‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’ (Matthew 10:40-42, NRSV).
The closing remarks of Jesus’ sending-out sermon are remarkably positive and hopeful. This is in sharp contrast to much that precedes them. Rejection, persecution, and division dominate this preparation speech. Jesus seems intent on sending disciples with open eyes!
Following these dire warnings, however, is the above passage on welcome. The followers of Jesus are to expect opposition to be sure. They can also expect to encounter those who are open to the gospel and hospitable to those who bring it.
Being sent on mission is not all bad news!
Given all that precedes our passage, this is remarkable indeed. Opposition will be rife, but there are still people waiting to eagerly embrace the message of the coming kingdom. Even with turmoil surrounding the gospel its bearers are to expect to meet people willing to – through these messengers – welcome God!
These are brave and godly souls. I imagine the disciples pairing up with a sense of expectation. They will go with no ‘gold, silver, or copper’ but with the knowledge that they will meet households ‘worthy’ of their coming. Jesus opened his discourse with these generous promises. He now closes with the same. They form bookends of encouragement.
There will be people who welcome, and respond to, the apostle’s message. Some will see the ‘prophet’ in their actions and others their ‘righteousness’. Some may even simply express their gratitude and pleasure with – ‘a cup of cold water’. In each case God will express divine pleasure with a heavenly reward.
May our mission be characterised and motivated by Jesus’ positive expectation of such heavenly fruit.