The Parable Of The Lost Sheep And The Lost Coin
There are millions of lost souls around the world who desperately need Jesus. To reach them, Christians need to unstintingly follow Jesus’ instructions on world evangelism.
One of these instructions is contained in the parable of the lost sheep, a story about a shepherd who leaves his ninety-nine sheep to go after the one that is lost. This parable has powerful truths for both believers and sinners alike.
The Shepherd’s Love
In Biblical times, it was common for people to own sheep. Small farmers would often have a flock of 100 sheep. They kept the flock at night, and there was usually one gate into their pen. The shepherd would stay close to the pen, or they would hire someone to watch over them. This made it difficult for anyone to harm or steal the sheep. If a sheep was lost, the shepherd would leave the other 99 and search for it. Upon finding it, the shepherd would rejoice and celebrate. Jesus used this story to show that God is like a shepherd who cares for His lost people. He is willing to sacrifice His “other 99” in order to save the one who is lost.
The second stanza of Marlowe’s poem begins with the image of the shepherd in the countryside, watching his flocks. This is typical of a pastoral poem. The poet envisions the shepherd in peaceful repose, enjoying all that nature has to offer: shallow rivers, melodious birds, and “posies.”
However, this pastoral theme quickly changes with the introduction of desire. The shepherd daydreams of his beloved, and he wants to take her to see the flocks in the pasture. He also promises to give her a gown made from the finest wool, which he would pull from “pretty lambs.” An adult sheep can weigh up to 200 pounds, so this promise is quite extravagant.
She will also be adorned with a crown of flowers sacred to both Flora and Venus, along with coral clasps and amber studs. Her cap will be covered with roses and ivy buds. She will be dressed head to foot in these adornments.
In this parable, the woman represents a person who is lost. The shepherd, who symbolizes Jesus, is seeking after her. He is not content to allow her to remain in the wilderness, but he will pursue her until he finds her. He loves her so much that he will leave the ninety-nine righteous who belong to him and pursue the one who is lost. This is a powerful lesson of the love that God has for sinners.
The Pharisees’ Pride
The Pharisees were the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They were proud and self-righteous. They believed that they were doing God’s will by following the Mosaic Law and avoiding bad behavior. They looked down on tax collectors and sinners. Jesus’ frequent association with them made them particularly angry. But even worse than that, they hated the idea that He was the one who redeemed sinners from their sins.
Jesus used three parables to confront their pride. The parable of the lost sheep was the first. The Pharisees were not pleased that Jesus compared them to a shepherd. They thought that they were much better than a lowly shepherd. They had beautiful robes and prominent positions in their religious community. They were a well-off people, which gave them an additional sense of superiority.
Despite their status and reputation, they had no love for others. They were unable to recognize their own need for redemption. They were blinded by their own self-righteousness to the fact that they were adding despair to people’s lives. They missed the point that the law was designed to enlighten and not oppress, and they were missing God’s true message of grace and mercy.
Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep teaches us that we must be willing to search for those who are lost, regardless of their status or reputation. This parable, like those of the lost coin and the prodigal son, shows that heaven rejoices more over a single repentant sinner than ninety-nine who do not need to repent. We must be willing to put in the effort needed to reach the lost and reclaim the dead.
The parable of the lost sheep illustrates the scope of Jesus’ concern for sinners. It is followed by the parables of the ten lepers and the good Samaritan, both of which teach that Jesus has compassion for all, including those who are poor or ill. It also comes in the midst of Jesus’ teaching on prayer and the need to pray humbly. It demonstrates that we must flee from the pride of the Pharisees and learn humility from the Publican’s tears.
The Shepherd’s Mercy
We have seen in the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin how one thing leads to another. The person who finds does not waste time and effort. He or she is all in. He or she cares so much about finding the one that he or she is willing to leave behind ninety-nine to go in search of it. And when the one is found, a party is thrown. The whole community rejoices over the recovery of the one that had been lost.
In a similar way, the Good Shepherd cares about the entire flock of His followers. In Psalm 23, the Lord underlines the indissoluble bond between Himself and His sheep: “Surely the goodness and mercy of our God are for all the people.”
Yet the sinners and tax collectors in the crowd that Jesus addressed must have been aware that they were the ones who strayed from the fold. They must have been able to sense that the Good Shepherd was looking for them and cared about their plight. After all, they had dined with him, received his healing touch, been warmed by his presence. And he was telling them this parable, as well as the one about the prodigal son.
The parable of the lost sheep shares the same themes as the other two parables in Luke 15, including loss, searching, and rejoicing. And the image of the shepherd placing the lost sheep on his shoulders has long been incorporated into depictions of Christ as the Good Shepherd.
Jesus used these short, relatable stories to share profound spiritual insights with His audience. This parable, and the other two in Luke 15, teach us that God seeks those who are lost. He cares so deeply about them that He will not rest until they are returned to the safety of His flock.
This parable, along with the other two in Luke 15, teaches that we must be open to receive this mercy. We must be willing to turn away from the life of sin that separates us from our Heavenly Father. We must be willing to embrace the life of faith that gives us hope and peace.
Jesus uses the parable to illustrate how important it is that every one of us who is lost should be found. He wants us to see that each of those who wander from God are precious in His sight, and each one who is saved should be celebrated.
Jesus tells this story to the tax collectors and sinners who were gathered around, and to the self-righteous Pharisees who had grumbled that Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them. They were offended by His words and felt they needed to be corrected because they believed that they were the only ones who were righteous and that they knew the law of Moses better than anyone else.
In this first of two parables that Jesus tells, He draws them in by making the question a statement: “What man among you, having an hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after it until he finds it?”
When a shepherd loses one of his flock, he is immediately and intensely concerned about its safety. He knows that this lost sheep is vulnerable to predators and starvation, and he must do everything in his power to find it. He does not even consider the cost or the time involved; he just goes. In this story, the one who seeks wastes no time or effort in his pursuit; he is ecstatic when he finds it.
This is the message that Jesus is conveying in these parables, and it is a profound one. It is an ethical message, and it would be understood by all who heard it. But it also has theological and Christological implications.
These implications are what makes it so important that each one of you who is lost should make sure to be found by the Great Shepherd. He is always searching, and He loves you more than anything on this earth. He will go far and wide to find you; if you wander from Him, He is more than willing to pick you up and carry you home.