Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she 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.” (NIV)
In the first parable, a sheep wandered away and the shepherd went looking for it. Sheep are dumb, and cannot be responsible for themselves. In the parable, the sheep that wandered off was metaphorically the tax collectors and sinners whom God rejoices over when they repent. Does that mean we are not responsible for wandering away from God’s flock?
In the second parable, the woman loses the coin. There is no sense of the coin being responsible for where it has gotten to. It isn’t worthless while it is lost, it retains its worth, but it is useless to the woman. So she looks for it. She searches high and low. She moves the furniture, sweeps in the corners. She finally finds it and rejoices. She goes to her neighbors and invites—no, she commands—that they celebrate with her. She likely spends more than the coin is worth on the party! But that’s the way it is in God’s economy. No amount is too much for one of God’s own.
And she has no fear that the people are going to berate her for losing her coin. I could just imagine what my neighbors would say if I let it be known that I lost a whole day’s wage…(the silver coin was a drachma, equal to one day’s wage.) “How could you let that happen?” “You should have been more careful.” “What were you thinking?” “Why didn’t you put it in a safe place?” I might have been reluctant to tell anyone I had lost my money. I might be embarrassed to admit I had been so careless.
So what is Jesus saying here? If the coin is the stand-in for the sinner the God-figure rejoices over, then does it hold that the woman is the stand-in for God? Is Jesus being rather audacious to suggest that God might lose some of God’s people? Is God responsible for their being lost? Or is this a ‘no-fault’ story?
Fault never enters into it. Grace abounds for all. Rejoicing is the key to this set of parables. God rejoices over being re-united with God’s people. God rejoices over being re-united with you. Please don’t be afraid to approach God. God loves you. You are valuable to God. God will look high and low for you and rejoice when you are found.
Remember it always and let that be the foundation of your life. Let God’s love be your guide and God’s rejoicing over you be your power.
Blessings to you,
Can you remember a time when someone rejoiced over you? How did it make you feel? Think of a time when someone scolded you. What effect did that have? Which motivated you more?
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.