Matthew 10:40-42

On our next occasion to hear the Word preached we will begin chapter eleven.  We’ve spent a long time in ten because it’s so prominent and weighty – and because of its value to us as disciples.  At the beginning of eleven, Jesus begins to move into the towns and villages of northern Israel - doing the things He commissioned His twelve apostles to do.  He meets the disciples of John, who’s in prison awaiting execution; and these disciples want to know if Jesus is the long awaited Messiah prophesied by the prophets.

Jesus’ answer to them, and His pronouncements of judgment upon unrepentant cities, and His other statements of great significance, all make this a remarkable chapter – one which I’m quite excited to learn, as we go through it together.  So we can look forward to that when we meet next time.

 But I mentioned that chapter ten is weighty.  And we have more “weighty” stuff this morning as we look at these three last verses.  It’s very heavy.  But that’s not a negative concept, is it?  “Weighty” doesn’t equate with boring, and “weighty” doesn’t mean unintelligible either, does it?

The way I look at it, is – the more meat there is on the table, the more edified I’m going to be!  One who’s fed with sweets won’t be healthy!  But to get filled up and edified with solid spiritual food is the goal.  And that’s why this chapter has taken so long.  And here at the end our Lord by no means stops feeding us!  He continues to pile concept upon concept; but these last three verses were spoken – at least one of the reasons they were spoken – was for the purpose of impacting what must have been a somewhat terrifying scene for the disciples of Jesus.  As firm as they were in their belief in Him – and as much as it was given them to love Him - the prospects of moving into the midst of the wolves wasn’t at the top of the list of fun things to do!

Direct confrontation with the demons in a place that’s now called the “whore of Babylon” can’t be looked at as the same as a three-year business plan.  And especially if you are twelve common, ordinary, relatively-ungifted men, most of whom are “fishermen-type” guys who don’t measure up to the sophisticated manipulators of world politics and religion, which was the case with this highly coveted state of Israel and city of Jerusalem.

The Lord has warned them of severe treatment at the hands of synagogue judges and from the Scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees – and every other political and religious group, the numbers of which were “legion!”  And that they would suffer even at the hands of governors and kings.  And that they would be hated and persecuted by people all around them – even members of their own families!

But Jesus also consoles them in many ways, doesn’t He?  Last week we even heard Jesus explain to them – and to us – that in their suffering on His account they would be sharing His suffering and death; and that suffering in Him, and being humiliated in Him, and dying with Him, they would destroy self and thereby discover self!

We also found out that the opposite is also true – that those who, through fear of suffering and persecution and fear of humiliation and death, found the self by declining to share His suffering, would find and save the self to the ultimate eternal ruin of self!

And now Jesus takes that even one step further as He completes the disciple’s commission with more consolation.  And the divisions brought about by Christ and His Sword – the separations in every social realm – including families – and the ultimate separation by destroying the self – all those divisions are now laid to rest and put aside by Jesus’ explanations of the Covenantal unity which is to be brought about by the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom and the finding of the lost sheep!

In verse forty we read: 


“He who welcomes you welcomes Me; and the one welcoming Me welcomes the One Who sent Me.” 


You see there is division on the one hand, but covenantal unity with all those who receive the disciples and their Word!

Jesus has already said that the disciple/slave is “as” his Teacher/Master.  And that the disciples were real participants in Christ and shared His suffering.  So there is this union with Christ which is indicated here.

And, in addition to that, there is something else!  Not only is there real identification with the suffering Servant of God, but there is representation of Him as well!  The disciple represents His Lord – not in some “nebulous” way, but as commissioners.  Real representatives – to such an extent that when a household receives them, it also receives the One Who sent them!

So there’s a close identification with Christ – to such an extent that the disciples actually participate in Him and in His suffering; and then there is this idea of the commissioned representative.  Now, one who is commissioned is one sent.  And Jesus here says that when you are received, I am received, because I sent you.  And when I am receive, so is the Father received, because He sent Me!

God was Christ’s sender, or commissioner, and Christ was the apostle’s Sender.  And some will hear the words of the apostles and believe them, and therefore, by extension, become believers in the words of the King – and His Father!

The preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom by Jesus’ disciples was going to be heard by some who would receive those apostles, and they would welcome them with joy.  And, by doing so, they would publicly acknowledge the One Who sent them – and His Father.  And, further, they would put themselves at terrible risk of the same suffering and persecution and death to which the apostles were subjected – and to which Christ was subjected.  And then they, in turn, would destroy self in the suffering of Christ and discover self in covenantal union with the apostles, and with Christ, and with the Father!  And that’s what happens to all of us who are the elect.

Now.  This matter of receiving the apostles in the way in which they ought to be received (which is the definition, you remember, of the term worthy) but receiving the apostles in the way in which they ought to be received rests on a Biblical principle – one which refers to all proclaimers of the truth!  Let’s read the last two verses again:


“The one welcoming a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive the reward of a prophet, and the one welcoming a just man (or a righteous man – it can be translated either way) in a just man’s name receives a just man’s reward.  And whoever shall give a drink to one of the least of these, only a cool drink in the name of a disciple, amen I say to you, he in no way shall lose his reward.”


Now, with regard to receiving all proclaimers of the truth worthily, let me just make three or four pointed comments, and then I want to spend the remainder of the time on the term “the least of these.”

First, let me say that, having already seen that welcoming a representative of Christ who is suffering on His account and speaking His words is the same as welcoming Christ Himself and His Father, it is then also true that our Lord Jesus takes what is done to His disciples – whether it be the first century or the twentieth – and considers it done to Himself.  He reckons Himself treated as they are treated – whether it’s kindness or unkindness!  Honor or contempt put upon a disciple of Christ reflects honor or contempt upon the King who sends them.  And even more than that – Jesus has said that “he who receives Me receives Him that sent Me!”  So not only Christ takes it as done to Himself, but, through Christ, so does the Father!  So by entertaining and welcoming and receiving Christ’s disciples, we are not just entertaining angels unawares, but Christ and the Father!  Let’s all remember that great passage coming up in the twenty-fifth chapter of this Gospel where Jesus says,


 “…then shall the righteous man answer Him saying ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and fed you?  Or thirsty and gave You something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and took You in?  Or naked and clothed You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison and came unto You?’  And the King shall answer and say unto them, ‘Truly I say unto you, inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these My brothers, you have done it unto Me.’”


Secondly, although the kindness done to a disciple of Christ may be small, it too is done unto Christ and the Father.  Jesus says, only a cup of cool water in the name of a disciple, and the giver will in no way lose his reward!  If that’s the welcoming and receiving that one of Christ’s people needs, then the kindness isn’t valued according to its cost.  The kindness is valued according to the love and affection given to Christ and His people.  If the prophet only needs water, and the giver welcomes him and receives him as a prophet of Christ and gives him the water, then the giver will in no wise lose his reward!

And, thirdly, coming right behind that, the kindness to Christ’s disciple which is acceptable must be done for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom, and for the sake of the disciple because he’s sent by Christ!  Not because they are needy – not because they are nice – not because they are learned or speak well - not because they’re neighbors or relatives; but because of their identification with the King!  You see, the kindness done has an acceptable value because it’s done to a minister of Christ – one commissioned by Christ – and therefore it’s done to Him and to His Father!

And let me just say very quickly that there are good works abounding all around us – from charities to helps to hospitals to incredible works of mercy!  And most of them do good for society.  But no acceptable value accrues to the giver – it is not done unto Christ Himself – unless it is done to a disciple, in the name of a disciple, for the sake of the King!

The established denominations fell into the grievous error, a number of years ago, of the social gospel!  And what that means is that the full agenda of the Churches was to impact society for societies’ sake!  Human good for human welfare.  Relieve suffering because men deserved not to suffer!  Their agenda was bold and international in scope; and there are many, many proponents of the social Gospel around in the big liberal denominations; but the value of the works involved has no acceptability before the righteous throne of the King.  If the kindness is shown to the King and His disciples, then there is rich and suitable reward for it.

Which brings me immediately to my fourth point, which has to do with the reward.  Jesus says receive a prophet in the name of a prophet and receive a prophet’s reward.  Receive a righteous man in the name of a righteous man and receive a righteous man’s reward.  Now, that’s a lot of stuff, there, but what does it mean?

Well, first of all, we have to assume what we all know to be the context here, and, because of that, the prophet Jesus speaks about is truly a prophet of God and not someone who is a pseudoprophet, and not someone who speaks true things – but with a little twist!  And the same is true of the righteous man.  Because of the whole picture, here, we have to assume that he is truly righteous before God; that is, he is the recipient of the grace of God, and he seeks, with all his heart to live according to God’s holy Law-Word.  And let’s also remember that these are the ones who will receive the persecution and pain and humiliation because of it!  Giving kindness and receiving one who is false receives no reward!

Then, let’s look for a minute at the ones who are to receive a reward.  You’ll note that Jesus doesn’t say that they will deserve one – only that they will receive one!  We can’t merit – no man can merit – wages from God!  But those who do kindnesses to His disciples, knowing that they are true prophets and righteous men, will receive a free reward from the hand of God!  And, as Jesus says, it shall in no wise be lost.  The strongest negative in Greek.

Secondly (with regard to the reward) Jesus says, “in the name of a prophet.”  What does He mean there?  Some have suggested that this refers to Christ Himself, since He is the great Prophet and since He’s the One Who is called “the Righteous One.”  And the Bible does place great emphases upon the Name of Jesus, doesn’t it?

But even though it’s a strong argument, I still think it’s too far-fetched – it’s reaching too far – it’s not the most obvious connection!  What’s more likely is the connection between Christ and the true prophet, and the truly righteous man!  You see, one’s name is one’s identification.  And Jesus is saying that if a true prophet of God is identified as that, and kindness is shown to Him, then there’s a reward.  And the same is true of a righteous man.  If one is identified as a righteous man, and, because of that – because he has been made righteous by God, and because he strives to live justly before God, because he’s a brother in the Kingdom – kindnesses are done to him, then there’s a free reward!  A man’s name is the wholeness of who he is – his identification.  It’s how he’s recognized!

And now let’s see what the reward is.  Now, this can be interpreted in two ways.  And remember that this is a free gift to someone who does kindness to one who is recognized as belonging to the King!  First, it can be seen as the reward which is given to the prophet (or the righteous man) and which accrues to the one who does the kindness; in other words, the one who receives him and does kindness to him participates in the reward God gives to the prophet; or, (and this is the second possibility) or this is the reward that the prophet gives to the one who does him kindness.  When the prophet or the righteous man gives ministry or instruction to the one who receives him in kindness, then that’s a reward to be greatly valued!

A good example from the Old Testament concerning a prophet’s reward is in Genesis chapter twenty.  The Canaanite king had taken Sarah, Abraham’s wife.  And before that king had done anything to Sarah, God spoke to him and told him who Abraham was.  And God said to him, “he is a prophet, and he will pray for you.”

So, you see, the reward for the recognition and reception of a prophet from God consists in spiritual blessings:  ministry, and instruction and prayer and fellowship – the things which are valued above all other things!

But I think both of these things are true.  Not only do I think that we receive the blessings God gives to his righteous people when we receive them and do kindnesses to them, but also we receive blessings from them through their ministries to us.  And the reward is great indeed.  And it’s not earned; it’s freely given.  Grace!

Now.  Lastly I want to discuss with you one of the great doctrines of Scripture.  I know we’ve done some “heavy” work already, but stay in there, because this Biblical principle must become a part of your Christian life!

You remember that King David wasn’t the first king over Israel.  Before him was king Saul.  And in First Samuel chapter fifteen God told Saul that when he, Saul, was weak and insignificant in his own eyes, God made him king over the mighty ones of Israel.  The Hebrew word that’s used there for insignificant is translated “mikros” in Greek.  Micro.  And that’s the word that’s used here in our text this morning.  Verse forty-two:


 “…and whoever shall give a drink (show the smallest kindness) to one of the micros – the least – of these, only a cool drink in the name of a disciple, amen I say to you he in no way shall lose his reward.”


In the next chapter of this Gospel, which we’ll be reading the next time we meet, we find Jesus saying that the least of these is greater than John the Baptizer.  Further on in chapter eighteen Jesus says: 


“…it is not the will of your Father Who is in Heaven that one of these little ones (mikros), should perish.” 


Saul was not a baby, or a child.  He was weak and insignificant.

It is absolutely paradoxical to the world order that the few, the weak, the small, the insignificant display the power of Christ and not some foolish pseudo-power of men!  Jesus’ disciples were “few.”  And Jesus calls them micros – little; insignificant.  The King and His Word, and His Spirit; there’s where the power is to save the world.  And Christ uses – not the wisdom and reason and power of the world order to accomplish His plan, but He uses the foolishness of preaching and those who understand their own insignificance.

The Biblical opposite of that is the Pharisees striving for greatness – which brings final insignificance because it brings no glory to Christ and His Kingdom!  And that exertion of self is so contemptible to God!  And we must repent.

But these few insignificant men mortified “self” for the Kingdom of their Lord.  You see, it isn’t the “work” of the prophet, or the greatness of his gifts, or the strength of his perseverance or the capacity of his reason!  The issue with Jesus, as He commissions the twelve, is the “death” of self and the awesome Power in the body of the resurrected Lord.

And when one shows kindness to “mikros” – those who have died to self for the glory of the risen Savior, then he shall by no means lose his reward.