“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” Matthew 10:40
These verses from Matthew’s gospel are from the end of Jesus’ conversation with his twelve closest disciples just before he sends them out on his behalf. He’s given them authority to cast out demons and heal illness and disease. Their task is to proclaim the good news that the “kingdom of God has come near.” They are not to pack provisions and they are to not expect or accept payment. Jesus notes that he is sending them out into perilous circumstances, like “sheep in the midst of wolves.” They will encounter conflict and be persecuted, and he reminds them that they will be in the care of God the whole time.
These verses remind the disciples that they are going as Jesus’ envoys, and God’s envoys. They represent the God of their ancestors and are bringing good news that God’s reign of justice and love, forgiveness and peace has begun. These words about welcome and reward for the righteous and the prophet encourage and give them hope that in the communities they visit, they will find folks who will actually hear what they share as the good news they believe it to be.
We, like the twelve Jesus sends out in the passage, are sent out into the world to share the good news that God is here, changing the world into a place of peace and justice, love and forgiveness. Surprising message, I know. It is so easy to see discord and unrest in the lives around us, injustice and abuse in our communities and country. All around us we hear about hate and disrespect, revenge and retribution. Yet, we also encounter situations and people that welcome the news that God is active and working in the world. We can point to instances where the very things that Jesus teaches ARE changing the world; peace, love, justice and forgiveness. Our task is to join the prophets and the righteous ones who proclaim a future transformed by God, using our hands, our voices, and our commitment. Even if all we do is hand water to those engaged in working for change, we are part of the transformation.
And the reward Jesus mentions? I’m convinced the reward we find is the opportunity to live in a world that is radically changed by the love of God.