Matthew 10:40-42 Jul19


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Matthew 10:40-42

“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.”

My Bible has a subheading just above these verses. It’s marked “rewards.” That seems fitting enough, as there does indeed seem a certain emphasis on the rewards to be received by those who welcome not only Jesus but those who represent him.

Again, given the mission Jesus was about to send his disciples into, as well the turbulent setting of Matthew’s readers, that makes a good deal of sense. Admittedly, it doesn’t make for the easiest reading, as the repetition of the various “whoever welcomes…” sounds just a bit like the “so and so begat so and so” from the first chapter. But it still makes sense. For after issuing some fairly clear warnings about the importance of acknowledging Jesus and outlining some of the requirements and cost of disciples, Jesus returns to the reward for faithfulness and invites his disciples, both then and now, to keep their eyes on the prize.

What doesn’t make sense – at least at first and in a totally surprising and delightful kind of way – is that last verse: “whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones….” Such a small, small thing. After all this talk of rewards, I would have thought that the concrete action specified would be, I don’t know, just plain bigger. But it’s just a cup of cold water to one of these little ones.

We don’t know who these little ones are. I assume they are those among the most vulnerable surrounding Jesus or perhaps in Matthew’s community. But what strikes me is the simplicity of what’s called for. Just a cup of cold water given to someone in need in the name of a disciple of Jesus.

What might that translate to in our own life? A hug to someone who is hurting? A listening ear, an encouraging word, a helping hand? Volunteering at the homeless shelter, going out of your way to say something kind (rather than avoiding) someone who lives on the street, offering your time and money to a charity or advocacy group? I don’t know, but I suspect there are opportunities to offer cups of cold water almost everywhere we look.

And that, when you boil it down, seems is all it takes to be a disciple, to acknowledge Jesus, to share in the prophet’s reward. No heroic act – although those are no doubt welcome J – just minor acts of compassion, and small gestures of grace. Because, in the end, when you reach out with the love of Christ to another, there is no small gesture.

Prayer: Dear God, open our eyes to those around us who need a cold cup of water and kindle our hearts to respond to them in love and action. In Jesus’ name, Amen.