepherd or the woman. Meaning they aren’t friends of God.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
I found some beautiful interpretations of these parables.
Cornelius Lapide points out this: in Verse 5 when it says - "And when the shepherd has found the sheep, he lays it on his shoulders”
Isaiah the prophet says this: Isaiah 53:4 “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried”
So Lapide links the shepherd bearing the sheep with Christ bearing our sins. The shepherd bearing the sheep to bring it back to the fold, and Christ bearing our sins to bring us back to heaven.
Lapide continues: Hence Gregory of Nyssa, writes …"When the shepherd had found the sheep, he did not punish it, he did not drive it to the fold, but placing it on his shoulder, and carrying it gently, he reunited it with the flock." Oh how wondrous is the meekness, clemency, and love of Christ our Lord!
The beauty of this is so true – think of the simplicity of both baptism and confession to restore our relationship with God. There is no gauntlet that we must run through or some herculean task that must be accomplished on our part. Jesus does all the real work on the cross and then gently call us back to him.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
A possible insight into this parable could be that the coin which has on it a royal image of not only an earthly king, but also the image of God. This image has been lost under the dirt of sin and the darkness of this world. The woman brings a light into the house that is – God becomes incarnate in the world to illumine it and sweep it clean of sin until the image is recovered. Once the image is found rejoicing commences with the friends and neighbors – the saints and angels in heavenly places.