Matthew 10:40-42

the_gospel_of_matthew-title-1-Wide 16x9 copy 2

Matthew 10

40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

The Roman historian Suetonius once mocked the Emperor Claudius as one who “showed such heedlessness in word and act that one would suppose that he did not know or care to whom, with whom, when, or where he was speaking.” Among the list of examples of Augustus’ “heedlessness” provided by Suetonius are the following:

He gave us one of his reasons for supporting a candidate for the quaestorship, that the man’s father had once given him cold water when he was ill and needed it.[1]

For Suetonius the historian, this was absurd and worthy of mockery. Why on earth would a man of power even remember that a person gave him a cup of cold water, much less bless the person who gave the water? The implication is clear enough: a cup of water is an irrelevant gift to Suetonius, a worthless offering, and no truly great man would acknowledge such a paltry thing.

This makes the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:40-42 all the more amazing, for in this text Jesus exalts the giving of a cup of water to an amazing extent. In the Kingdom of God a “small” gift is truly big, for it reveals great faith if faithfully and joyfully given. What is more, Jesus is going to show that giving a cup of water to one of His children is the same as giving it to Him! The context of these comments is Jesus encouraging his disciples to support one another in our mission to advance the gospel in the world. Let us consider Jesus’ amazing words.

Just as Satan is present in opposition to the gospel, Christ is present in its advancement.

We should see Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:40-42 as a contrast of encouragement from the often-cautionary words that precede them.

40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward.

I say this is a contrast of encouragement from much of what precedes it because in the sending out of His disciples on mission in this chapter Jesus voices numerous warnings about the difficulties that await His sent church. Consider the following:

  • “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves” (v.16)
  • “you will be dragged before governors and kings” (v.18)
  • “Brother will deliver brother over to death…” (v.21)
  • “you will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (v.22)
  • “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next” (v.23)
  • “And do not fear those who kill the body…” (v.28)
  • “a person’s enemies will be those of his own household” (v.37)

So we have these many dire warnings from Jesus preceding our text. And this is important. He is stressing the reality of the cost of discipleship and, throughout, He has indeed encouraged His followers to remember that He is with them and that they must fear God more than they fear persecution. In these many warnings of danger, Jesus is pointing to the spiritual reality that lurks behind all opposition to the advancement of the gospel. The reality is that Satan is always behind every effort to oppose the gospel! All of these terrifying images of persecution and violence are images of the one who hates Jesus and His church and His church’s mission: Satan. These warnings are consonant with the chilling image of Satan we find in 1 Peter 5.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

In particular the “someone” the devil seeks “to devour” is the disciple of Christ on mission for Christ. In Mark 4, Jesus makes the devil’s hatred of the advancement of the gospel in the world vividly clear in the parable of the sower and the seeds. The point is made in the first seeds that are sown.

“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.”

Jesus’ interpretation of these words points to the reality of Satanic attacks against His word going forth into the world.

13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.”

Satan wants to take the word away, to keep it from being sown in the hearts of human beings. The follower of Jesus must understand this: Satan is present in all opposition to the gospel. But the words of Jesus in our text offer an important contrasting truth: just as Satan is present in opposition to the gospel, Christ is present in its advancement.

40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward.

Christ is with His on-mission-church. When the advancement of the gospel is accepted and welcomed and assisted, it is truly Jesus who is accepted and welcomed and assisted, for only a disciple of King Jesus would desire for the gospel to advance and the Kingdom to expand in the world. In point of fact, what Jesus says is that those who “receive” His disciples, receive both Him and “him who sent me,” the Father. This principle of Christ being present in the person of those who receive the love and kindness and assistance of His people was expressed also in Matthew 25.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

In this image Jesus is present in the lowly and the least and the suffering: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned. In our text, Matthew 10:40-42, Jesus is present in His on-mission-people who are received and assisted. And this fact is empowering and encouraging to Jesus’ sent followers. Satan may oppose the Lord’s missionary church, but Jesus is with us!

We should generously support the advancement of the gospel where we see it happening.

What this means is that we should support, sacrificially and generously, the advancement of the gospel around the world whenever and wherever we see it.

42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

By “little ones” Jesus is referring to His sent church, His followers on mission to take the gospel to the world. John will use the same image in 1 John 3:

7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.

The people of God should support the work of God! We should be excited to do so! In calling for this, Jesus is also encouraging His on-mission-followers. He is calling upon the church to stand with the church in her mission and her efforts. He is calling for support and assistance. R.T. France referred to this as “the credit” side of discipleship as opposed to “the debit side of discipleship” that “has dominated” much of Matthew 10.[2] In other words, much will be taken from the disciple who is bold in his or her witness, but much will be given as well. The Christian who seeks to follow Jesus should receive the encouragement of the body of Christ!

This means that we must see the beauty in and importance of coming alongside those who are seeking to advance the Kingdom. A wonderful image that can help us in these efforts is found in the history of the missions movement of the 18th and 19th centuries.

On the 2nd [of] October, 1792, at Kettering, the historic meeting took place at which the Particular Baptist Missionary Society was formed. Andrew Fuller was nominated Secretary of the new Society.

[William] Carey became the first missionary and Fuller’s role was to direct and maintain the work at home. Fuller compared them to miners. Carey had said “I will go down if you will hold the rope”, while Fuller replied “Before he went down we engaged that while he lived we would never let go the rope”. The care and concerns of the Society lay far more on Fuller than any other man and he spared no effort in advancing its interests.[3]

I love this image of “holding the rope.” We must be willing to hold the rope for one another and Jesus is saying that when we do so we receive a great blessing. And we need not fear that we have too little to give. Jesus’ words do not suggest that only those who are able to give big gifts can have the blessing of holding the rope.

42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

Commenting on this verse, Saint Jerome said:

…[S]omeone may object and say, “I am prevented by poverty. My own lack prevents me from acting as a host.” Jesus eliminated this excuse, too, by the easily fulfilled command that we should offer a cup of cold water with our whole heart. He said “cold water” rather than “hot water” so that we could not object because of our poverty or lack of fuel for hot water.[4]

If all you have is a cup of cold water to give to a faithful servant of God, give it and know that the Lord will bless you! Remember, to give that cup of cold water to a faithful servant is to give it to Christ! In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul commended the churches of Macedonia to the church of Corinth for their great generosity, but what is most interesting is Paul’s revelation that the churches of Macedonia gave out of their poverty.

1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints

This is a powerful truth! It means there are no small acts of kindness in the Kingdom! Jesus makes this point again in His words about the widow and her mite in Luke 21.

1 Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

In Luke 21 it is a widow and her little mite. In Matthew 10 it is a faithful follower and his or her little cup of water. The two gifts have a similarity: they are mighty gifts in the economy of God! There is no small or insignificant way to stand lovingly and faithfully by the people of God! Any effort in this regard is great! Jesus can do great things with a mite or a cup of water, so if that is what you have to give, then give it for the advancement of the Kingdom and the spread of the gospel!

In Dostoevsky’s novel The Idiot, Prince Myshkin makes the following observations about kindness and charity.

In scattering the seed, scattering your “charity,” your kind deeds, you are giving away, in one form or another, part of your personality, and taking into yourself part of another; you are in mutual communion with one another, a little more attention and you will be rewarded with the knowledge of the most unexpected discoveries. You will come at last to look upon your work as a science; it will lay hold of all your life, and may fill up your whole life. On the other hand, all your thoughts, all the seeds scattered by you, perhaps forgotten by you, will grow up and take form. He who has received them from you will hand them on to another.  And how can you tell what part you may have in the future determination of the destinies of humanity?[5]

I think Dostoevsky’s insight is profound! This idea of kindness opening the door for an exchange of personalities has the flavor of Jesus’ words about them. Certainly it is true that when we offer the cup of cold water to the disciple-on-mission and when we hold the rope for God’s faithful people, we are investing in them. They receive our personality in the gift, we might say. It is also and more importantly true that when we do this we receive the personality of Christ in return: His blessing and His peace. To use Dostoevsky’s words, it is the case that the one who gives the cup of water “will be rewarded with the knowledge of the most unexpected discoveries.” Yes! We will be! Service and kindness and love in the name of Jesus lead us into a greater understanding of Jesus!

And Dostoevsky is also correct that our kind deeds—even if they are mites and cups of water—“will grow and take form.” Such is the nature of the Kingdom that good works and acts of service and love go on and on and continue to bear fruit! Love cannot be contained!

So if you are paying a price for following Jesus, be encouraged! Jesus is with you! And the people of God are with you! And church, come alongside your brothers and sisters! Be there wherever faithful followers of the King are advancing His Kingdom in the world. Help them! Support them! Stand by them! Hold the rope! Hold the rope in Jesus’ name!

 

[1] http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/Claudius*.html; This was referenced in Craig S. Kenner, The Gospel of Matthew. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), p.332.

[2] R.T. France. Matthew. Tyndale New Testament Commentary. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1985), p.193.

[3] https://www.wmcarey.edu/carey/wmward/Misc%20html/fuller.html

[4] Ancient Faith Study Bible. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2019), p.1146n10:40-42.

[5] Fyodor Dostoevsky.  The Idiot.  (New York:  Everyman’s Library, ), p.385.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *