“Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. 3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying, 4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? 5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. 7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. 8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? 9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. 10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”
Luke 15:1-10 (KJV)
There is a unique and anxious sorrow that follows the loss of anything to which we attach value whether it be a loved one, a friend, a cherished photo, or perhaps a pet, etc. If you have fifteen or twenty head of cattle and one goes missing, suddenly that missing cow exceeds your concern for the others as you go in search for it. It is not that you care less for the remaining cows, but the one that is missing merits all your attention. You cannot rest until you have found that which is lost. At my age, I can relate well to the feeling of lost things. I have several books on the shelf, but there is one book that I had need of recently and could not find. Suddenly, all the others had no appeal for me at the moment.
Our text today relates to two lost things – much alike in many ways, but also quite different in nature. The first lost thing is a living creature, a little lamb. The second thing is a lost coin. How are these alike? In a sense, they both represent some aspect of the human condition. Both are valued and cherished by their owner. Both have particular worth – one for commerce, the other for love. The shepherd loves his own sheep. The woman values her coin for it represented future security for her in case of unseen hardship. Once lost, both occupy the concerns of the owners.
These two are also different in a fundament nature. The lamb possesses awareness though to a limited degree. It can see, it can follow at close order, it can bleat when it is fearful. It is capable of losing itself due to short-sightedness and lack of mature discipline.
The coin, on the other hand, has no awareness whatsoever. It is as good as dead. It cannot see. It cannot bleat, it cannot lose itself. It does not even know if it is lost.
How do these two compare with the Gospel of Christ and His concern for the lost? It relates, in my opinion, to two different classes of people, or stages of spiritual condition.
The lost lamb relates to the new-born Christian. He has awareness of his need for salvation and has professed his faith in his Shepherd, but that awareness lacks maturity regardless the age of the professor. He has developed a root system in the Word of God, but those roots have not developed sufficiently to withstand the trials and errors of the faithful servant. He is momentarily distracted from His Master’s voice and drifts into the old paths of his earlier wilderness. After a time of wandering alone, cold, and hungry, he realizes he is lost and in great need of being found. Just as the young lamb bleats and runs to and from on the mountain slopes, the lost Christian realizes his desperate condition in separation from His Master. He knows that he still belongs to His Master but needs to be rescued. Like the bleating of the little lamb, the Christian falls to his knees and prays for his rescue hoping that the Master will hear his cry and come searching – which He does always.
Once found, the Master restores His lost one to the fold to the praise and glee of the Heavenly Host.
The lost coin is different. It is like the spiritually dead sinner. It has not feelings of life or awareness of its lost condition. Being dead, it cannot save itself. It cannot lift a finger to aid in its being found. It cannot pray – it has no voice or vision. It must be sought out in the dirt and grit of the threshing floor. The sinner, too, has no spiritual life in itself to call out as the lost sheep. “1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10 (KJV)
Being dead in trespasses and sin, we are found lifeless on the highways and byways of life. We are recovered from the waste and debri of city streets, of desert sands and dunes, of the barrooms and brothels of life, and are made alive by the searching eyes of the Holy Spirit. Suddenly, He quickens our dead heart and mind, and we are made alive in Christ – reborn to perform the good works of our calling in God.
In the normal Christian life, we have been each of these conditions if we are honest in our hearts. We were once as dead to sense as the coin at some point before we were called to Christ as Lazarus from the tomb. We have all gone astray at some point in our lives – perhaps not so far away, but away nonetheless. We came to a point in time when we have realized our foolish diversion from the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We have awakened to our circumstances of lostness and prayed for repentance and finding – and we were found at length.
May we learn from the parable of the lost sheep and coin that our lives are much the same, but we all are subject to being found by the Master and His Holy Spirit.