Do you remember when you “graduated” from the kids’ table and joined the adult table at Thanksgiving or other family gatherings? Was that transition something you’d looked forward to? Or did you find yourself wishing you were back with younger siblings and cousins?
While you sit with those memories for a minute, let’s connect that experience to the story of Jesus – exploring connections between King Jesus and the kids’ table. As Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God, one of his favorite metaphors was the Grand Banquet (e.g. Luke 14). Jesus critiqued the religious leaders and their table manners for throwing and attending parties in ways that failed to reflect the God they claimed to serve. Instead of taking the seats of honor, Jesus called them to take the seats at the back of the room. Instead of inviting the upper crust of society, he challenged them to invite the poor and disenfranchised, those who may have lacked even a crust of bread and likely would have been unable to return the favor by inviting them back. Jesus’ parables often used the Messianic Banquet as their setting to show how our generous God would throw a very different kind of party than what his audience would have been used to.
Okay, now that we’ve looked briefly at one of Jesus’ favorite analogies for describing God’s in-breaking Kingdom, let’s turn our attention to one of Jesus’ most favorite group of characters: kids. Jesus loved children! Jesus was infinitely interruptible and would say to his disciples, “let the little children come to me!” His followers assumed that he would be too busy for young ones, that he planned on spending his time with the rich, the famous, the influencers, the movers and shakers of society – but no (Luke 18). Jesus loved to be with kids and kids seemed to know it – they loved to be with him. Over the years, I’ve had different people cautiously ask about a sibling or a child they knew that died in infancy or childhood. They have tentatively asked me where those loved ones are now. My consistent response is to point them to these scenes where Jesus welcomes kids and brags about the fact that his kingdom belongs to kids – if that’s Jesus’ posture in this age, how much more so in the age to come?
I like to imagine how different biblical characters would be present in modern day spaces. So, imagine with me… at a large gathering or celebration, where would different people from the Bible be? So, Martha is helping in the kitchen – who are we kidding, she’s running the kitchen – and it’s going smoothly. Paul is off in a corner having a heated debate with someone – he’s smiling, but it is serious and he’s got a glass of punch in his hand and you’re slightly worried that if he gets any more animated, it will spill on James, seated on the couch in front of him. Barnabas is scanning the crowd, figuring out who isn’t present and sending out text message after text message to make sure they’re okay, that they know they are invited, and encouraging them to come. And what about the prophets? Where are they? They’re at the party, but we can also count on them to ask the uncomfortable questions about the celebration and making sure we’re being honest and not just whitewashing over inconvenient truths. But what about Jesus, where is he? Oh, Jesus is over there at the kids’ table, of course! The King is at the kids’ table – where the real action is, especially in the Kingdom of God.
Featured image by freepik