Jesus responds to their attitude with parables, two of which are in this week's lesson.
He asked "What shepherd wouldn't leave behind 99 safe sheep to go after the one who was lost?" Apparently a rhetorical question because he added, "And having found that lost sheep, the shepherd invited all his friends for a celebration."
Or not a rhetorical question now that I think about it because his critics that day are displeased by his allowing sinners so near. Or, maybe they are waiting to hear that those sinners have repented before they can be joyful about having them around.
Would the religious insiders have agreed that there would be more joy in heaven about sinners being there than them? Or, could they have seen that their own attitude of exclusion and superiority qualified them for the category of sinner? Is Jesus holding out to them the opportunity to repent of their sins--sins that they can't repent of until they recognize and admit that they have?
Jesus follows the lost sheep parable with one about a lost coin. Again something valuable is lost. Again the owner searches dilligently. Again the owner rejoices when the lost is retrieved.
Again, the owner invites others to celebrate that the lost has been found.
Jesus that such joy will be in heaven when one sinner repents.
I keep getting stuck on the repent part. What did the sheep or the coin do to get saved? Maybe the sheep was bleating and the coin was shiny? Would that constitute repentance? I'm settling for the assumption that these parables are not about somebody else repenting but they are about the pharisees and the scribes, about what their attitude is and what it ought to be.