Parables of the Lost Sheep and Coin

Workshop Leaders’ Bible Study

This workshop leader’s Bible study is a historical, theological, and contextual introduction to the Parables of the Lost Coin and Sheep rotation of Kirk of Kildaire’s Faith Quest workshop rotation program.  It is intended to provide workshop leaders with:

·        A historical context for understanding the Bible story.

·        A Biblical context for reading and teaching the story.

·        The theological basis for the concepts to be taught to the children.

In Kirk of Kildaire’s Faith Quest program, workshop leaders attend a one-hour Bible study two weeks prior to the start of a new rotation.  This Bible study helps workshop leaders understand how the concepts to be taught to the children are derived from the Bible story and how the lessons in the rotation fit together to reinforce the concepts.  It also provides an opportunity for the workshop leaders to grow in their own faith and understanding of the Bible.

It will be helpful to have a chalkboard, whiteboard, or flip chart for writing down questions or observations during the Bible study.

Note:  This is not a comprehensive study of the text, but only a few notes to help provide context and background for workshop leaders.  Consult titles cited in the reference list at the end of these notes for more information.



            Luke 15:1-10

Memory verse for this rotation:

            And God said, “I will look for those that are lost and bring back the ones that wander off.” Ezekiel 34:16 (CEV)


o    God seeks out all who are lost.

o    God and the heavenly host rejoice when we (the lost) return to him.

o    God is merciful.

o    God calls us to celebrate with him when the lost are found.

o    God is the shepherd and we are the sheep.

o    God doesn’t give up on anyone, so we shouldn’t either.

Prayer Concerns & Prayer

·        If workshop leaders do not know each other, give them an opportunity to introduce each other and say which workshop they will be leading.

·        Begin the Bible study by praying for God’s guidance as teachers begin a new rotation.

Reading the text

Ask a workshop leader to read the text aloud.  Since this rotation focuses on an entire chapter, you might want to divide the reading among three or four workshop leaders.

Ask the workshop leaders what questions came to mind as they heard the story or read it before the Bible study.  Write down any questions that arise and will need to be answered during the Bible study.


Historical, Theological, and Biblical Contexts

Background on Luke

            Luke is one of the Four Gospels.  The book itself does not identify the author but tradition traces authorship of both Luke and Acts to a physician who was a friend of Paul’s (Culpepper, 4).  Luke was probably a Gentile who knew Greek well and was quite familiar with the OT and Jewish practices (Culpepper, 9).  The writing of the Gospel is dated to the mid-eighties AD.



            Luke’s gospel is similar in form to ancient biographies.  It contains seven main sections as indicated below (Culpepper, 10).


Luke 1:1-4                   The Prologue

Luke 1:5-2:52              The Infancy Narrative

Luke 3:1-4:13              Preparation for the Ministry of Jesus

Luke 4:14-9:50            The Ministry in Galilee

Luke 9:51-19:27          The Journey to Jerusalem

Luke 19:28-21:38        The Ministry in Jerusalem

Luke 22:1-24:53          The Passion and Resurrection Narratives


Christological Emphases: Jesus’ many titles in Luke

“The Lukan Jesus is compassionate, a friend to outcasts.  Luke also relates Jesus to the history of Israel, the Scriptures, contemporary world history, and the unfolding of God’s redemptive purposes in human history.  Jesus is the Savior sent to seek and to save the lost” (Culpepper, 4).  Some of the many titles used for Jesus in Luke are:

  1. Son of God: Occurs six times.  Luke uses this title “indirectly to define Jesus’ relationship to God as Son to the Father, while treating it as a mystery known to the spiritual beings (Gabriel, the devil, and the demons) and a scandal to his adversaries” (Culpepper, 14).
  2. Prophet – One Greater Than the Prophets:  Jesus fulfills Moses and others but is greater.  This identity is tied to his relationship with John (Culpepper, 15).
  3. Lord: Occurs 103 times in Luke (Culpepper, 16).  This title “subtly infuses the Gospel with the church’s post-Easter confession of the risen Lord.  Luke affirms the confession of Jesus as Lord.  Even from his birth, Jesus is the Lord who would rise from the dead” (Culpepper, 17).
  4. Messiah or Christ:  similar to Son of God – Jesus’ identity as Messiah is treated by Luke as “privileged knowledge” that “is known to the narrator, the reader, and the angels and demons, but not to the other characters” (Culpepper, 17).  It means “the anointed one” or “the Christ” (Culpepper, 17).
  5. Son of Man:  occurs 25 times and with one exception “the term occurs only on the lips of Jesus in Luke” (Culpepper, 18).  Used when describing Jesus’ earthly ministry, in predicting his suffering and death, and in referring to his future coming in glory (Culpepper, 18).
  6. Savior:  Although significant to Luke, “the title occurs only twice in the Gospel, both times in the infancy narrative” however, “Jesus is repeatedly identified as God’s salvation or as the one who saves: (Culpepper, 19).


  1. God’s Redemptive Purposes:  “Luke sets the life of Jesus both in its historical context and in a theological context.  All that happens in the Gospel and in Acts is ultimately a part of God’s redemptive plan for the salvation of all humanity”  (Culpepper, 20).  Three related emphases are the sovereignty of God, the fulfillment of Scripture, and the scope of Jesus’ redemptive work (Culpepper, 20).
  2. Salvation for All Alike:  More than in any other gospel, in Luke Jesus makes it clear that salvation is for all people.  He reaches out to and includes the most outcast in society:  sinners, Samaritans, tax collectors, and women (Culpepper 21-22).  This inclusiveness challenges the established religious and societal order in a scandalous way.
  3. The Blessings of Poverty and the Dangers of Wealth:  “Luke refers to the poor and the rich more than does any other Gospel” (Culpepper, 25).  Jesus turns upside down the idea that the rich are blessed by God and maintains instead that God will “lift up the poor and cast out the rich” (Culpepper, 25).  In his version of the beatitudes Luke does not spiritualize them as Matthew does but “faces the economic realities of poverty” (Culpepper, 25).
  4. Table Fellowship:  In Luke, Jesus is often found eating with others (often outcasts) – “the meals in Luke become a ‘type scene’” repeated frequently with some differences (Culpepper, 26).  The connection of these meals to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is then easily made.  “The Table becomes the place where disputes over greatness are set aside and divisive barriers are overturned by means of voluntary servanthood (22:24-27)” (Culpepper, 26).  Jesus is present with us as risen Lord when we break bread together as a community (Culpepper, 26).
  5. The Role of a Disciple:  Jesus is our model for discipleship.  How we understand who Jesus the Christ is will determine how we understand who we should be as disciples.  In the Lukan narrative, Jesus is obedient to God in all things.  “He is empowered by the Spririt, he is compassionate toward the poor and oppressed, he heals and forgives, he prays, an he dies a model martyr’s death” (Culpepper, 27).
  6. The Importance of an Accurate Witness:  In the NT, the idea of witness is developed from meaning “an eyewitness, to one who can testify to the gospel, to one who dies for the sake of the gospel.”  Luke’s use of the term witness links the first two meanings (Culpepper, 30).  In Luke it is clear that the disciples as witnesses are “guided and empowered by the Spirit” (Culpepper, 30).  “The Gospel of Luke plays an important role in shaping the biblical doctrine of the Spirit in that it affirms that the Holy Spirit was active before the birth of Jesus, the Spirit rested upon Jesus during his ministry, and Jesus charged the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit had come upon them” (Culpepper, 30).

Luke 15:1-10


            These two parables along with the parable of the prodigal son make up a trilogy that all “speak of the joy of finding that which was lost” (Craddock, 183).  The story of the lost sheep is found in Matthew (18:12-14) as well, but the lost coin and the prodigal son are found only in Luke.  The lost sheep and lost coin parables are normally paired together due to their corresponding themes and structures.  They are also connected in the text by the word “or” in verse 8.

            Culpepper offers the following structure for the two parables: “1) a question, 2) a story of losing and finding, 3) a celebration with friends, and 4) the moral” (294).


A word about parables

            According to interpreter Fred Craddock, the word parable comes from a Greek word that “means, literally, ‘that which is tossed alongside,’ implying a comparison, an analogy, an elaboration, or an illustration” (108).  Parables are not meant to control the listener, telling him/her exactly what to think; but instead are meant to evoke participation.  The listener/reader is “an active participant in the communication” and is called on to make interpretations and to take responsibility for those meanings that he/she draws from the text (Craddock, 108-109).


Interesting Words, Phrases, Ideas

V.1-2   Note the familiar theme of tax collectors/sinners up against the Pharisees/scribes.  Jesus welcomes those whom society shuns and is criticized for it.

            Murmur/grumble/mutter:  Same word used in the exodus narratives to describe what the Israelites did while in the desert.  The Pharisees and scribes are complaining about how Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners.  Table fellowship and the guidelines surrounding it were very important.  In response to the complaints, Jesus tells three parables.


V. 3     image of shepherd.  See Ezkiel 34:12 and Isaiah 40:11 for portrayals of God as a shepherd.


V. 4     leave other 99 sheep in the wilderness – risk everything to find one. 


V. 5, 6 and 9    Rejoice with friends and neighbors – the joy is so great it must be shared but this joy is also scandalous (Craddock, 186).


V. 7     Moral: God celebrates the repentance/return of even one sinner.  Reflecting back to verse 2 we see that “Jesus’ actions in accepting sinners and eating with them reflects God’s gracious spirit toward those who were held in contempt by the Pharisees and scribes” (Culpepper, 296).


V. 8     ten silver coins = drachmas “each worth about a day’s wage for a laborer” (Culpepper, 295)


V. 10   Moral again – According to Culpepper the “emphasis is on the joy of recovery, not on the need for repentance” and the righteous are called to join in the celebration (298).  We are shown in these parables the extensiveness of God’s mercy and called to celebrate with God when that mercy is shared with others.  Will we join and celebrate or begrudge others the mercy that we would accept for ourselves?  Culpepper says that “only those who can celebrate God’s grace to others can experience [God’s] mercy themselves” (298).



            Two of Luke’s overall themes identified above are highlighted in this passage – salvation for all alike and table fellowship.


Workshop Summaries

Ask each workshop leader to summarize his or her workshop.  As they do so, point out the concepts that each lesson reinforces.  Ask workshop leaders if they have any questions about the logistics or practical application of their lesson.

Holywood:  The children will view the video Mr. Henry’s Wild & Wacky 7- Jesus Died for Me?  All About Salvation.  The concept of salvation is presented, along with an unusual re-enactment of the stories of the lost sheep and lost coin.

Creation Station:  Children will create “I Spy” pictures of hidden sheep and coins and will talk about how God never gives up on even one lost person.

Antioch Arcade:  To emphasize the importance of every individual the children will search for missing puzzle pieces and then will play a game that reinforces the details of the story.

Apostles’ Playhouse:  The children will pantomime the lost coin story and use their patience as a sheepherder to gather up lost sheep in the sheep herding game.

Good News/Bread of Life Café:  The children will create sheep treats from angel food cake and discover how they can identify their creation among all the others just like God can find us when we are lost.


Review Questions

Return to the questions that were gathered at the start of the hour.  Have they been answered?  Are there any further questions about the Bible story or about the lessons?

Closing Prayer

Close the Bible study with a prayer.


Craddock, Fred. “Luke.” Interpretation. James Luther Mays, et al. editors. (Louisville, John Knox Press, 1990). (pp. 1-12, 21-37).

Culpepper, R. Alan. “Luke.” The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. IX. Leander Keck, et al. editors. (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1995). (pp.3-37 and 49-67).