Parables of Lostness
Reflections on Luke 15 - PART 1
How many of us are constantly losing or misplacing things? You never notice that something is not lost until you need it and it’s always in the last place you look! Have you ever noticed the intensity with which you will search for an inanimate object when you need it? Your wallet, your phone, your keys, a document, an address, a pair of socks or earrings. When you need it, you need it now and if time is running out, finding that thing is the highest priority in your life at that moment.
Believe it or not, God knows what all of this feels like on a much grander scale. God is searching for something—but not because he can’t remember where he left it. He knows where it is. He’s searching for you. But the only way that He can find you and bring you home is for you to recognize that you need to be found, that you are lost and need direction.
In Luke 15 we see a series of three parables in response to the criticism of the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus received unbelieving sinners and even ate with them. Evidently, His love and vulnerability attracted lost people from all classes and lifestyles. These were people who had no regard for the Torah or for religious traditions. Jesus had made it clear that He came to save people like this, not self-righteous people (Luke 5:27-32; 14:21-24). Seeing the many needy people around Him who were lost and recognizing the criticism coming from the religious establishment who were also lost, Jesus told three “Parables of Lostness.” He talked about lost sheep who needed a shepherd; about a lost coin that had value and needed to be put into circulation; about lost sons who needed to be in fellowship with the Father. There are three very revealing movements in this little story that packs a big punch. We will explore 2 of them in this first part and the last one will be explored in the next instalment.
1. We get Lost (v8)
Something of great financial and emotional value was lost. But do not miss the fact that it was lost in an everyday place; it was lost at home. The story of the lost sheep tells us that the sheep had wandered away from the safety of home and the fold and the shepherd had to leave the ninety and nine to go out and find it. However, the value of this illustration is that the coin was lost at home where you would not expect to lose things. This coin did not wander off. It was in the place of apparent safety. Nevertheless, it was lost -- probably through carelessness or inattentiveness of the owner. Regardless of the reasons, the woman is unaware that the coin is lost until suddenly she discovers that it is gone. When she realises that the coin is missing, she is stirred into a flurry of activity to recover it because it is of extreme valuable to her.
The focus of this parable is that through apparent neglect and inattentiveness, something very valuable was lost at home. The coin was made for the neck of the woman or to be used to help her family. It was shaped and embossed and given its setting for a place of poise and dignity. There could scarcely be a bigger difference than between where the coin was on the floor in the dirt and where it was meant to be.
There are millions like this today in homes across the land. We have raised them in our homes. We have brought them to church. But, as they grew up, we never attended their ball games. We never pursued their questions about God that they asked during the day. We were inattentive when all they wanted was just a little bit of our time to tell us a story. We never held them close and prayed out loud asking our heavenly Father’s hand to bring them a blessing. We never let them see the importance of the spiritual dimension of life. We never cultivated the importance of becoming a student of their personalities and ways. Consequently, they are lost -- and they are lost at home.
2. God comes to find us (v8)
The second movement of our story takes us immediately into the efforts of this woman to find what was lost. She launched upon a remarkable campaign. When she grasped that this valuable coin was lost, she went into action. Her activity in this story reveals the heart concern of God for people who are lost like this. God’s heart moves out to them.
The woman did three things, which are extremely important. What I love about this flurry of activity is that it pictures God at work to reclaim the lost. Salvation is about God finding us. We see the Holy Spirit in this story. The religions of the world are about man finding God through his own efforts, but not here!
First, she lit a lamp. Lighting a lamp would illuminate the darkened corners where the coin may have fallen. Typically, middle eastern homes in this era were dark, having only one window.
Second, this woman swept the house. In those days it was customary to spread straw on the floor. Usually the floors were earthen and, to have something soft underfoot, straw was spread. A coin falling in it would naturally be difficult to find. So, the woman took a broom and swept up all the straw and therefore made it much more possible to find it.
The third thing this woman did was to search diligently. She lit a lamp; she swept the house; and she searched diligently. She thought about ways of finding this coin. She gave herself to this mission. She did not just look around a little in her spare time; she stopped everything, and she swept the house out. Foot by foot she went over the floor, searching for this lost coin -- it was that valuable to her. We can learn not to fall short of such effort when seeking the lost at home.
Tomorrow, we will look into Heaven Rejoicing as we conclude this article on the 'Parables of lostness.'