It’s interesting to me how Jesus finishes this discourse. He tells the disciples that if people receive them, they are receiving him. The reverse is also true. When people reject us because of the gospel, they aren’t merely rejecting us, they are rejecting Christ who is in us.
Basically, this means, don’t take their rejection personally. It may hurt, especially if they are people we care for. But ultimately they’re not rejecting you because of who you are. They’re rejecting you because of who you represent.
But Jesus goes off on this to lay down a principle for the disciples to remember. He says in the same way, if a person receives a prophet, they will receive a prophet’s reward. And if a person receives a righteous person, he will receive a righteous person’s reward. Here, I think Jesus is specifically referring to people who provide room and board for others doing ministry, as people would do for the disciples on their mission trip.
Why did Jesus say this? I think he was reminding them that though their work was important, they were not to look down on others who were given other tasks by God to do. He was telling them that the people who would provide for them were as worthy of as much honor as the disciples themselves. The disciples may have been doing the “spiritual” work, but these others were taking care of the “practical” work that was needed for the ministry to go forward.
Too often, we look to the pastors, teachers, and worship leaders as the “great people of the church.” But we fail to look at the other people who work behind the scenes. The ones who run the audio equipment or the ones who set up the room, for example. These too are worthy of praise, and will be honored by God just as much as the person who is up front speaking or singing.
Since God honors them, we need to remember to honor them too.
But Jesus goes beyond that, saying,
And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward. (42)
I wonder what Jesus is talking about here. Did he happen to be holding a “little one,” that is a child, in his lap as he said this? Or was he referring to the disciples and prophets as “little ones?”
If he was talking about a little child, it’s a reminder to us that even caring for the needs of a child because he belongs to Christ is important to God.
If he’s talking about the prophets and disciples, it’s a reminder that they are “little ones” themselves. Certainly not people who should hold themselves over others because of the position they’d been given.
Are you in a “greater” position than others? Remember that what others do for God’s kingdom, even if it’s “just” supporting your work, is just as important as what you do. So honor them as such.
Are you in a “lower” position? Remember that if you are faithful in what God calls you to do, he honors you just as much as the people in the “higher positions.”
Because when it’s all said and done, God considers us all valuable in his sight and will honor us if we are faithful.