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The Heart of the Father, Part 3

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Luke 15:10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents. 

In the last two blogs, we've been looking at the the Parable of the Lost Sheep, or as I call it, the Parable of the Searching Father. Now today I want to look at the parable that is recorded immediately after it: The Lost Coin. 

On first sight, the parable seems to be telling the same story. Something gets lost, then someone finds what was lost. And then there is great rejoicing. And then Jesus says that "that's what heaven is like when one sinner repents. There's a great party!"

However, after taking a closer look at this parable, I did realize that there are some distinct differences. First of all, in the first parable, the sheep actively goes out. The sheep that gets lost wanders off, due to its nature. (Isaiah 53:6 makes it clear that it's the nature of sheep to get lost. That's what sheep do if left by themselves!) In this second parable, the coin doesn't get lost because of its own nature. The woman of the house actually lost it.

The second major difference: The sheep gets lost outside the house. The coin gets lost inside the house. As we will see in the next parable, the tax collectors and sinners are the lost ones outside the religious system (represented by the younger brother). The religious leaders at the time are the ones who stay in the house, but are equally lost (represented by the older brother). 

We know that Jesus is talking to these two groups of people. And I am convicted that Jesus talked directly to and about these two people groups when he used these parables. And that is why I believe that the lost sheep is referring to the tax collectors and sinners. This second parable is referring to the religious leaders: Those who got lost within the religious system of the time.

Let's look at the coin. The Greek word behind the coin is the word δραχμη (drachme drakh-may). It was probably not "just a coin". Some scolars believe that this lost coin was actually the headpiece of a set. The women of the house in those days wore this set of coins as a symbol of their covenant relationship with God. It wasn't about the monetary value of the coin. It was about the symbolic value of their relationship with God.

Maybe it could be compared a little bit with us today losing our wedding band. For many, it's easy to buy a new one, the monetary value might not be that much of the issue. But the symbolic value of it is a total different thing. I know that I have been wearing the same ring on the same finger since Dec. 30th 2006. And it would be a disaster for me to lose this exact ring. If I ever had to replace it, it just wouldn't be the same any longer. And I would be reminded of my loss ever single day when I look at my ring. 

And maybe that's a little bit of the feeling that Jesus is trying to communicate when He is telling this parable. It's not about the monetary value of the coin. It's about the loss of the symbolic value that this woman experiences. 

So the woman loses the coin, and then she does whatever it takes to find the coin again. And when she found it, she rejoices over that coin that she found again. Like the shepherd does over his lost sheep. And Jesus' conclusion is again that "finding the coin in this parable is like one sinner who repents". And heaven rejoices.

I personally believe that this parable is targeting direclty the religious leaders. Those who are lost "in the house". The parable of the two sons makes it clear that Jesus considers the religious leaders at the time as those who are lost in the house. And so I believe that Jesus is talking about them.

But I have to be honest: I don't understand all the details yet. If the coin gets lost, then what about the woman? Who is she? You can make an argument that she represents "the angels of God". After all, the woman rejoices when she finds the coin. Then Jesus says that "just like the woman rejoices, so the angels of God rejoice". So you can make an argument that the women in this parable represents the angels who are doing everything they can to lead the religious leaders of the time to repentance. But I doubt. Because then the angels would have made a mistake by allowing to lose a sinner. So I personally much rather believe that the angels are "the friends of the woman" who are rejoicing. From the text that's just as legitimate.

Then does the woman again represent the religious leaders at the time? Could be. The parable clearly states that "the woman lost the coin" (v. 8). The coin cannot get lost by itself. A coin is passive, doesn't make its own decisions. Maybe Jesus is rebuking the religious leaders again. In the first parable, Jesus was saying: "This is how shepherds work. So you guys, you religious leaders: This is what you ought to do! Instead of excluding those that you call 'sinners', you should go out and look for them and bring them back in!" (Check out Part 1 for more details)

And maybe Jesus is doing the same here again. Remember what Jesus once said to them, in a different context?

Matthew 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. 

In this context, Jesus accuses the religious leaders of losing the people under their care. They lead the people astray. Now the regular people at the time did not have opportunities like we have today. They didn't have internet. They couldn't read their own Bible. Most of them couldn't even read. All they could do was to listen to their shepherds, and trust that their shepherds were telling them the truth. Ordinary people had no way of discerning, verifying what has been taught.

So in a sense, they were like coins. The religious leaders at the time could do pretty much whatever they wanted to do with them. They had them in their hands. They could lead them the right way or the wrong way. The leaders had the power, and the responsibility. The people were like coins. Without a real ability to take charge of their own destiny. All they could do was follow the religious system. And trust their leaders. Unfortunately, in Jesus' times, the religious leaders led most people astray.

Maybe, maybe, maybe that's what Jesus was getting at here. Maybe the coin represents the "orginary people". And maybe Jesus is telling the religious leaders once again: "You guys have gathered so many people under your leadership. They go to the synagogues, you teach them,... But don't you see that they are lost, even within the house? Now, here's your responsibility: Search them out, find them, and bring them back to life. Bring them back to the Father. Bring them back to me. I'm longing for them. But you lost them for me. In the house! Within the religious system that you set up!"

As I said, I don't fully understand this parable. But this is how I understand it today. If you have a better explanation, please feel free to leave your comments below. I'd love to hear from you, if you can help with some more understanding.

But whether this is exactly what Jesus meant in this parable or not, the point I am trying to make is definitely valid. Because that's what Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for over and over again throughout the gospels. Jesus accused them of leading them astray within the religious system that was supposed to lead people towards God! But in reality, the religious leaders at the time did exactly the opposite!

 

So what about us? Are you leading others to God? To the God of heaven? Are you truly presenting this Father for who He is? Are you communicating His heart of love, His longing for lost people, His desire to have a personal love relationship with every single person?

Or are you communicating a false image of God? Do people you lead hear that God hates sinners? Do they hear that you have to meet a certain standard to be accepted by God? Do people feel excluded because of the high demands of the law that you put on them?

It's a serious question. When we call ourselves Christians, we need to take this calling VERY seriously. Whether you are a church leader or not, every Christian is an Ambassador of Christ. People will take very seriously what you say about God, about who He is, and about what it means to be a Christian. 

Are you like Jesus? Are you throwing open an invitation to everyone? Do people know they are welcome in Jesus' kingdom? Or do they feel the opposite?

Keep this in mind next time you talk about God to someone else. Cause I certainly don't want to meet God and have Him tell me: "You were like the Pharisees. You excluded someone else from coming into heaven, with all your rules, regulations and false representation of me!" Neither do you.

Instead, I want Him to say to me: "You have been Faithful. Come and share the Father's joy!" Let's all be faithful Ambassadors of the king of heaven! And share in His joy when there is one sinner who repents! EVERY sinner who repents!



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