Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Receiving Christ & His Reward

Some very simple teaching of the New Testament is often overlooked, perhaps because we don't know how to apply it in a manner consistent with other teachings of the New Testament. Matthew 10:40-42 has a simple message, but one which is easy to ignore: Demonstrating one's love for Jesus by receiving His messengers brings reward. It is important to note that this promise follows on the heals of Jesus' warning of persecution and social disruption for those who follow Him.

vs. 40 Whoever receives you Me receives, and whoever receives Me receives the One who sent Me.
The parallelism of these clauses underscores the remarkable parallel between Jesus' identification with His heavenly Father and the disciples' identification with Jesus. Just as Jesus is the authorized representative of the Father, so that to receive Jesus is to receive the Father, so the disciples are the authorized representatives of Jesus, so that to receive the disciples is to receive Jesus. For you theologians I will add the caveat that the parallelism is economical (being sent as representative), not ontological (sharing the same essence). Would you befriend a follower of Jesus even if it came with a social stigma (see v. 35)? If you would receive Jesus despite the social ramifications, then you should also receive His messengers at the same cost: "Whoever receives you Me receives!"

vs. 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.
Simply put, when you share in another's ministry (even when it hurts) by supporting that person, you also share in their blessing of being on mission with God. A great example of this is found in 1 Kings 17:8-16. God uses a poor widow to provide for Elijah. Because she trusted God and put Elijah's needs before her household's needs they were all provided for during the famine.

vs. 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.
Even the smallest kindness is noted by the Lord Jesus. Note the affection our Lord has for those who follow Him as He calls us "little ones." When you care for a disciple of Jesus you are caring for His precious little ones. Because Jesus knows what a difficulty this can be, He makes the promise emphatic by adding "truly" or "amen" "I say to you." You can take the promise of reward on His authority and veracity. Then He adds a double negative (which is not allowed in English) when He makes the promise "he will not! not! lose his reward!"

How wonderfully seriously the early Christians took this teaching. The author of Hebrews commended the believers for the care they showed to Christians who had been arrested. The only food those prisoners might get would come from the charity of friends and family. The hindrance was that to visit a Christian was to betray yourself as a Christian to the authorities. What would you do? Here is what they did: For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.

They know they had a better possession and an abiding one because Jesus promised "he will by no means lose his reward!"

How have you shown your love for Christ lately? Have you befriended in a tangible way someone who is serving the Lord?

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