Matthew 10: 40 – 42
‘Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.’
As I read these verses from Matthew’s Gospel, I was reminded of 2 things from the past week. The first was from a supermarket – never a favourite place for me! On one aisle, as I was pushing my trolley down, I saw a shelf-stacker, with a huge trolley full of things to go on shelves. He was putting some tins on a shelf close to the item I wanted, definitely less than 2 metres away. So I stopped, hoping he would see me and move away, but he just carried on. I grumbled to myself, not to him (I’m too polite!) and had to wait a good 30 seconds or so before I could get what I wanted. Reflecting on my quiet irritation later on, I repented as I remembered that the shelf-stacker had most likely been working throughout the pandemic, exposed to the risk of catching Covid-19 day after day, so I and people like me could find what we want on our supermarket shelves. It’s very refreshing that we have realised that our “key workers” are not people who are wealthy, bosses, celebrities and the like and we have come to value those who do simple but essential tasks for our benefit. I think that God has used this coronavirus crisis to teach us to value each other more.
The other thing that I was reminded of was an event that made certain of our congregation very happy indeed. Liverpool have won the Premier League, although you might be more likely to hear Terry, or Allison, or Rick, say “we have won the league”. “We”? They haven’t scored a goal, made a tackle, or even kicked a ball all season, but “we” have won the league! It has been good to hear the players and manager praise the fans and it seems that the fans share in the reward of the football club.
So, what do those 2 things have to do with our reading today? Well, at the beginning of Matthew 10 Jesus sends his disciples out to tell others the good news about him. He explains to them how they should go out, as vulnerable people, taking no provisions or extra clothing and he warns them that they will face opposition and their message will divide families and communities.
Now, in verse 40, Jesus turns his attention to those to whom the disciples are going. And he says something remarkable: “anyone who welcomes you, welcomes me” (v40). This is wonderful – the disciples are taking Jesus himself to the people they meet. And in saying what he does, Jesus shows how much he values each person to whom the disciples will go.
We have learned to value “ordinary” people more and here Jesus shows us that he values all people as he calls us to go out and tell others about him. What a privilege it is for us to carry Jesus to others, to show them to him and his love for them.
Jesus goes on to say: “Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward” (v41). A prophet, as it is used here, means someone who represents God, who speaks for God, or as Jesus puts it, a righteous person. A righteous person is blessed by God by his presence in them – and that blessing is shared by those who welcome the righteous person and accept what they say. As the reward, or blessing, of winning the Premier League is shared by the supporters of the club, the much greater blessing of knowing God is shared by those who welcome, accept, the ones Jesus sends out with his good news.
This is a great encouragement to us as we go out to tell others about Jesus. As we do so, Jesus is with us, longing to be welcomed by everyone. So, let us value others enough to give them the opportunity to welcome Jesus. And let us be encouraged that all who welcome Jesus will receive the reward that we have, of his life and presence with us.