“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:8–10 ESV).
The first of Jesus’ parables in Luke 15 is that of the lost sheep. One is lost, has strayed, and is missing while the 99 are still back in the fold. Interestingly, in his book entitled You Lost Me, Barna Research President David Kinneman lays out his research regarding young adults, ages 18-30. 59% of them have stopped attending church after being regular churchgoers. Why is that? In terms of Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep, Kinneman makes it clear that the strays are leaving in large numbers because of the 99. They say the 99 are over-protective, shallow, antagonistic to science, out of touch with sexuality, unnecessarily exclusive, and unfriendly to those who doubt.
The 99, of course, are discussing the research. They wonder, “Can we change? How can we change and still be faithful to the Scriptures? Can we become more creative? Can we listen? Can we partner with young and old together in spiritual formation and service?” These are all good questions that need to be discussed.
Nonetheless, the 99 are also trusting that the Good Shepherd who does not sit idly by is out there seeking the young, the restless, the wandering ones, the addicted (no sheep ever says “I want to be addicted” to whatever the addiction).
But this Good Shepherd, who lays down His life for the 99 as well as the one—indeed for ALL—continues to search for them, and His desire is to do that through us.
So, Jesus tells the story of the lost coin. It’s interesting that Jesus’ story now moves to an inanimate object. Let’s say the coin was worth a day’s wage. The woman had a total of ten of them. Unlike a sheep, a coin has no “will” of its own. A coin cannot contribute to its being found the way a sheep might bleat out in terror and get a shepherd’s attention. If the coin is to be found, it will only be because of the woman’s persistence. Again, here repentance is totally dependent on being found by God.
What’s more, a coin’s value remains the same, lost or found. It is no less valued because it is lost. A lost sheep may be injured, break a leg, damage its wool, but a lost coin retains its value. In fact, think about it: anyone who’s lost a coin or ring or watch or whatever, knows how the lost item can become even more valuable to the one seeking it, even in its lostness. Jesus is once again asserting the value of a lost soul to God, worthy of every effort and of all love.
Please notice what the woman does—what we should be inspired to do as well. At that time in Israel, the house might only have had a single window and a doorway. No electricity, no light switches to turn on when you walked into a room, no LED flashlights. It was a very dark place. The oil lamp the woman lights to search for the coin was likely about the size of the palm of her hand. She would hold the flame close to the dirt or stone floor, shedding light on its nooks and crannies.
Jesus is imploring His listeners to know that everyone is valuable to Him and that He looks for us in the dark corners of our lives. That it is an all-out search by Him. As Jesus tells it, the woman’s broom swept the house, reaching places she couldn’t see. She was intentional, diligent, and determined. It took effort, all her own. Again, coins are inanimate, they don’t shout out, “Here I am. Help me!” Her broom would gather no small amount of dirt along with other unexpected treasures, and thankfully, that treasured little coin.
There is no finding Him; He finds us.
There is no finding Him; He finds us. As His love and care and searching bring light to our darkness of sin, we repent and are restored as His. The “sweeping” work of Jesus Christ includes His amazing teaching of perfect obedience, atoning death, and victorious resurrection. His relentless pursuit of sinners—then and now—entails a sweeping thoroughness … an “It is finished!” all for our sake, and the sake of every soul that has lived, is living, or is yet to be.
What is our response? We have been found! Let us rejoice, be thankful, and celebrate!
But it cannot stop there … especially as we reflect on what takes place at the end of Holy Week. We must not only worship and thank a gracious and loving God, but in prayer and faithful study of God’s Word—where the Holy Spirit will guide, guard, direct, and lead us—we will be inspired to view every soul as precious to God; to pursue every soul in the Name of Jesus even though they may not know their value, their worth to God … or how much they are loved.
This is a supreme privilege that God allows us to be a part of. Hear well the “It is finished,” of Jesus on Calvary’s final altar. People may not know their value right now, but they do know fear, and bewilderment, and hesitancy because of the unknown. Nonetheless, God is still working in this pandemic—through His Word in you AND THROUGH YOU.
Who are you praying for today? With whom will you be sharing a word of Scripture today over the phone that they might begin to see the sweeping love of Jesus for them?
A time of celebration is coming … a time when this pandemic has been settled enough to “release us” so that we can express our thanksgiving and praise together in worship. What a celebration will also erupt in heaven if, when we gather again, more repentant sinners join in that celebration thanks to the Holy Spirit working through the Word that you’ve shared!
In Jesus’ Name, who is Light and who sweeps the sins of the world away. Amen.
About the Author
Rev. Dr. David P. E. Maier serves as president of the Michigan District, LCMS.