SCRIPTURE: Matthew 10:40-42
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40"He who receives (Greek: dechomenos –– receives) you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. 41He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward. He who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. 42Whoever gives one of these little ones just a cup of cold water to drink in the name of a disciple, most certainly I tell you he will in no way lose his reward."
CHAPTER 10: THE CONTEXT
To appreciate fully our brief three-verse Gospel lesson, we must know the context. In this chapter, Jesus summons the twelve disciples and gives them healing powers and authority over unclean spirits (10:1-5). He then gives them their marching orders (10:5-15). He warns that they will face persecution (10:16-25). He tells them not to fear the person who can kill the body, but rather to fear God who has power over body and soul (10:26-28). He assures them of God's love (10:29-31). He promises to acknowledge before the Father anyone who acknowledges Jesus before people (10:32-33), and warns that he has not come to bring peace, but a sword (10:34-39).
Therefore, when Jesus promises rewards to those who welcome a prophet or a righteous person, the context is high-risk –– a spiritual war-zone.
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VERSES 40-42: WHOEVER WELCOMES ME
For the past two Sundays, we have heard Jesus commission the disciples. He told them, "Don't take any gold, nor silver, nor brass in your money belts. Take no bag for your journey, neither two coats, nor shoes, nor staff: for the laborer is worthy of his food" (10:9-10). He spoke of the dangers they would face, including rejection by their own families.
"He who receives (dechomenos –– receives) you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me" (v. 40). Now Jesus tells the disciples that he will reward those who receive them –– thereby revealing a part of his plan for provisioning ministry.
He establishes a four-way partnership between God, Jesus, disciple, and host:
• God initiated the partnership by sending Jesus.
• Jesus then sends the disciples.
• The disciples take the third step by going.
• Those who welcome the disciples take the final step by providing support.
Jesus says that welcoming (receiving) the Son is the equivalent of welcoming the Father–– and welcoming the prophet earns the host a prophet's reward. This is the Jewish concept of shaliah, which regards the king's emissary as if he were the king.
"He who receives a prophet…; He who receives a righteous man…;Whoever gives one of these little ones just a cup of cold water to drink" (vv. 41-42). Prophets –– righteous persons –– little ones: The movement is from high to low:
• Prophets were revered as spokespersons for God. Who is a prophet today? The term would apply to anyone called by God to speak God's message. The promise is that the person who welcomes a prophet receives a prophet's reward.
• Righteous people are those who obey God.
• Little ones can have various meanings –– children –– the poor –– those who are vulnerable. In this context, it refers to ordinary disciples. A cup of cold water is a small but precious gift to a thirsty person. God rewards even the smallest contribution.
"He who receives a prophet" (v. 41). What does it mean to welcome (receive) a prophet? It can mean providing necessary support, such as food, clothing and shelter –– or money to allow the prophet to purchase those things.
The stories of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8-24) and a Shunammite couple (2 Kings 4:8-27) are instructive. In both, the host provided for the basic needs of a prophet. Each received a gift of life.
Receiving a prophet would seem also to imply accepting the prophet's message.
"He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward. He who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward" (v. 41). Jesus uses "In the name of" to make the application specific. "'In the name of' is a Semitic expression meaning 'because one is'" (Boring, 263). The welcome is extended because the welcomed person is a prophet –– or a righteous person –– or a disciple. No doubt Christ will reward us for kindness to any vulnerable person, but the emphasis in these passages is hospitality to disciples.
There are costs associated with receiving prophets, righteous persons, and little ones. One cost is financial. Another is personal –– to invite someone to live in our home can be stressful. Another is danger. Those who serve Christ are often persecuted, and those who welcome them might be subject to persecution as well.
There is good news for us in these words of Jesus. We will be rewarded for service to Christ's disciples as if we were serving Christ. Even small gifts (a cup of cold water) count. We are not all required to be prophets, but can receive rewards just for welcoming prophets.
And so we come to the conclusion of the Sermon on Mission (9:35 - 10:42).
SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.
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