Last night our congregation held the second of three evangelistic services we are calling "Stories of Hope." I preached on the Parable of the Lost Coin from Luke 15:8-10.
Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’ In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
I made it clear that as we hear this parable, we are not to identify with the woman but the coin. For the lost coin represents a sinner, and the theme I developed in the message was "A valuable item lost from its owner becomes worthless, but when restored the joy is multiplied."
So though we are to see ourselves as not the woman but the coin, the question remains: "What does the woman represent?" Some commentators think she represents the Holy Spirit, for her searching with her light is like the Spirit illuminating hearts with truth. Others develop the idea that she is figurative of the church, because the church is often spoken of with feminine metaphors in the Bible (such as the bride of Christ or our spiritual mother). Yet Hendriksen thinks these interpretations are too fanciful and allegorical, and take away from the point of the parable. I tend to agree.
Rather, let's be a bit more practical. If Jesus told a story about a man looking for a small, lost object in a house, we know he would never find it and the story would not have the happy ending it does! A woman would have to enter the story and help him find it anyway! So this story just works better with a woman doing the searching, but I believe there is more to it than just this practicality.
Notice the woman lights a lamp and sweeps the house. Why would she sweep her home with a broom to find a coin? Because she lived in a house with dirt floors, a common situation for one in poverty. The house would have been small and dark, and she hoped sweeping the dirt floor with a lit lamp above it would reveal the shininess of the metal. Also, she was looking diligently for this coin because the ten undoubtedly represented all she had. She was a poor lady.
Then consider that when she calls together people to celebrate with her, there is no mention of family. No husband or children, just her friends and neighbors are summoned. Most likely, we are to think of a childless widow, as the Lord's concern for widows is a theme in the Gospel of Luke.
So the picture we are given is of a poor, humble, lonely person looking desperately for an item of value. Could perhaps this just be one more picture in a mosaic of metaphors - some direct and others, such as this one, more by indirect implication of the truth that it conveys - that the Bible gives of our Redeemer?
No, this is not one of those modern attempts to feminize the God-Man nor any type of contribution toward the gender debates of our day. Rather, our Redeemer, who regularly compared His saving work to objects as diverse as shepherds, doors, light, and bread, used a picture of this poor woman to help us see once more the lengths He has gone "to seek and to save that which was lost" and communicate that truth to us.
So let's be clear. Jesus is not a woman, but in seeking out lost sinners He is like a poor widow looking for a lost coin. Like Paul, who used the figure of a nursing mother to express his care for the Thessalonian Christians, our Lord could use this pitiful picture to show how greatly He is seeking lost souls who are made in the valuable image of God.