The Gospel of Luke - Part 67: The Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin — Luke 15:1-10
(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)


In our latest look at Luke, we considered the cost of true discipleship, and the requirement for commitment. We learned from the failed Franklin Expedition the necessity of careful calculation.

This week, we begin in Chapter 15 where Jesus uses three parables to illustrate the value of reaching lost people.
Today:   Introduction(15:1-2)
A.   The Lost Sheep  (15:3-7)
B.   The Lost Coin(15:8-10)
Next Week:   C.   The Lost Son(15:11-31)

Have you ever been lost?

Have you ever been lost and for awhile you didn’t know it?

We’ve all seen stories on TV and read in the newspaper about Search and Rescue Teams. Search and rescue personnel risk their lives in tumultuous seas, deep forests, remote mountains, and desert wastelands. Wherever they’re needed they go. When called, they respond, because lives are in danger.

A Search and Rescue Team in Colorado puts it this way: “Our objective is to find and rescue lost or injured people before it is too late. We are dedicated to saving lives.” The Search and Rescue Team motto is: “This we do so others may live.” —Ted De Hass, Bedford, Iowa

Jesus has left His followers on earth to be His Search & Rescue Team, didn’t He? He expects us to follow His own example.

Remember, Jesus said that it was this truth that was His primary purpose for coming to earth — “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10). This chapter may be the best passage in the Bible to help us appreciate and be motivated by the fact that those without Christ are really lost.

Introduction (15:1-2):

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Him. —Luke 15:1
Notice who is most responsive to Jesus’ message — not the religious people but the irreligious. The religious people had no sense of their need for a Savior.

tax collectors — “a person employed ... to collect taxes on behalf of the Roman government. Tax collectors were scorned in Jesus’ time because they served the interests of the Romans and because they frequently charged much more than was due (Luke 3:12-13, 19:8). Considering the oppressive taxes levied in Judea and Galilee, it is no wonder that tax collectors were despised. Moreover, because tax collectors had repeated contact with Gentiles [non-Jews], they were regarded as ceremonially unclean and classified among the worst sinners.” (Revell Bible Dictionary).

“In Jewish culture they were anathematized because they were turncoat Jews who had sold their souls to buy Roman tax-gathering franchises so they could prey on their fellow Jews. They were loathed in every way. Synagogues would not accept their alms. Their testimony was not received in Jewish courts. They were held to be worse than heathen.” (Hughes)

sinners — “Jews regarded Gentiles as sinners (Gal. 2:15) as also people who did not keep the tradition of the Pharisees, including Jesus (Matt. 11:19)” (Holman Bible Dictionary).

So the word is used in different ways by different people. Jesus made it clear that all people are equally sinful (Lk. 13:1-5). But for the Jews, especially the Pharisees, "sinners" included those who did not observe their traditions as well as those who did not obey God’s Word.

Note: Christians today often fall into the same trap, expecting all believers to follow their convictions even when their conviction goes beyond what the Bible says. Does the Bible prohibit dancing? Does the Bible forbid all drinking? Does the Bible condemn smoking (Is smoking any more harmful to the body than a high cholesterol diet?)? We need to be sure that our convictions are rooted in Scripture and not simply in the traditions of our churches.

Why do you think the “sinners” were more receptive to Jesus than the religious people of His day?

But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” —Luke 15:2
The Jews considered Jesus guilty by association — only a sinner would associate with sinners. Jews, especially the Pharisees, were careful to avoid any contact or unnecessary association with “sinners”. The rabbinic commentary notes a rule that “a person should not associate with the godless” and points out that rabbis would not associate with such a person, even to teach him the law. (Midrash Mek. Amelek 3). Even today we talk about “the bad apple spoiling the batch” and that we become like our friends. Hence it is not surprising that the Pharisees saw “sinners” as people to despise and avoid; the Lord sees us as people to love and to save. This was a repeated criticism of Jesus throughout His ministry. In Luke 7:34, Jesus is called “a friend of sinners”.

Application: Just as Jesus was a Friend of sinners, so we as His disciples should be friends of sinners. The Lord expects us to be reaching out, building relationships with lost people to help draw them to the Lord. This means striking a delicate balance in our lives between two truths:

  1. I need to be careful of people who are pulling me away from Christ, who are influencing me into disobedience. If someone is pulling me away from the Lord rather than me drawing them nearer to the Lord, I may need to distance myself somewhat from that person.
    He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. —Proverbs 13:20

    Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” —1 Corinthians 15:33
  2. I need to be continually reaching out and building relationships with non-Christians.
    For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. —Luke 19:10
For Discussion: In response to the heartlessness of these Pharisees, Jesus tells three stories to demonstrate the heart of God, that He finds joy when a sinner is reclaimed: We will look at two of these parables this morning.

A.   The Lost Sheep — (15:3-7)
        Parallel Passage: Matthew 18:12-14

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not 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.” —Luke 15:3-7
As was discussed in Chapter 14, Jesus told lots of stories. He used stories to illustrate spiritual truths in terms that people could more easily understand.
That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight...” —Matthew 13:13, [The Message]
What are some thoughts from this parable that stand out to you?

Verse 4: Does he not leave the ninety-nine ... and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?

This story is not intended to imply that the saved should be neglected for the sake of the lost. Jesus is just emphasizing the importance of “going after” the lost. Implied by the story is that the “ninety-nine" are left in a place of safety.

1.   The Principle of Awareness:

The shepherd has to keep track of his sheep. He has to recognize that one is missing, lost. Do we believe that those without Christ are really lost?

A survey of Americans taken in 1992 showed that 29% of people who said they were born again Christians stated that they believed that all good people will go to heaven, whether they have received Christ or not. Another 11% said they didn’t know (The Barna Report, 1992-93, p.50). This means that 40% of people who say they are born again Christians (not simply church goers) don’t understand that those without Christ are really lost.

Jesus clearly taught that being a good person wasn’t enough, as did His disciples:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” —John 14:6
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. —Acts 4:12
Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ ... without hope and without God in the world. —Ephesians 2:12
Do we really believe that our friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members who don’t know the Lord are lost?

Note:   Part of being lost is that you don’t know where you are and don’t know how to find your way back! Christians today often seem to expect those who are lost to find their own way home. If they could find their way, they wouldn’t be lost! What does a lost person need? He/she needs someone to search for them and find them.

2.   The Principle of Initiative:

The shepherd doesn’t just wait around, hoping that the lost sheep will come back. The shepherd goes in search of the lost sheep (verse 4).

Note:   One of the great and subtle dangers facing Christian churches and ministries is that they get preoccupied with taking care of the “99" and forget about their responsibility to seek out the lost sheep. After all, taking care of the saved is a full time job! But Jesus left the 99 to seek out the one.

In the same way, the Lord took the initiative by coming to earth and communicating His message. Remember Luke 19:10 —   “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

As His disciples, we also need to be taking the initiative. Over and over again, Jesus told His disciples to go:

What are some specific ways we can take the initiative in helping others come to faith in Christ? Verse 7   ...there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.

We’ll talk more about joy in the second story since it is mentioned there also. When Jesus speaks of “99 righteous persons who do not need to repent”, He is describing the way the Pharisees saw themselves.

They weren’t really righteous.   They needed to repent and turn to the Lord as much as any tax collector or “sinner”. But they saw themselves as righteous. The same thing is true of a lot of people who have grown up going to church. They think they’re a Christian because they “always believed”.

In fact, don’t most people, when asked, described themselves as “a good person”?


When He [the Holy Spirit] comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment. —John 16:8
The Holy Spirit must work in the heart of a person to convict a person of their sinfulness. The Spirit of God often uses the Word of God in this process. So what can we do?
  1. We can pray for those we know who are lost, that the Spirit will do His convicting work in their hearts and that they will turn to the Lord.
  2. We can look for ways to get them in the Bible. They may not be willing to do a Bible study but often are willing to read the Bible together and discuss what it means.

B.   The Lost Coin — (15:8-10)

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not 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.” —Luke 15:8-10

Verse 8: —Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one.

silver coin — The Greek word is δραχμα [drachma] — a Greek silver coin which equaled about a day’s wages (Bible Knowledge Commentary);

1.   The Principle of Perseverance / Diligence:

In verse 8, notice how much trouble the woman goes to in order to find the coin —  lighting a lamp, sweeping the house, and searching carefully.

We aren’t going to reach the lost without consistent, focused effort. As a church, we aren’t going to really impact the lost world around us if we are preoccupied with our own needs and interests. Paul demonstrated his commitment to this principle throughout his ministry:

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. —1 Corinthians 9:19-23

The secret is simply this — Christ in you, your only hope of glory. So naturally we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meeting and we teach everyone we can all that we know about Him. This is what I am working at all the time with all the strength that God gives me. —Colossians 1:27-29 [Phillips Paraphrase]
2.   The Principle of Joy:

Seeing lost people found brings great joy to the Lord. Seeing His people follow His example of seeking lost people also brings great joy to the Lord.

This work isn’t just reserved for pastors, evangelists and missionaries. The Lord’s plan is that every one of His followers be involved in His work of reaching those without Christ. And we need to understand that what brings Him joy will also bring us joy!

This principle of joy is illustrated in all three stories:

In Chapter 13, we asked the question, “What are some indicators of what is really important to you?”. One indicator is what brings you joy. Seeking people out and seeing them repent and believe is what brought joy to the Lord. If you’ve never had the opportunity to be part of the process of someone coming to faith in Christ, you’ve missed a wonderful experience of joy!


If we really believe people are lost, shouldn’t we be part of God’s Search and Rescue Team?

On July 4, 1854, Charlie Peace, a well-known criminal in London, was hanged. The Anglican Church, which had a ceremony for everything, even had a ceremony for hanging people. So when Charlie Peace was marched to the gallows, a priest read these words from the Prayer Book: "Those who die without Christ experience hell, which is the pain of forever dying without the release which death itself can bring."

When these chilling words were read, Charlie Peace stopped in his tracks, turned to the priest, and shouted in his face, "Do you believe that? Do you believe that?" The priest, taken aback by this verbal assault, stammered for a moment then said, "Well…I…suppose I do." "Well, I don't," said Charlie. "But if I did, I'd get down on my hands and knees and crawl all over Great Britain, even if it were paved with pieces of broken glass, if I could rescue one person from what you just told me.” — Tony Campolo, “Let me tell you a story" (Word, 2000)

In his hymn, “Amazing Grace”, John Newton wrote,

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me;
      I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

Both Christians and non-Christians have an urgent need to recognize the lost condition of those without Christ.


Next Week: The Lost Son