Janet in NY
You will see where I borrowed from some remarks in the
discussions. Thanks to all whose comments or questions helped me formulate my
thoughts on this passage.
First, who is speaking here? Second, to whom is this person speaking?
Jesus Christ speaks these words, as part of a long discussion on discipleship. Jesus is
explaining to the 12 disciples how they should go about preaching the gospel, healing the
sick, cleansing lepers, casting out demons. Two weeks ago we read that Jesus called the 12
together and commissioned them to go out to the lost sheep of Israel. Today's verses
appear later in that same discussion.
What is a prophet? This is the definition, according to a fellow pastor: A prophet is a
preacher who warns us what is going to happen if we don't straighten up, and that is why a
prophet is never accepted in his or her own town! They are not even accepted very well in
someone else's town. Oh well, Jesus wasn't welcome, either! Strong's Dictionary of Bible
Words says a prophet is an "inspired man." In this passage, Jesus seems to be
using the words "prophet" and righteous man" interchangeably. He is
referring to the disciples, or anyone acting in the name of Christ. People who receive
them will receive a great reward; they will share in the blessing of the disciples.
What exactly is a prophet's reward? And the reward of the righteous? This is the
blessing of Christ, and of God the Father, because when we receive His disciples, we
receive Him also, and the One who sent Him!
Mark 9:41: For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you belong
to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.
In contrast to Mark's version of this passage, Matthew's report specifies that the
action is done in the name of the disciple, rather than in the name of Christ. Christ
equates the two: receive him who comes in my name and you receive me, and Him who sent me.
This can also be looked at the other way: receive NOT, and do not receive the blessing! It
is interesting to note that the reward is not earned by those who give a cup of cold water
to these...the reward is already given and one can only lose it.
I understand this to mean that we received the right to the blessings, by believing in
Christ. We can only LOSE this reward if we willfully refuse to receive our brothers and
sisters in Christ, especially one who comes with a message or teaching. Therefore, we
should be always prepared to receive others with a welcoming attitude. If they show that
they are NOT brothers and sisters, but attempt to lead us away from Christ, THEN it is
time to treat them differently. If we cannot share the truth with them, we must not
fellowship with them. Do not be drawn away from the fellowship of believers by those who
would influence you to evil.
Let's see; what else do we find in this short passage?
A cup of cold water. This is apparently meant to be a small thing, the way it is used
here. But it is not really a small thing. Water is a symbol of life. It is a necessity; we
cannot live without it. If you have been traveling in the hot sun all day, a drink is a
welcoming thing. It is a symbol of hospitality to a visitor. During those times of
persecution, giving hospitality to the followers of Christ was a dangerous thing. It
required courage and commitment.
Then there is the temperature of the water: cold! This represents refreshment. A cup of
water can save a person who is dying of thirst, but cold water will be more satisfying.
Any water will do if you are thirsty, but if it is cool, it makes you feel wonderful!
Also, coolness means it has not been sitting in the bucket all day, but has just been
drawn from the depths of the well. This means taking that extra effort to make the welcome
complete. Just as we saw Abraham offer water for washing and cooling their feet, and then
a meal, we must also go to that extra effort to make others feel welcome, to be cared for.
The smallest act of service to a disciple of Christ is counted as a service to Christ