The Kiddie Table
Topic: Biblical Verse: Mark 10:2–16
Grace, mercy, and peace be multiplied unto you from God our Father and Jesus Christ the Lord! Amen.
Our text is from Mark chapter 10.
Well it’s getting close to that time of the year. I just made the preaching schedule for Grace that runs up to Advent. So Thanksgiving is getting really close. Unfortunately one of the greatest holiday tragedies will be repeated in homes across this country. It’s going to affect people right in this room. Of course I’m talking about being seated at the kiddie table.
I don’t know about you but I have been a victim of this. I remember at grandma and grandpa Martin’s house I would almost drool over the food on the table and then in horror the card table was taken out of the closet with four chairs set out for me, my sister, and two of my cousins. At this table we had to wait for what felt like the scraps to be brought over from the main table. At this table we were totally at the mercy of the full citizens at the main table. You know the fancy ones who could just reach out any time they wanted a roll or more gravy. The ones who didn’t have to ask for mercy every single time they wanted anything. This happened at Thanksgiving. It happened at Easter. It happened at Christmas. This was embarrassing. To make matters worse I was the oldest of the four so I was the oldest person not welcome at the full citizen’s table with arm’s reach access to all the wonderful food.
Today in this Gospel lesson, the disciples are trying to create a “kiddie table”. This is one of those situations where the crowds are pressing in on Jesus trying to get close to him. Jesus is famous for miracles, and everyone wants the stressors of their lives improved or removed by Jesus. So here we see the “crowds gathering” just after a classic debate between Jesus and the Pharisees.
This text is a classic one. We have all seen those paintings or illustrations of this text. Jesus is sitting on a rock and maybe five or six elementary school children are sitting on his lap or around him and they’re all having a peaceful good time. This is absolutely not what is happening here. What is happening here is parents were the ones surrounding Jesus. These parents are desperately lifting their children toward Jesus hoping that he would bless them. Now the text does say children, but this is not parents holding children of all ages so there are no 16 year olds in their parents arms, not even an eight year old. This text specifically is referencing infants. These are pre-toddler, post conception children. It is actually even possible that pregnant mothers were part of the scene hoping Jesus would bless their children still unborn. The text doesn’t discount that. Now for us as Christians this is a text that we very easily romanticize in our minds. We love to picture the Savior having a joyful peaceful time with a group of children.
Unfortunately the disciples are preventing this beautiful scene from coming to fruition. The disciples are trying to keep these parents from bringing their children to Jesus and keep these crowds of parents and children away. But why? I have to say at surface level this is very strange. Shouldn’t they want Jesus to kiss some babies like a good politician? Couldn’t this be helpful for a public figure like Jesus who has growing problems with the Pharisees and other religious and civil leadership of the day?
Here’s the problem. The disciples are thinking politically. The problem was that society simply did not value young children at this point in time. Modern psychologists believe that since the infant mortality rate was so high in the ancient world parents, friends, and families would try to not get emotionally attached to children before they could be sure that they would live and get strong. Also, children were an expense- a drain on a life where most people struggle to provide for their own needs. In fact during the first few centuries of the Christian church, one of the chief social ministry type initiatives of the church was to collect children abandoned for economic reasons and care for them. For all of these reasons, children, especially infants, simply did not matter to society.
The disciples are actually probably doing what seemed like the right thing here. They are trying to keep Jesus focused on the things that they see as important. The disciples are concerned with good PR. They had seen him heal all kinds of diseases and other ailments that held people back from enjoying a more full and accepted life, but from the disciples perspective- he can’t perform a miracle to heal being young. There is nothing to be done here. These infants don’t matter. The parents are creating a crowd that is impeding Jesus moving on his way. Jesus needs to get back to serving more important people. So the solution is to get these infants out of the way because to the disciples and to society they simply did not not matter.
Wow, huh? This is one of those texts that keeps peeling back the brokenness of humanity and it’s hard to hear. It’s hard to look at. It’s hard because we;ve been there. The truth is that we have been on both sides of this text. Have you ever realized that you have been the disciples? Have you alienated someone? Have you looked at a person's clothes at the grocery store and thought less than kind thoughts about their life and character? Have you ever looked at a car on the road and thought something suspicious about the person behind the wheel as if they had less of a right to be on the road than you did? Have you done something not exactly ethical to get ahead at the expense of someone else? Have you… been that person? Have you stood with the disciples and seen any person at any time as less than you or in your way? I think we all have.
How about the flip side? Have you ever felt like one of these infants? Have you ever felt like you just did not matter? Have you ever been passed over for promotion? Have you ever struggled to pay the bills or catch up around the house or at work and you knew you were the only one who noticed or cared? Have you ever been wronged or hurt by a close friend or family member and felt the loneliness creep in where you once felt comfort and support? Have you stood with the children of our text and had another person make you feel at any time like you are less than or in the way? I think we all have.
I think we have all found ourselves on both sides of being left behind or taking advantage. The thing about this issue is that all it does is place divisions between us, the people we are called to be in community with, and God himself. You can end up feeling all alone and worthless in a crowd of people.
There’s something I really love about this Gospel lesson. In the Greek the verbs for Jesus picking up the children, and for Jesus blessing the children are constructed in a way that tells us that Jesus did these actions one at a time. So Jesus stops the crowd, stops the disciples and he picks up just one child from their parents arms and he looks them in the eye and he blessed them. Then he picked up another child from their parents arms and picked them up and looked them in the eye and blessed them.
Do you even realize how amazing that is for people who have alienated each other into loneliness or an existence at the kiddie table of life?? This means that when you feel cast out because others have made you feel like you’re not good enough or you don’t belong, Jesus finds you at your loneliest point and he looks you in the eye and he reminds you that he loves you, and is working every single day to breathe peace into your life in a way that only he can. This also means that if you feel broken and guilty because you have treated others in a way that makes them feel like they are not good enough or they don't belong, Jesus finds you at rock bottom, he looks you in the eye, and he reminds you that he has always been with you, that he loves you, he forgives you, and he is working every day to breathe peace into your life in a way that only he can.
Today Jesus finds all of us at the kiddie tables of life and when he says, “let the infants come to me for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” Here he is saying something powerful to the disciples and to all of you. He is saying that at your loneliest moment, your guiltiest moment, he was with you the whole time. Then he reminds you again, that he humbled himself by taking your sin and your brokenness unto himself and he died to make us his forever. He then invites us all to his table. The big table, the feast of the lamb in his kingdom which has no end, that's the table that he invites you to, the one with the angels and the archangels and all the company of heaven, and today when he says to you that you are invited to his table he means it. The table is set and Jesus is yours. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which certinally surpassess all understanding keep your hearts and minds on Christ Jesus to life eternal. Amen.
3 October 2021
St. John’s Lutheran Church