Parable of the one hundred sheep

Parable of the lost silver coin

Commentary on Luke 15:1-10

26th Tuesday after Pentecost

10 Things [1]


1. ”Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. 3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying,” (Luke 15:1-3)


These parables were directed to the Pharisees and scribes who murmured against him. [2]


Note that the Lord did not rebuke these proud and judgmental men directly, as direct accusations and correction to proud men rarely work. Rather, He humbly directs these parables to them, to teach them to not be vexed over the salvation of sinners [3], and us how to sometimes approach proud sinners, recalcitrant in their sins because of their blinding pride and judgment of others.


2. 4. What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?


The “man” is Jesus Christ, Who in His incarnation, (went) after that which is lost”.


An hundred is a perfect number, consisting of 10 decades. This number represents all of God’s rational creatures, angels and men, as St Cyril of Jerusalem and other fathers teach:


“He says there are a hundred sheep, bringing to a perfect sum the number of rational creatures subject to Him. For the number hundred is perfect, being composed of ten decades. But out of these one has wandered, namely, the race of man which inhabits earth.” [4]


Some say that the hundred sheep are mankind, and the one who has gone astray is a sinner, whom The God-man has come to save, but “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” [5], whereas, the angels in heaven will evermore remain righteous [6].


The ”ninety and nine in the wilderness” are the angels whom the Lord Jesus Christ left in heaven when he came down from heaven (became incarnate). [7]


The “wilderness”, removed from worldly tumult and steeped in stillness and peace, signifies heaven” [8].

3. 5. And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.


This is a beautiful reference to the incarnation. By becoming man, Jesus Christ bore our infirmities in His nature, and made our nature capable of overcoming them.


“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15)


“That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.” (Mat 8:17)


The image of carrying the fallen nature upon His shoulder is also similar to when the Good Samaritan treated the (nature of) man, by the side of the road:


 “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, (34) And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. (Luke 10:33-34)


4. 6. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.


“He placed the sheep upon his shoulders, for taking man's nature upon Him he bore our sins. But having found the sheep, he returns home; for our Shepherd having restored man, returns to his heavenly kingdom.” [9]


The “friends and neighbors” are the angels. [10]


5. 7. I say to you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.


Although the primary meaning of the hundred sheep is the combination of angels and men (all of God’s rational creatures), it is very useful to consider for a moment if this number represented all of mankind, both the righteous, and sinners. Of course, this is an absurdity, because there are few that are righteous, and more who follow the broad way, so the numbers would in actuality be reversed, and besides this, no man is righteous without repentance and God’s grace helping him. Nonetheless, let’s think of the 99 as the supposed “righteous”, or better, those who “are righteous in their own sight”, such as the Pharisee in the parable. [11]


St Gregory, in the Catena Aurea, meditates on this very thing:


“But he allows there is more joy in heaven over the converted sinner, than over the just who remain steadfast; for the latter for the most part, not feeling themselves oppressed by the weight of their sins, stand indeed in the way of righteousness, but still do not anxiously sigh after the heavenly country, frequently being slow to perform good works, from their confidence in themselves that they have committed no grievous sins.”


“But, on the other hand, sometimes those who remember certain iniquities that they have committed, being pricked to the heart, from their very grief grow inflamed towards the love of God; and because they consider they have wandered from God, make up for their former losses by the succeeding gains.”


“Greater then is the joy in heaven, just as the leader in battle loves that soldier more who having turned from flight, bravely pursues the enemy, than him who never turned his back and never did a brave act. So the husbandman rather loves that land which after bearing thorns yields abundant fruit, than that which never had thorns, and never gave him a plentiful crop.” [12]


This should encourage all sinners, that is all of us, who must struggle to attain righteousness. Remember also the one who came at the eleventh hour; he received the same reward as those who had been righteous through the heat of the day (for more of their life).[13]

6. 8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? 9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbors together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. 10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.


Here, the God-man refers to himself as a woman.


A silver coin has an image on it; this represents the image of God that is in man[14].

The woman seek (s) diligently” for the lost coin, whose image has become sullied by the dirt of sin – this is again, a representation of the purpose of the incarnation of the God-man – “to seek out and save that which is lost”


The number ten here also represents the angels and men, as there are nine ranks of angels, and mankind completes the decade[15].


There is profound theology in the symbolism of the candle and the searching of the house. It describes the process of salvation, a difficult one for man, because it disturbs our conscience. Listen to St Gregory:


“The women lighted a candle because the wisdom of God appeared in man. For the candle is a light in an earthen vessel, but the light in an earthen vessel is the Godhead in the flesh. “


“But the candle being lit, it follows, and disturbs the house. Because verily no sooner had his Divinity shone forth through the flesh, than all our consciences were appalled. Which word of disturbance differs not from that which is read in other manuscripts, sweeps, because the corrupt mind if it be not first overthrown through fear, is not cleansed from its habitual faults. But when the house is broken up, the piece of silver is found, for it follows, And seeks diligently till she find it; for truly when the conscience of man is disturbed, the likeness of the Creator is restored in man.”[16]


From St Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney


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[1] This document is a list of ten (more or less, there are 3 things I am not good at: organizing and counting!) things about a particular topic. More “Ten Things” topics may be found at They are also posted to the blog of St Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney Texas, called “Redeeming the Time” Look under the category “10things”. Use anything you wish, but please indicate authorship, with the URL.

[2] Blessed Theofylact, Commentary on St Luke, Chrysostom Press. Get these commentaries if you can.

[3] Ibid

[4] From the Catena Aurea, commentary on this passage. This can be found online at and also in the recommended software for PCs, “eSword” ( The quotation is taken from the latter.

[5] Rom 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”

[6] Of course, there are fallen angels, whom we also call demons, who once were in heaven but rebelled against God. We do not understand all the ways of the angelic host, but we do understand that angelic rebellion or obedience to God was a permanent act, that angels, because of their nature, will not change. Man, of course, is a changeable creature, and may repent of his sins or choose to sin, and therefore change his relationship to God at any time.

[7] Catena Aurea, St Gregory.

[8] Blessed Theofylact, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, Chrysostom Press. Get these four commentaries!

[9] St Gregory, Catena Aurea

[10] Ibid, Blessed Theofylact., and also St Gregory, Catena Aurea

[11] The Parable of the Publican and Pharisee, read on one of the Sundays before Great Lent: “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:” (Luke 18:9)

[12] Ibid, St Gregory, Catena Aurea

[13] “And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. (10) But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. (11) And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, (12) Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. (13) But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? (14) Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.” (Matthew 20:9-14)

[14] St John Chrysostom, quoted in the Catena Aurea: “But now is added a second parable, in which the race of man is compared to a piece of silver which was lost, by which he shows that we were made according to the royal likeness and image, that is to say, of the most high God”

[15] St Gregory, Catena Aurea

[16] Ibid, St Gregory.

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