About a month ago, we began a new sermon series called “The Parables of Jesus”. We started off by discussing 6 different parables that Jesus used to describe some characteristics of the Kingdom of God. The stories we studied beautifully illustrate the manner and extent of Kingdom growth, and quantify its immeasurable value.
This morning we will move on to our second topic. Jesus told 3 parables that focus explicitly on the subject of redemption. Redemption simply means to free someone from bondage. It involves paying a price in order to secure the release of another. The story of the Bible is a message of redemption - specifically, that Jesus paid the price for man’s sin on the cross in order to free them from their slavery to sin. Those who accept His offer of salvation are redeemed or set free from their captivity to sin and death.
While redemption most often refers to the salvation of the lost, it can also be used to describe a Christian who has been liberated from some sin that had caused them for a time to stray from their faith. It is likely that we all know someone like this - a believer who has wandered from the fold, enticed by a particular sin, and has needed redemption from it. Perhaps we can identify with this waywardness personally.
The redemption parables seek to highlight the great joy that erupts in Heaven whenever a person is redeemed. Redemption brings much delight to God Almighty and results in cheerful celebration in heavenly places. Today we will focus on the first 2 of these 3 stories, and will discuss the third one next Sunday.
I. THE PARABLE OF THE LOST SHEEP - Matthew 18:12-13; Luke 15:3-6
The Parable of the Lost Sheep is also frequently called The Parable of the Good Shepherd. It is found in both Matthew and Luke. In Matthew, Jesus seems to direct the story at His disciples while teaching and preaching in Capernaum. In Luke however, Jesus uses the parable while traveling through Judea to confront the grumbling disdain of the Pharisees and scribes. On both occasions, the story is told in the same way.
The parable tells of a shepherd who tends a flock of 100 sheep. When he discovers that 1 of the sheep is missing, the good shepherd leaves the 99 in order to go and find it. If and when the lost sheep is found, the shepherd rejoices with his friends and neighbors because it has be recovered.
In this parable, the shepherd represents Jesus. In John’s gospel, Jesus actually identifies and describes Himself as the Good Shepherd who “lays down His life for His sheep”. The lost sheep can represent an unsaved sinner or a wayward believer. Jesus is so burdened by the lostness of His sheep that He lovingly and sacrificially pursues them. The friends and neighbors represent others in Heaven (such as angels), with whom Jesus rejoices after rescuing or recovering a lost sheep. Theses characters are made clear in Jesus’ brief explanation following the parable.
This story amplifies the incredible joy that Jesus takes in the redemption of sinners and/or in the return of believers who’ve gone astray. It also demonstrates His unwillingness to just cut us loose, let us go, or give up on us. Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost, and we should be encouraged to know that He faithfully chases after us whenever we stray. The Lord never forgets about us, even when we wander away. And He rejoices whenever we are found.
This parable has often be misused when discussing evangelism. Some have suggested that Christians, particularly pastors, should elevate the needs of the 1 lost sheep above those of the other 99. In other words, finding the missing sheep is of paramount importance and justifies the neglect of the remaining flock. Such an interpretation is absurd, as one of the major roles of the pastor is to lead and care for his congregation. While we should always seek to lead the lost to Christ and likewise prayerfully strive to restore an erring brother to the fold, we should never abandon or minimize the care and fellowship of the righteous.
II. THE PARABLE OF THE LOST COIN - Luke 15:8-9
The Parable of the Lost Coin is written only in the book of Luke. It immediately follows The Parable of the Lost Sheep and the two stories share the same meaning. It was told in the same setting and was addressed to some scribes and Pharisees who were angry with Jesus for dining with sinners. They expected someone of Jesus’ stature to shun the lowly tax collectors and sinners and to associate instead with more “righteous” people like themselves.
The main character in this story is a woman who is keeping house. She has ten coins, but discovers that one is lost. Therefore, she lights a lamp and sweeps the floor carefully searching everywhere for the missing coin. When she finds it, the woman calls together her friends and neighbors to celebrate its recovery.
Some Bible scholars have suggested that the 10 coins were the woman’s dowry, which were being worn as an ornament or piece of jewelry. If so, 1 of the coins must have fallen off and got lost. Others scholars state that these 10 coins were the family’s savings, and somehow one went missing. Either way, for this poor woman it was a significant loss and led to a diligent search. For her, finding the lost coin was a cause for great joy.
Similar to the previous parable, in this illustration it is the woman who represents Jesus. The lost coin represents an unrepentant sinner or perhaps a rebellious believer. The friends and neighbors are those who rejoice with Jesus in Heaven, like the angels, after the coin is found. Again, Jesus provides a brief interpretation following the story.
Just as He did with the parables of the Mustard Seed and Leaven which we discussed earlier in this series, Jesus again tells two similar parables back to back with one featuring a male character and the other a female character. The first illustration speaks of a shepherd and the second a housekeeper. By doing this, He relates to and captures the interest of all of His listeners - men and women alike.
The primary emphasis of this parable is on the aftermath of the discovery. The rejoicing of women and her friends after finding the lost coin is likened to that of Jesus and the angels in Heaven after the redemption of a lost person. The parable is not necessarily a lesson about evangelism.
These are the first 2 in a sequence of 3 parables that Jesus spoke about redemption. They were directed toward a group of scribes and Pharisees who were mad at Jesus for eating with sinners. As Jesus spoke these parables, these pious leaders surely identified themselves with the 99 sheep and the 9 coins. Certainly they were not the lost ones, right? Imagine their surprise when Jesus declared that He found more joy in the recovery of the lost than in the others. What a strong rebuke!
These parables are not teaching that Jesus finds no or less pleasure in the faithful dedication of the righteous. On the contrary, living obediently for God day after day, walking closely with Him, and remaining in intimate fellowship brings Him continual pleasure. In other words, the Lord also delights in the 99 sheep and the 9 coins. These parables never attempt to undermine this truth. However, their focus in on that 1 which it lost and the joy that comes with redemption.
Next week we will study the third and final parable about redemption. It is, arguably, the most famous parable that Jesus ever spoke. Until then, may I ask if perhaps today you are the lost sheep or the lost coin? If so, can you hear the Good Shepherd calling out as He searches for you? Can you sense the frantic women looking everywhere trying to find you? It is Jesus, and He is desperately chasing you. Won’t you make yourself known to Him today and be found, forgiven, and freed?