Summary: The parable of the lost coin teaches us that there is joy in heaven over every sinner who repents.
We are studying chapter 15 in The Gospel of Luke. It is a marvelous chapter as Jesus explains the good news of salvation in the parable of the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son. Kenneth E. Bailey notes, “For hundreds of years the Latin tradition has called this parable Evangelium in Evangelio (the gospel within the gospel), and so it is.”
Jesus preached the good news of salvation to all people. However, the religious people of his day, the Pharisees and the scribes, rejected his teaching, whereas the irreligious people of his day, the tax collectors and sinners, embraced his teaching.
The religious Pharisees and the scribes believed that Jesus was wrong to teach the irreligious people about the good news of salvation. Their attitude toward the irreligious was summed up in a later rabbinic saying, “Let not a man associate with the wicked, not even to bring him to the Law.” But Jesus had previously responded to the criticism of the religious people in Luke 5:31-32, when he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” In addition, in the parable of the great banquet (Luke 14:12-24) Jesus declared that he would declare God’s invitation to irreligious people rather than to religious people who rejected it.
In Luke 15 Jesus gives the highest reason of all for proclaiming the good news of salvation to all, including the irreligious. D. A. Carson expresses it this way, “God rejoices over the recovery of a lost sinner, and therefore it is Jesus’ supreme desire to seek and save the lost (19:10).” The parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son in Luke 15 is the most beautiful illustration in all of Scripture about God’s joy over the recovery of lost sinners. Each time the lost object is found, there is a call to celebrate its recovery. And as Carson notes, “In just the same way, it is implied, the Pharisees should share in God’s rejoicing over the salvation of the outcasts.”
But, sadly, the Pharisees and the scribes do not rejoice over the salvation of the outcasts. This three-part parable in Luke 15 is directed to the Pharisees and the scribes. We have already examined the first part of the parable, the lost sheep. Today, we will examine the second part of the parable, the lost coin.
Let’s read the parable of the lost coin in Luke 15:8-10, although, for the sake of context, I shall read verses 1-3:
1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
3 So he told them this parable: . . . 8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently 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 that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8-10)
The film Finding Nemo is an animated story of a father’s resolute search for his son. The father, a fish named Marlin, teams up with another fish named Dory to find Nemo. A dentist captured Nemo while diving off the coast of Sydney, Australia and placed him in a fish tank in his office.
Nemo thinks his father has forgotten about him and that he’ll never see him again. But one day a pelican named Nigel lands in the window of the dentist’s office and begins to tell Nemo an amazing story.
“Nemo! Your father’s been fighting the entire ocean looking for you!” reports Nigel.
“My father?” Nemo incredulously asks.
“Oh, yeah! He’s been battling sharks and jellyfish,” Nigel recounts.
“It’s my dad! He took on a shark!” Nemo exclaims proudly.
Nigel says, “I heard he took on three.”
Nemo is dumbfounded. He repeats, “Three?”
Nigel explains, “You see, kid. After you were taken, your dad started swimming like a maniac. He took on three sharks. He battled an entire jellyfish forest. Now he’s riding a bunch of sea turtles on the east Australian current, and the word is he’s headed this way right now to Sydney.”
“What a great daddy!” Nemo says.
His father finds Nemo. And there is great joy.
All three parts of the parable in Luke 15 make the same basic point. In each story something is lost, sought, found, and celebrated.
According to Michael Wilcock, “The plain meaning of the chapter is that just as there is joy when any shepherd or any housewife or any father recovers a loss, so there is joy in heaven when a sinner is reunited with God.”