Today’s gospel speaks to the intrinsic worth of all of the children of Israel — tax collectors and sinners included. Jesus is telling the Pharisees that, just like the angels in heaven, they should be happy when a sinner or tax collector repents (i.e. comes to Jesus) for such as these are the lost children of Israel, and, like a lost sheep or coin, are of great value.
No one with “ears to hear” (c.f. Luke 14:35b) should raise the bar for salvation higher than God has set it, or make it more difficult than it needs to be for tax collectors and sinners to return to the House of Israel. Likewise the Church, as the “New Israel” must not make it difficult for the lost children of the world to draw near to Jesus (c.f. vv. 15:1-2).
Jesus is the shepherd looking for his lost sheep. He is the woman looking for her lost coin. He rejoices when He finds us, and, if the angels rejoice too, it is because He has raised us eternal life with them and they welcome us into the company of heaven. As Christians we should imitate Jesus in His diligent search for the lost, even as we ourselves are continually being found by Him.
Preached on September 11, 2016 at Holy Trinity Church Inwood.