Eating lunch daily in the school cafeteria, I watch students make the awkward walk trying to find a place to sit. It can be painful to watch. The student looks around, desperate to find a friend to sit with or a seat at an empty table. And BOOM! I’m immediately transported back to high school.
I don’t know how it was in your school, but in mine lunchtime often was the ultimate gauge of popularity. If you had peeps to sit with, that meant that you had been accepted. You had a cafeteria tribe that welcomed you, often calling out your name in the middle of the cafeteria to ensure you could find them. And if, like me, you didn’t necessarily have a tribe, you would scoot off to the corner hoping to sink into the shadows unnoticed.
The relief when you are accepted into a group is terrific, yeah? And the dread when the jury is still out on whether you’ll be accepted or not is excruciating. As embarrassing as it is to admit, even today as an adult woman, I am stressed over starting school in the fall, wondering if I’m going to make any friends. Have someone to eat lunch with. Get picked as a project partner. Be asked to go to the movies with the group.
Let’s look at when Jesus called Matthew. Matthew was a tax collector which was the lowest of the low because they abused their authority. I don’t imagine that Matthew was accepted into a lot of groups or got invited to sit at many people’s tables for a meal. Maybe he never did. But along came Jesus. He looked at Matthew and said, “Follow me” and Matthew got up immediately (Mark 2:14) Considering the scorn people had for him, I often wonder if he was so quick to get up and follow Jesus because he felt accepted for the first time in his life.
He invited Jesus over for a meal where lo and behold, there were – GASP! – other sinners! (Mark 2:15) That’s right. The people seen as misfits of society were not only invited to a table for dinner, but they were there with Jesus. When questioned why he was eating with sinners, Jesus said, “For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:16-17) I often wish I could have lived back in Jesus’ day just so I could see the look on the Pharisees’ faces when he said things like this. I get the impression that Jesus was politely saying, “You’re not invited” and went back to conversing with the misfits around him.
As children of God, we are given a seat at the table. Not only that, God knows us well enough to call us by name (John 10:3). Been looking for acceptance? Feel like an outsider just trying to find a dark corner to hide away in? How can you begin to receive the acceptance from God and take your place at his table?