Jesus's Words

The Parables of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin

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Luke 15:4-10

Synopsis of Parable:

A man loses his sheep. A woman loses her coin. They each find their lost item. They then call their friends to celebrate.

Parable Given in Response to:

Jesus speaking to a crowd of "publicans and sinners"(Luke 15:1.) while the Pharisees mutter about him.(Luke 15:2.)

Symbolism Chart

Symbol Meaning Verse Found Verse Interpreted Notes
↓Man/Woman Jesus Man - Luke 15:4
Woman - Luke 15:8
Jesus did not interpret the meaning of the Man or Woman, and there is a good amount of leeway as to the interpretation.
↓Sheep/Silver Piece Followers of God Sheep - Luke 15:4
Silver Piece - Luke 15:8
Jesus did not interpret the meaning of the hundred sheep or ten silver pieces, and there is a small amount of leeway as to the interpretation.
↓Lost Sheep/Silver Piece Sinner Lost Sheep - Luke 15:5
Lost Silver Piece - Luke 15:9
Luke 15:7, 10
↓Found Sheep/Silver Piece Repentant Sinner Found Sheep - Luke 15:4
Found Silver Piece - Luke 15:8
Luke 15:7, 10
↓Friends and Neighbors Angelic Beings Luke 15:6, 9 Luke 15:7, 10
↓Rejoicing Rejoicement in Heaven Luke 15:6, 9 Luke 15:7, 10

The Parables of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coins

As presented in the King James Version of Luke 15:3-10.

Luke 15:3And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

Explanation of the Interpretation of Symbols

The Man and Woman are likely Jesus Back to Top ↑

Of the man, Jesus directly puts it to the audience. What man of you, having... Luke 15:4 Thus, it might initially seem that the man at least is one of the audience members. But it cannot be. If the man was just a contemporary member of the audience, then it would not make sense for Jesus to assume that they all have sheep, occasionally lose one, leave the other ninety-nine alone and vulnerable to wolves or thieves, and then hold a party when the sheep is found. That's not logical, but luckily, no one argues that the man is a contemporary of Jesus. Instead, most interpretations of the man and of the woman is that they represent Jesus or God.

It would make sense that he would be joyful when someone wanders away from him, and he finds them again. Likewise, it would make sense for the man and woman to represent Jesus, since it is Jesus who was sent unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Matthew 15:24 cf. Matthew 10:6 However, it does not really matter whether the man and woman represent God or Jesus. Since Jesus does the will of the Father,(John 5:30.) if one would rejoice over a repentant sinner, then so would the other. And in regard to lost people, Jesus says this: And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing... John 6:39 And Jesus says that: I and my Father are one. John 10:30

That God gives mercy to repentant sinners is well known.(Proverbs 28:13.) Jesus is much the same way, instructing people to repent repeatedly.(Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3, 5.) Even Jesus's forerunner, John the Baptist, instructed other to repent.(Matthew 3:2.) Accepting that the man and woman represent either God or Jesus should change nothing. Instead, it should be obvious to anyone who has read even a bit of the bible.

Group of Sheep and Silver Pieces are likely Followers of God

The sheep and the silver pieces are owned by the man and the woman, respectively. They are the ones who take care of the sheep or silver pieces, just as Jesus takes care of us as our shepherd.(John 10:11, 14; cf. Ezekiel 34:23.) And much like the sheep or silver pieces, we hang around our shepherd, either in the field he provides(John 10:9.) or perhaps in a pouch with the other silver pieces. Furthermore, followers of God also have the ability to both separate from God in sin,(Exodus 32:33; Isaiah 59:2.) and reconcile to God.(See again, Proverbs 28:13.)

There is no other logical representation for the sheep and silver pieces. The only thing lost, but then found, that originally belonged to God and Jesus, that they would then rejoice over, are people. God loves the world.(John 3:16, 17.) Even so, God hates those who have been separated from him in sin.(Psalm 5:5, 11:5; Proverbs 15:9; Zechariah 8:17 cf. Proverbs 13:5.) But yet he longs for us to be reconciled with him.(Isaiah 1:18, and yet again, Proverbs 28:13.) With no other logical interpretations, we know that the sheep and silver coins are followers of God.

Much like the man and woman, this interpretation should also be as obvious as water to those who have read even a small portion of the Bible.

The Lost Sheep and Lost Silver Piece are Sinners Back to Top ↑

As previously pointed out, sin separates people from God.(Exodus 32:32-33; Isaiah 59:2.) Those that become separated are not only hated by God,(See again, Psalm 5:5, 11:5; Proverbs 13:5, 15:9; Zechariah 8:17.) but even Jesus does not even know them.(Matthew 25:12; Luke 13:25, 27. Consider also that Jesus knew the righteous man Lazarus, but did not mention the sinful rich man's name in Luke 16:19-31. Instead, Jesus called him a certain rich man , implying that Jesus only knew about him.) The lost sheep and silver piece are completely lost, and could not find their way back to the man or woman on their own accord, just like people before Jesus came.(Amos 8:12.)

Jesus directly compares the lost sheep(Luke 15:7.) and the lost silver piece(Luke 15:10.) to sinners. It cannot be wrong then, that Jesus calls these people lost. As we will find out when we look at the next symbol, it is Jesus's job to search out these people. He said: For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke 19:10

There is nothing about the core of this interpretation that should be a surprise even to a skimmer of the gospels. This is all well-established theology in almost every sect of Christianity.

The Found Sheep and Found Silver Piece are repentant Sinners Back to Top ↑

Jesus directly compares the found sheep and the found silver coin to one sinner that repenteth Luke 15:7, 10 That is what the found items represent.

And it makes sense that Jesus would search for lost sinners. Jesus said: They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Mark 2:17, cf. Matthew 9:12, Luke 5:31 For Jesus, it is the will of God that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6:39, 40 He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Matthew 15:24 cf. Matthew 10:6 He searches diligently for them. That is why he says I am the good shepherd. John 10:14 See our article on the Parable of the Good Shepherd. He searches for the lost to bring them to the Kingdom of God.(Mark 1:15 cf. Matthew 4:17. Note also that Jesus speaks about 121 verses about the Kingdom of God.)

This is nothing new to Christianity. From the very beginning, God has wanted man to enjoy everlasting life.(Genesis 2:17.) But now that man has sinned, death is inevitable.(Genesis 3:19, Deuteronomy 24:16.) God still wants man to have life,(John 3:16.) even beyond human death.(Matthew 10:39; 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; 17:33.) That is why God sent Jesus.(John 3:16; 6:40.) But these people must be righteous(Deuteronomy 28:9, Isaiah 60:21; 62:12, Matthew 13:43; 25:46.) and care about God and his will more than the world and it's belongings.(Matthew 10:39; 12:49-50; 16:25-26; 19:23, 19:29; Mark 8:35-36; 10:25, 29-30; Luke 9:24-25; 12:22; 17:33; John 6:27; 12:25.) Even more so than a person's own family.(Matthew 10:34-37; Luke 14:26. See also Jesus disowning his own family in Matthew 12:46-50 or Mark 3:31-35. cf. Luke 8:19-21. Note also that Jesus is never recorded as calling Mary his "mother," but called her "woman." See John 2:4, John 19:26. Note one last verse, where Jesus denied Joseph his right as father by saying that being in the temple was his Father's business in Luke 2:49. Joseph had no business in the temple beyond standard Jewish duties.) To do so is to join the Kingdom of God, which Jesus preached about for most of his ministry. This is the gospel of the Kingdom, that He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Mark 16:15, 16

The Friends and Neighbors are Angelic Beings Back to Top ↑

Jesus says that the man and woman call their friends and neighbors to rejoice with them.(Luke 15:6, 9) Then he says regarding the man and his sheep that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth Luke 15:6 But who is it in heaven? Are there people, perhaps Jews or other saved people, or is it just the angelic host? While it is tough to rule out humans, Jesus compares the friends and neighbors of the woman and her silver piece rejoicing as joy in the presence of the angels of God. Luke 15:10 So while we cannot rule out humans, we believe that Jesus meant, as a whole, all the angelic beings.

This interpretation is correct, as it is exactly what Jesus said. However, what Jesus did not mention are humans.

It is out of the scope of this article to go in depth into the question of "do people go to heaven immediately when they die?" But theologians give many different answers regarding it. Some say that people do instantly go to heaven.(They point to: Luke 16:22 [claiming that Abraham's Bosom is heaven], Acts 7:55-60 [ignoring the last sentence].) Others say that in death people are unconscious (like sleeping)(They point to Job 14:12; Daniel 12:2; Psalm 13:3; John 3:13; 5:28, 29; 11:11, 13.) until the resurrection. Even others say that some go to purgatory.(They point to: Matthew 5:26 [ignoring context], Psalm 115:17 [ignoring context], Zechariah 9:11 [ignoring context].) While this parable does not point the answer definitively in either direction, based on the lack of humans it seems likely that people do not go to heaven, leading a small amount of credence to "soul-sleep," and some much needed credence to the idea of purgatory. Those that believe in the self-proclaimed apostle may find more verses supporting their desired beliefs, however.

The Rejoicing with Friends and Neighbors is Rejoicing in Heaven Back to Top ↑

Jesus said that rejoicing over finding a lost sheep or a lost silver piece is like the joy in heaven over a repenting sinner.(Luke15:6, 7, 9, 10.) This goes along with another of Jesus's statements: he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. John 4:36 This is clear cut, and there is no room for misinterpretation.

As shown in the explanations of the previous symbols, this is well-known, and there is no sect of Christianity that argues against this. There is nothing more to be said on this symbol.

In Conclusion Back to Top ↑

The fundamental lesson of this parable is obvious: God, Jesus, and all of heaven rejoice in joy when a sinner repents. This is a crucial teaching of the gospels, and one that is wonderfully demonstrated by Jesus via a parable. It is good for Jesus to explain to us not just complex parables, but also the simple ones, so that we can be more sure of our interpretations of other parables.

There is one other lesson, often overlooked, that we can learn here. What did the man do with the other ninety-nine sheep when he went to look for the lost one? He left them in the wilderness.(Luke 15:4.) Thus too does God leave us, symbolically, in the wilderness with just a warning. Jesus said Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Matthew 7:15 and Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. Matthew 10:16 Jesus also said to us, And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. Mark 13:13 Jesus will put us through troubles, and not by ignorance of God. Jesus said, I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. John 15:1, 2

Merely because we believe in Jesus to the exclusion of all else does not mean that we will not be left in the wilderness where even Jesus warns us that false promises of him may be lurking about.(Matthew 24:26.) We will still suffer as we try to bring more people to Jesus.

However, if we think about it logically, this should not be an issue. Most Christians strongly believe that after death they will be with Jesus forever. If that is the case, then what is sixty to one hundred years of pain, torture, poverty, hunger, illness, or abuse? For every second of that, there will be a million years of peace and joy with Jesus. Considering it morally, should not we do all we can to make everyone else's life the best they can have? We will die once and live twice, but they will live once and die twice. This awful life is their only life. Perhaps this is why Jesus stressed us to pray for our enemies,(Matthew 5:44.) bless them,(Luke 6:28.) provide for them in their evil,(Matthew 5:40.) and let them physically harm us.(Matthew 5:39, Luke 6:29.)

Jesus tells us to ignore our present life (See again Matthew 10:39; 12:49, 50; 15:25, 26; 16:26; 19:23, 19:29; Mark 8:35, 36, 36; 10:25, 29, 30; Luke 9:24, 25; 12:22; 17:33; John 6:27; 12:25. See also Psalms 36:16.) and to focus on heavenly things.(Matthew 6:20; 19:21.) We can bring nothing with us when we die. This earth and even heaven will pass away,(Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31.) and so will all out achievements. We can only leave behind a temporary path to Jesus and his words before heaven and earth pass away. Fear not though, Jesus says: Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. Luke 21:33 We can put our faith in him and his words.

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