Lost Sheep and Lost Coin Similes

& LOY 27 Comments

With the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes Jesus explained to his critics that he ate and drank with "sinners" because God rejoices when a person repents. God wants his friends—including Jesus and Jesus' critics—to join him in the celebration.

Matt. 18:10-14; Luke 15:3-10

(Huck 133, 172; Aland 169, 219, 220; Crook 188, 265, 266)[1]

Updated: 13 September 2022

וַיִּמְשׁוֹל לָהֶם אֶת הַמָּשָׁל הַזֶּה לֵאמֹר מִי אָדָם בָּכֶם שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ מֵאָה צֹאן וְנִדַּחַת אַחַת מֵהֶן הֲלֹא יַנִּיחַ אֶת הַתִּשְׁעִים וְתִשְׁעָה עַל הֶהָרִים וְיֵלֵךְ וִיבַקֵּשׁ אֶת הָאֹבֶדֶת עַד שֶׁיִּמְצָא אֹתָה וּכְשֶׁהוּא מוֹצֵא אֹתָה שָׂם עַל כְּתֵפוֹ בְּשִׂמְחָה וּבָא לְבֵיתוֹ וְקֹרֵא לְאוֹהֲבָיו וְלִקְרוֹבָיו לוֹמַר לָהֶם שִׂמְחוּ עִמִּי שֶׁמָּצָאתִי אֶת הַשֶּׂה שֶׁלִּי הָאֹבֶדֶת אָמֵן אֲנִי אֹמֵר לָכֶם כָּךְ יֵשׁ שִׂמְחָה בַּשָּׁמַיִם עַל רָשָׁע אֶחָד שֶׁעֹשֶׂה תְּשׁוּבָה מֵעַל תִּשְׁעִים וְתִשְׁעָה צַדִּיקִים שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם צוֹרֶךְ בִּתְשׁוּבָה

וּמִי אִישָׁה שֶׁיֵּשׁ לָה עֲשָׂרָה דִּינָרִים וְהִיא מְאַבֶּדֶת דִּינָר אֶחָד הֲלֹא תַּדְלִיק נֵר וּתְכַבֵּד אֶת הַבַּיִת וּתְבַקֵּשׁ עַד שֶׁתִּמְצָא אֹתוֹ וּכְשֶׁהִיא מֹצֵאת אֹתוֹ קֹרֵאת לְאוֹהֲבוֹתֶיהָ וְלִקְרוֹבוֹתֶיהָ לוֹמַר לָהֶן שְׂמַחְנָה עִמִּי שֶׁמָּצָאתִי אֶת הַדִּינָר שֶׁאִבַּדְתִּי אָמֵן אֲנִי אֹמֵר לָכֶם כָּךְ יֵשׁ שִׂמְחָה לִפְנֵי מַלְאֲכֵי שָׁמַיִם עַל רָשָׁע אֶחָד שֶׁעֹשֶׂה תְּשׁוּבָה

Then Yeshua told them this parable: “Imagine you have a hundred sheep and one of them strays from the flock. Won’t you leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go search for the one that got lost until you’ve found it? And when you’ve finally found it, won’t you carry it home on your shoulders and invite all your nearest and dearest and tell them: ‘Come celebrate with me! I’ve found my missing sheep!’?

“Yes! And I’ll tell you what: God rejoices over one sinner who repents even more than he does over ninety-nine righteous people who don’t need to repent.

“Or can you imagine a woman who has ten coins each worth a day’s wage, but she’s lost one of them? Won’t she light a lamp, sweep the house, and search until she’s found it? And when she’s finally found it, won’t she invite all her nearest and dearest and tell them: ‘Come celebrate with me! I’ve found the coin I lost!’?

“Yes! And I’ll tell you what: God has this kind of joyful celebration in the presence of the angels over every single sinner who repents.”[2]








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The Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes offer down-to-earth illustrations of God’s response to repentance: God feels about repentant sinners the way a man feels who has just found a sheep that strayed from the flock, or the way a woman feels who has just found a coin that had gone missing. Jesus’ purpose in telling these similes was to explain why he didn’t mind eating and drinking in the home of Levi with toll collectors and other sinners. Like the owner of the lost sheep and the woman who found her missing coin, God wants those who are closest to him to come and rejoice with him that a sinner has repented. It would be nothing short of rude to refuse God’s invitation. Jesus had joined in the celebration over the recovery of lost sinners. By telling the twin similes he invited his critics to do the same.[3]

Catacomb depiction of a shepherd carrying a sheep on his shoulders. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Click here to return to The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction main page. _______________________________________________________
  • [1] For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’
  • [2] This translation is a dynamic rendition of our reconstruction of the conjectured Hebrew source that stands behind the Greek of the Synoptic Gospels. It is not a translation of the Greek text of a canonical source.
  • [3] See Otto Michel, “τελώνης,” TDNT, 8:88-105, esp. 105 n. 157.

Comments 27

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    David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
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    Joshua N. Tilton

    Joshua N. Tilton studied at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, where he earned a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies (2002). Joshua continued his studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, where he obtained a Master of Divinity degree in 2005. After seminary…
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