Jesus and Sinners: The Lost Coin

Jesus and Sinners: The Lost Coin

Jesus and Sinners: The Lost Coin.

“Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Jesus to hear Him teach. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So Jesus spoke these parables to them…” (Luke 15:1-2).

In response to the Pharisees’ grumbling and muttering about Jesus and His treating the sinners like long-lost friends, Jesus told three “lost” stories… the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. The three stories telescope down from one out of 100 (sheep), to one out of 10 (coins), and finally to one out of two (sons). All three stories come down to the climax of the group of parables, the one son who remains lost, the elder son in the Prodigal Son story. Jesus has a main point to make. He has led the Pharisees down the path, from one story to the next, to identify with the lost elder son, the one standing outside, away from the celebration. Jesus is pointing to the elder son being a picture of the Pharisees, judgmental, self-righteous, and ultimately excluded.

And now to this story of the lost coin. Women in a Palestinian village during that time were often given ten silver coins as a wedding gift, their dowry. Each coin, a drachma, was worth a day’s wage. The coins were often worn in a necklace, representing the fact that she was married. So the coin necklace was similar to a wedding ring nowadays. These coins were considered very valuable for three reasons: for monetary value, since cash was a rare commodity to villagers; for sentimental value, because the coins represent her marriage; and for beauty, since any missing coins would destroy the attractive appearance of the necklace. So, this lost coin in the story was no doubt a distressing event for the woman. Any woman in this predicament would certainly look high and low for that coin. She would light a lantern, bring out the broom, and search diligently, if not frantically, until the coin was found. She would naturally rejoice when she found the coin, and invite all her friends and neighbors to join in the celebration.

The woman in this parable is a metaphor for God. It would have been controversial to picture God as a woman, especially around the religious leaders. Upon hearing this little story, the Pharisees would have gone on a tirade. God represented by a woman? Outrageous! Evidently the scholars of Torah forgot about Isaiah 49:13-16. The great prophet Isaiah compared the Lord to a mother who would never forget her nursing child. The Lord comforted the people and had compassion on them like a nursing mother who would never desert her child. Isaiah is saying that God loves Israel like a mother loves the child she has borne. Jesus’ story would have offended the sensibilities of these scholars, even though there is clear Scriptural precedence for the comparison. At a later time, Jesus would lament over Jerusalem and compare Himself to a mother hen who wants desperately to gather her chicks around her.

Just as the woman would never give up searching for that lost coin, God will refuse to give up His search for the lost soul, the person who for whatever reason is lost from the sheepfold of faith. Just as the woman never lost ownership of the coin even when lost, God will continue to claim ownership of the lost soul, even in the predicament of being estranged from Him.

Just as each coin bears an imprint, an image, so each person, each sinner bears the imprint of God’s image. God will never give up his search for anyone who is made in God’s likeness but has wandered away. Every one of the lost sinners would be of incalculable value, and would be beyond priceless in God’s eyes.

Once again, as in the story of the lost sheep, the climax of the story involves joy. When God finds the lost sinner, He rejoices in heaven, and He shares that joy with all the angels that surround Him. Lost and found. Unfettered and abundant joy. Jesus wishes that the Pharisees could share in that unbounded joy.