Connections 06.11.2023: You Can Sit with Us

Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26

When I was growing up, my family moved every two or three years; I was often the “new kid” in school. I have very clear memories of lunchtimes on several first days in several new schools, when I would stand at the edge of a crowded, noisy cafeteria, clutching the edges of a plastic tray, looking for a place to sit. I knew how it was with school kids. There are tables you want to avoid, tables you have to earn the right to sit at, and if you’re lucky, tables where you might find a friend.

I’ve had the same feeling as an adult “new kid.” I am blessedly past the days of school lunches, but now when my family moves, as we do every two or three years, I stand at the edge of a church sanctuary clutching my purse straps on a first Sunday as a visitor, looking for a place to sit. I know how it is with church folks. There are places you sit every Sunday. Everybody (even me, eventually) has their “spot”—on the same side every week, the same distance back from the pulpit, avoid the seat that gets too much sun, find the one with a good view of the choir or of the tree outside that turns golden every fall.

When I read this week’s text from Matthew, I can’t help but think about all those lunchrooms, all those sanctuaries, and the heart-clutching question: Who am I gonna sit with? The Pharisees know all the “right” seats for themselves and for everyone else; they look at Jesus and see him claiming a spot at a table that he should avoid. But this is Jesus, who never sits where you think he should. Jesus doesn’t invite who you think he should; he calls a tax collector to follow him. Jesus doesn’t heal who you think he should; he takes the hand of a dead girl and helps her back to life and he blesses a bleeding woman who in faith has taken a share of his power.

Jesus takes his tray to the troublemakers’ table on purpose.

If we’re lucky—if we are following his call—it can be our table too.


  • When have you experienced the anxiety and fear of being new or wondering where (or if!) you would fit in and have a “place at the table”? When have you experienced hospitality that surprised you?
  • How does Jesus change the expectations of who is welcome, who is accepted, and who is worthy of the presence and power of God?
  • This short passage includes multiple unexpected encounters that go against the cultural norms of the day. The Pharisees were faithful religious people who believed they were following God’s instructions to the letter. Why does Jesus upset the Pharisees by his encounters? What are some modern situations that might upset “good church folk”?
  • How do we decide when and how to break cultural expectations in order to follow Jesus?
  • When have you had to live with someone’s disappointment or anger because you followed Jesus’s example of breaking cultural norms in order to practice hospitality or service?
  • We understand the communion table as “Jesus’s table.” How does this text make you reflect on “Jesus’s table” in a new way? How is communion a practice of surprising hospitality?

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is the lead editor of Connections. She is a graduate of Samford University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and as a military spouse has had nine (at last count) different hometowns in the past 20 years. She and her husband Scott and sons Sam and Levi live in the Washington D.C. area. In recent years, Nikki has written Smyth & Helwys curricula as well as devotionals for and Baptist Women in Ministry. She weaves clergy stoles, knits almost anything, and dreams of making her dreadful novel drafts into readable books. She blogs about faith and making things at


For further resources, subscribe to the Connections Teaching Guide and Commentary. Additionally, the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series is a scholarly but accessible means for enhancing your study of each lesson.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email