LUKE15v8to10: THE LOST COIN

(A) Introduction. (Read the passages.)

The parable of the lost coin is one of three told by Jesus in response to the Pharisees muttering about the company he kept - tax collectors and "sinners". It deals with the motivation behind Jesus' mission here on earth; to seek and to save the lost. In just a few words it reminds us of what should be the prime aim of every Christian's ministry.

Jesus tells a very simple story and it demands a very straightforward exposition.

(B) Why did the woman search for her coin?

(1) She expected to find it.
The woman knew where the coin was lost - in her own home. It is unlikely that she would have searched so diligently if she had no idea where her silver piece had been lost.

We are all like the woman. I have hundreds of books in my study double stacked on shelves. I used to arrange them systematically but with the passage of time books have just been squeezed in to every available space. As a consequence books get lost! But I know that the volume I need is there somewhere so I search for it.

I even lost my false teeth on one occasion. I was travelling across France when I realised that I had lost them. I knew exactly where they were in France - by the spot along the Marne canal where I had been violently sick. My friend turned the car round and we turned back for me to find them.

Jesus knew where to find the lost - amongst tax collectors and "sinners" - the marginalized, disgraced and rejected. Amongst the dross of humanity he found Matthew, Zacchaeus and Mary Magdalene.

Jesus has not lost the knack of finding the lost. He uses his disciples to find them amongst the travelling community of Britain, the low caste of India and the oppressed in China. He finds the lost in prison. A few weeks ago I watched a Songs of Praise from South Africa. A pretty robust woman was seeking the lost with great success in that country's toughest prison. Jesus still does not seek the lost amongst the righteous. He'll find nothing of sterling worth there.

(2) It belonged to her.
We never search very enthusiastically for what belongs to someone else. Nearly thirty years ago I was conducting a Geography field trip in West Cumbria. I set my pupils to do a survey and they persuaded me to buy them each a daily paper in Cleator Moor. It was a cold windy day and Cleator Moor is one of the bleakest spots in the whole of England. As I walked out of the newsagents with a pile of newspapers and my wallet perched on top a gust of wind caught one of the papers. Several newspapers took off and so did my wallet. It hit the pavement with a thud and 5 and 10 notes flew in all directions. Now if this had happened to someone else I might have been mildly amused and gone on my way without a care. However, it was my money that was lost. I spent a long time searching for fivers and tenners in back gardens and allotments. I found them in all sorts of unlikely places - gooseberry bushes and clumps of rhubarb. The money belonged to me and I looked hard for it notwithstanding the curiosity my activity aroused.

Men and women belong to Jesus. John wrote: Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. John1v3and4. We are made to Christ's design. We bear the very image of God our maker. That is why the triune God is so anxious to recover the lost. We are the product of God's creative genius and the Creator hates to see his work going to waste.

(3) She earned it.
The silver coin of the parable was a labouring man's daily wage. It would have taken a woman several days to earn it spinning yarn, weaving cloth or basket making.

It is not easy to abandon what has been hard earned. A footballer would search long and earnestly if he mislaid a World Cup medal. An old soldier would ransack the house to find a missing Victoria Cross. Both are highly valued because of what they cost.

Jesus has earned the right to possess every one of us. He laid down his life for the lost. He willingly sacrificed his life to make peace between us and God the Father. You and I should be his trophies. Paul writes to the Christians at Corinth: You are not your own; you were bought with a price. 1Cor6v19.

(3) It was of potential use.
The silver coin was of no value lost. It could do no good buried in the dust and rushes of the cottage floor. In the hand of the woman that self same coin could provide a meal for her family, purchase a piece of cloth or new sandels for his daughter's feet.

One afternoon at the end of school I felt in my pocket for my car and house keys. Gone! I searched all my pockets, my desk, the staff room, my car and every conceivable place and then I searched them all again. My keys were of little intrinsic value but they were immensely useful to me. I needed them to get home and into my house. Eventually I found those keys at the bottom of a box of blackboard chalk where a malicious pupil had hidden them.

My distress was as nothing compared to that of Laura Ingalls Wilder at the loss of a hundred dollar bill. Rose Wilder Lane tells the story in her book, 'On the Way Home.' In July 1894 her parents travelled from De Smet in South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, to start a new life growing apples in the Ozark hills. Eventually Almanzo found just the farm they wanted. It was then that Laura looked in her writing desk for their hundred dollar bill. It was gone. Without that money the Wilders could not buy the farm. Their plans and hopes were in ruins. One small piece of paper - useless lost; life changing found.

Lost men and women are no use to God. He can do nothing with them. But let a lost soul come into Christ's possession and it is remarkable what he can achieve through them. We only have to think of Saul of Tarsus and other heroes of the faith to see what happens when God's currency is put to work. God puts every Christian, however humble, to good use.

(5) It may have been very precious to her.
The one lost coin may have been part of a necklace of ten coins worn by the woman to show that she was married. The necklace was then the equivalent of a wedding ring. So long as one coin was lost her necklace was sadly incomplete.

A woman will spend a long time searching for a lost wedding ring because it is precious to her. It is valued because of its associations and significance.

We are precious to Jesus. He would hardly have gone to Calvary and laid down his life a ransom for sin if we were not precious to him.

One of my father's favourite hymns was:

            When he cometh, when he cometh
            To make up His jewels,
            All his jewels, precious jewels,
            His loved and his own.

            Like the stars of the morning
            His bright crown adorning;
            They shall shine in their beauty
            Bright gems for his crown.

Every lost soul is a potential jewel in Christ's crown. One day all the saved will shine in their beauty.

            What a gath'ring! What a gath'ring
            Of the ransomed in that happy home above.

(C) How does the woman search for her lost coin?

(1) She lights a lamp.
The houses in Palestine were very dark. Most had only one small circular window that admitted but little light. So the woman lights her lamp hoping to see the answering glint of precious metal in its warm glow. Perhaps the gleam of polished silver would catch her eye.

God's word of truth is very like the woman's lamp. It searches the lost sinner out. Over and over again a verse or two of Scripture has been used to recover the lost. In the nineteenth century the London brewer, Frederick Charrington, was urged by a friend to read John3. The words: He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him; (John3v36. AV.) bought him life and liberty.

(2) She gets out her broom.
The woman swept away the rushes, dirt and dust that hid her coin from view. Perhaps she hoped to hear the ring of metal upon the stone floor of her dwelling.

Many folk are lost amongst the cares, distractions, duties, obligations and pleasures of life. So God will take up his broom to brush away the world's detritus. Changing circumstances expose a man or woman to the searching gaze of God their maker and Christ their Saviour. Illness, a tragic accident, the break up of a marriage, an unexpected redundancy or a sudden bereavement may leave a person open and vulnerable to the love of God. Mr Will White, the Brockley baker, only became a Christian in his late seventies on the death of his wife. It was then he began to attend our little chapel and eventually responded to the glorious gospel light.

There have been periods in history when churches gather dust. Churches can become moribund - stagnating slowly as nominal Christians go through the motions of worship. In dusty churches there are many lost coins waiting to be found. God gets out his broom and send in his Spirit to stir up the dust. How the dust flies. There is a good deal of choking and spluttering. Some folk get dust in their eyes and see very little. However, others see themselves for what they are - lost to God and turn to Jesus for salvation. In the nineteenth century Charles Finney was used by the Holy Spirit to stir up many Calvinistic churches in the NE U.S.A and breath new life into dying causes.

(3) She was thorough in her search.
The woman searched carefully for her lost coin. There was nothing perfunctory about her search. When I was a boy if we lost our cricket ball while playing on the village green we searched long and hard for it because it was the only ball we had. Today if one of the lads practising at Brockley Cricket Club's ground hits a ball in the ditch the bowler will go and knock down three nettles and then give up. He conducts a token search!

There was nothing slapdash about the way Jesus searched for lost souls when he was here upon earth. He must needs go through Samaria where he found one sinful woman at a well and bought her into his Kingdom. He still searches carefully by his Spirit. God is not willing that any should remain lost and perish.

(4) She searched with perseverance.
The woman searched until she finds it. Such is the woman's attachment to her silver coin that she persisted in her search until successful. She was determined to find it.

This is how Rose Wilder Lane described her parents' search for the missing hundred dollar bill:
They took every sheet of writing paper out of the desk and shook it; they took each letter out of its envelope, unfolded it, looked into the empty envelope. They turned the desk upside down and shook it, the felt covered inside lids flapping. ....

Finally my mother said, "Well." She meant: No use crying over spilled milk. What can't be cured must be endured.

But that was not the end of the search! Over and over again Laura Ingalls Wilder returned to the old desk until at last she found the hundred dollar bill. It had worked its way into a crack in the desk where for so long it remained hidden from view.

Jesus is determined by his Spirit to recover the lost. He perseveres in his search and it is just as well for some of us that he does otherwise many would never would be found and saved.

I love the words of the poem by Frances Thompson entitled, 'The Hound of Heaven:'

          I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
          I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
          I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
          Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
          I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
          Up vistaed hopes I sped;
          And shot, precipitated,
          Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
          From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
          But with unhurrying chase,
          And unperturbed pace,
          Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
          They beat - and a Voice beat
          More instant than the Feet -
          "All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."

(D) What was the woman's response to finding her lost coin.

She rejoices - she calls her friends and neighbours together to celebrate together because she says, "I have found my lost coin." Jesus said, "I tell you there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents."

When sinners repent they finally reject what keeps them from God. There are many things that keep us from God. It may be the desire to live our own way, a satisfaction with the way we are, a 'can't be bothered' attitude, the fear of losing out or even the tendency to procrastinate. Whatever it is it has to be rejected.

Repentance is active. It does whatever brings us to God. That means turning to Jesus for help; relying upon him and his saving work.

Then God is glad - God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit rejoice as a lost son or daughter returns home. But God is not glad alone. The very angels in heaven are glad. Nothing cheers a Christian's heart like a lost soul coming to God through Christ the Son.

Jesus told this parable to motivate his followers to do all they could to recover lost souls and to bring them into the possession of the Lord Jesus Christ who died to redeem them. If ever we lose our passion to win others for Jesus we are drifting away from our Master and moving out of the will of God our Father.

ANY COMMENTS FOR JOHN REED: E-mail jfmreed@talktalk.net

INDEX