Fourth Sunday after Pentecost Year A
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
This morning we continue our continuous Gospel readings from the 10th chapter of Matthew. As you may recall from our readings from the past two weeks, Jesus was preparing His disciples to go out into the world and proclaim the Good News that the Kingdom of God was at hand.
And as He prepared His disciples, Jesus endowed them with authority to heal the sick and drive out demons. And He instructed His disciples to travel lightly and not take any extra clothing or food with them, because He promised that they will be looked after by the “people of peace” whom they will encounter in their journeys.
Jesus also instructed His disciples that His ministry would not be easy, and that they should expect persecution and rejection as they went from village to village spreading the Good News. But even as Jesus said all this, Jesus comforted His disciples with the news that the Holy Spirit would be with them as they lived out God’s Redeeming Activity in the world.
Jesus knew the struggles and the conflict the disciples would soon face when the hard questions of life in God’s Kingdom was presented to the people in the outlying villages.
That is why Jesus stated last week in our Gospel text “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter – in – law against her mother – in – law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.”
In other words, Jesus is warning His disciples that they can expect to unleash chaos as families and friends turn on each other due to the truth of the Gospel. And Jesus told His disciples that they might be beaten and rejected as they spread the Good News of God’s Kingdom int his world.
And we are told prior to our text today “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” I think you would agree with me that being a missionary for Christ is not an easy task.
But not all is doom and gloom. Even as Jesus warned His disciples about the hardship and distress they would soon face, Jesus assured His disciples that they would also meet “people of peace” who would welcome them and take care of their needs.
And Jesus pointed out that “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” Persecution therefore is not the only result of discipleship.
Today in our text Jesus informed His disciples that they would come across people that loved God and who would honor the people God sent to them.
And these people who welcomed them will be rewarded. Jesus said “Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and who ever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple – truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
And the reward, of course, would be the gift of salvation offered to us through the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. And because they welcomed and accepted you, they too will now have the reward of participating in Christ’s ministry.
Now I know that this sounds simple and appears easy to comprehend, but the question I must ask is: “How do we participate in the ministry that the Lord has given to us?” And to help answer this question I would like for you to look at vs. 42 for a moment and reflect upon what Jesus is asking us to do.
The verse states: “Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple – truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
Did you know that throughout His earthly ministry Jesus spent a great deal of time teaching His disciples how things work in the kingdom of God?
And that Jesus provided for His disciple’s examples of how they could carry out the ministry His Father had given to Him.
One such example is recorded in Matthew 25: 31-40: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of glory. All nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and He will put the sheep at His right hand and the goats at the left.”
“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’”
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”
And the point being, when Christ’s Disciples reach out to the less fortunate with a hand of compassion, and with a hand of mercy, and with a hand of acceptance, they are in fact reaching out to Him.
And the wonderful thing about Christ’s teaching is that it does not need be something big or difficult or beyond our ability. Sometimes it may be just a cold cup of water given in the name of a disciple.
Unfortunately, we all can think of many reasons why we cannot be there for our neighbor and be God’s feet and hands in our world today. Too often when we are offered the opportunity to share Christ’s love we respond that we are too busy, or too tired, or too shy, or too inexperienced to be of any use in the ministry God has given to us.
But God calls us to care for His little ones. And God has given us an example of how we can share His love with others through the gift of His Son.
Jesus said: “Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple – truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
My friends, each one of us is a part of Christ’s body. And even though we each have different gifts and talents we are all called to be His hands and feet in this world as we serve and love one another.
Let us pray: Almighty God, your Son Jesus has taught us that what we do for the least of your children we also do for Him. Give us the will to serve others, as He was the servant of all, who gave up His life and died for us so we may forever live in your Kingdom. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.