I imagine the room, that evening of Levi’s invitation, full of actively immoral outcasts, carrying all manner of vile and visible scars of depravity, desperately trying to be on their best behavior. Quiet and awkward. If we could have filmed it, a camera would now pan in from the back of the room…Soon there’s a circle around Jesus, all of them with elbows on knees, chins on hands. Hardened sinners with expressions of wonder and innocence. We’re watching what happens when perfect love, grace and purity invades darkness. The King has shown up to rescue prisoners in the enemy camp-where wickedness and perversion have seemed logical up until this moment. Suddenly there is, at least in this room, a hope that life could be different.
The air gradually blends into a mixture of the best humor, stories, truth, life, hope.
Somewhere in evening, the conversation turns.
“Who are you-really?” He unhurriedly lets them ask questions. Then there is sacred silence. It is becoming clear exactly who he is. Few, if any, in the crowds outside, who’ve sought Him for a miracle show, got what the reprobates in this room are receiving. They’re desperate for Who He is, not what He might give.
Someone sitting next to Him… “Why us? Why would you choose to be here tonight, with us?”
“This may be hard for you to understand. I’ve known you since before there was time. I’ve loved you since before there was time. I know about the catch in your knee that takes awhile each morning to loosen up. I was there the evenings your father beat you. I was there when you were kicked out of the synagogue. I’ve come from heaven for you.”
“Don’t you know what I’ve done?”
“Yes, I do. And I have the unfortunate ability to know the wrong things you’re going to do tomorrow and the day after that, also. The only sin which could possibly separate you from eternity with God-is to reject the Person who’s speaking to you at this moment…(He smiles) And, at least so far, I’m being welcomed tonight like few other places I’ve been down here.”