Summary: A sermon on the Parables of the Lost Coin and Sheep
The Most Valuable Things in the World
When my son Luke was a toddler, my wife and I took him to the beach in Gulf Shores, AL. We had a wonderful time but finally check out day arrived. I was in the kitchen packing up all of the refrigerator items when I heard my wife cry out, “I can’t find my wedding ring?” Well, that started a search of the condo. We retraced her steps. We looked all over the bathroom where she said she had set it down. We checked the bedside table and on the floor all around it and still it was not in sight. We then systematically began to take the condo apart, first the bedroom with moving the dresser and dismantling the bed, then the living room with removing every cushion on the coach and chairs and then lifting them up and searching under and behind them. We unpacked all of our clothes only to find nothing. As we searched without any progress, we became more and more frantic. Half an hour passed, then an hour, an hour and a half and at the end of the second hour, we started to talk about making an insurance claim. Regret and sorrow began to fill us. But then my wife realized there was one place we had not looked. We had brought all of Luke’s toys in a cardboard box. We had told him to put all of his toys back in the box. Giovanna and I ran over to it, turned it upside down, dumping everything out and in the bottom of the box, we saw it. We screamed out in joy and breathed the largest sigh of relief of our lives. Apparently, Luke had grabbed the ring off the bathroom counter all in an effort to help pack as we got ready to leave and put it in his box of toys.
Have you been there, losing something of great value and worth? Our Scripture today is Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ charge that He welcomes and eats with sinners and tax collectors. The Greek word for "welcomes" literally means to "receive as a friend." This was Jesus’ attitude toward those who were lost in sin, to befriend them and love them back to God, vastly different from the Pharisees’ view of such people. In Jesus’ day, to eat with someone was more than sharing a meal together. It was a convenantal experience, meaning that once you shared a meal with someone, you were bound to them. If they were ever in need of help, you had to come to their assistance. So the Pharisees were careful with whom they broke bread. They didn’t want to become unclean and they certainly didn’t want to be beholden to a sinner. But Jesus? He ate with anyone and everyone, including the worst of the worst in the Pharisees eyes. The Pharisees sought to live pure and holy lives by following the letter of the Law. By Jesus’ time, they had become more critical of others who didn’t live like them or believe like them. They assumed an “us vs. them” mentality, calling those who disagreed with them “outsiders.” But this is why Jesus came: to save those far from God. As a result, the Pharisees didn’t think Jesus was seeking to live a pure and holy life because of those with whom he associated.
Jesus responds to the charges of the Pharisees with three parables recorded for us in Luke 15, two of which we’re going to look at today. There are two questions I want you to wrestle with as we do: What’s the most important thing to you? And what’s the most important thing to God? It is that second question that Jesus seeks answers to these parables and as a result, he wants us to consider if the most important thing to Jesus is important to us. And if so, how much? When Jesus taught in parables, he drew from the world around him, using images and objects of every day life to teach people about God and His kingdom. In our parable today, he draws on one of the most frequently used images in Scripture: sheep and shepherd. Sheep could be seen everywhere roaming the hills of Israel with their shepherds and they could be seen in the streets of Jerusalem ready for sacrifice at the temple. Even today in Israel, you can still see sheep in the countryside with their shepherds tending them.
The first parable is that of the Lost Sheep. The pages of the Bible are littered with images of sheep and the shepherd. They appear at critical times in the story of God’s people, and there is hardly another motif as rich in content. In Genesis 48:24, Jacob on his deathbed summarized his life with God saying God has been the “shepherd all of his life to this day.” Psalm 23 speaks of God as the Good Shepherd. Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep" (John 10:14-15). Amidst all of the images of shepherds and sheep, there is one constant in Scripture: you and I are always the sheep. Now sheep are notoriously dumb and stubborn creatures. They easily get bored and are prone to wander, often times into danger and sometimes to their own demise. Sheep can easily lose their footing and fall. If a sheep falls on its back, it cannot get back up because blood quickly drains from their legs causing numbness. Sheep have weak eyesight and so they depend heavily on their hearing. Sheep are social creatures and need the flock. When they are lost, they lie down and refuse to move. This makes them all the more vulnerable to attack. And on top of all of that, sheep just smell bad.