A Cup of Cold Water (Matthew 10:40-42)
Marching Orders
A Cup of Cold Water
Matthew 10:40-42
If you've been here for the entirety of our study of Matthew 10, you've probably noticed there is a lot of bad news in this chapter. Jesus talks about dangerous enemies, hard times, rejection, betrayal, family division, persecution, imprisonment, beatings, lies, slander, verbal abuse and hatred.
Those aren't exactly the kinds of things most churches put in their ads to attract new members! So why would anyone sign up for this? It is because we are convinced of the authenticity of our message and the value of our Savior.
And if ever there was a time when Christians are needed to be what God intended and designed for them to be, this is that time. In fact, I would just like to say to all the fringe dwellers and token attenders, “If you’re going to be a Christian, be one!”
If the church needs one things more than anything else, it needs people who believe passionately and demonstrate their faith through their commitment to the Lord and His church. In a day and world where Christians are being killed for their faith, we need to decide if we are willing to go all the way with the Lord.
Last week, I was in a meeting where a young pastor voiced his discouragement with the people of his church not supporting a revival they had recently had.
He was frustrated because those who come are generally faithful to church services didn't come out and support the meeting through the week.
I couldn't help but think of the parable the Lord told about a farmer who went out to plant seed. He presents four different scenes of possibility. In one, the seed falls on hard ground and nothing happens. In another, birds eat the seed before it can take root and grow. In a third, the seed grows, but it is overcome by weeds and briars. And in the fourth, the seed grows and bears fruit.
But the Lord includes an interesting detail in that the seed bears in differing amounts. Some of it produces thirty fold, some sixty and some one hundred. Now in purely mathematical terms, that tells us only 25 percent of those who hear the gospel will respond, and only 1/3 of those who respond will go all the way with Jesus.
Think about that: Jesus said only 8.33% of those who are saved are going to be hundredfold Christians. And I will tell you, that young pastor is not the only one who is frustrated by the lackadaisical indifference that is seen in the church today.
In fact, it just kind of makes me mad! If you’re on the world’s team, then put on their jersey. But if you claim to be a Christian, you need to not only wear the jersey, you need to get involved. Show up for practice and game time. Discipline yourself to be a valued contribution to the team!
What the world desperately needs to see and come in contact with are some Christians who aren’t ashamed of their faith. Compromise will win you no friends. You’ll be “too Christian” for the worldly crowd and “too worldly” for the Christian crowd. We might as well stand up and be counted.
That's what this set of marching orders is all about. Jesus is calling His disciples out of the world and challenging them, regardless of the cost, to stand up and be counted, to be publicly identified with Him. He wants them to understand it is not going to be easy, they are going to be ostracized and separated from friends and family. They may be beaten and persecuted. But that is the cost of discipleship.
Now, as Jesus comes to the end of his message to his disciples, after warning them repeatedly of the trouble they can expect, He does what any good leader should do and that is tell them about the payoff.
As anyone would want to know, what's the reward for that kind of commitment? It’s a fair question. Following Jesus will not win you any praise from the world. If you dare to take a strong stand on any moral issue because of your Christian faith, you may lose your job, you may be sued, and you will certainly be attacked on social media. as we've seen, our brothers and sisters around the world are facing the threat of arrest, physical violence, and often death itself.
So is it worth it to follow Jesus? Maybe we’d be better off keeping our head down, our mouth shut, and not making any waves.
Why risk your career or your life or your family when you could just “go along to get along?” In Matthew 10:40-42 Jesus makes three promises to those who follow him.
The first promise is
1. We Will Connect People With God
verse 40
Notice the connection here. First, people welcome you, second, by welcoming you, they welcome Christ, and third, by welcoming Christ, they welcome the Father.
That's an interesting dynamic. One of the sticky issues that Christians have to deal with is how people get to God. That is always the way the question is asked. It's never about approaching Jesus or Mohammed or Krishna. The question is always about approaching God.
You will hear people say, "We're all trying to get to God." And the common opinion is there are lots of ways to do that. All of us take different paths, but ultimately, they all lead to God.
But Christianity is very exclusive. Remember, Jesus said He was coming with a sword and last week we talked about how that sword divides. Jesus said there was only one way to get to God and that was through Him. Jesus is very narrow-minded and intolerant at that point.
Notice, right here in this statement, Jesus puts all the argument to rest when He says, "Anyone who receives Me receives God." This verse says the same thing as John 14:6 where Jesus says, "No one comes to the Father except through Me."
So together, those verses tell us, in no uncertain terms, the way to the Father is through the Son. In fact, Jesus said it in a negative sense in John 15:23, “Whoever hates me hates my Father as well.”
And in today’s multi-cultural world where we have enshrined tolerance and diversity and pluralism as the new secular trinity, statements like that don’t fit in to well. They are too narrow. “One way to God? How dare you say such a thing!”
But we don’t get to pick and choose which statements of Jesus we will follow. The Bible teaches clearly and repeatedly that there is one God, and the only way to know Him is through Jesus Christ.
As I said a moment ago, the popular view is to say there are many roads to God. And in a sense, that’s true. Travel whatever road you want to, but one of these days you are going to stand face-to-face with God and give an answer for your life. You can travel the road of atheism or spiritualism or voodoo. You might choose to travel as a Buddhist or Communist or Hindu.
And I promise you, just keep traveling and one of these days, there you'll stand before God. But while many roads lead to God, only one road leads to Heaven. And that is the road traveled by Jesus.
Now understand, there are lots of way to get to Jesus. You can come to Jesus through the witness of a friend or family member.
You can hear about Him on the radio or TV or internet. You can read a little tract that someone places in your hand. You might hear a sermon and respond during the invitation. You can be out on your tractor or driving your car or mowing your grass when the Holy Spirit catches up to you and convinces you of your need for a Savior.
There are lots of ways to get to Jesus. But there is only One Way to get to God and spend eternity with Him in heaven and that is Jesus.
And that's what Jesus is telling us in this verse. There are lots of way to get to Jesus. Anyone who receives the message brought to them by one of my sheep will receive Me. That means anybody anywhere can be used to God in a myriad of ways to bring the good news to a person who is lost and on their way to Hell.
And when they do, and that person receives the Lord, they receive a relationship with God Himself!
Isn't that amazing? We have the privilege of connecting people with God! When we preach the gospel, we are connecting people with God! We are preaching the one and only message that leads from earth to heaven.
There is a second promise in this passage for those who follow Jesus and that is
#2: We Will Be a Blessing to Others
verse 41
Now, just to be clear, Jesus is expanding on what was said in verse 40 about those who receive us will receive the Lord. Then, in verse 41, He goes on to talk about rewards.
In other words, the one who receives the messenger sent by God, not only receives Jesus and God, but He receives rewards for receiving the messenger. Now let's just slow down for a moment and process what Jesus is saying.
He is telling His disciples, "When you go out and tell people about Me, if they receive you, they will receive me. In fact, they receive God. Plus, they will be rewarded for receiving you in the same way you are rewarded for going.
By the way, don't miss that part of the verse. Jesus mentions the reward of the prophet and the righteous man, both of which are describing the ones who go out with the message.
So Jesus promises to bless these He is sending out, but He is also reminding them that others will be blessed through them. And the promise is that those we are blessed will receive the same reward as those who are bringing the blessing!
Isn't that amazing?
And again, think about the setting in which these words are spoken. He's just told them they are going out as sheep among wolves.
They will be hated and persecuted, separated from families and ostracized. And the natural response would be to bow up and retaliate. But that is not the nature of the kingdom. They would find their model and example in their Savior. He Who did not open His mouth, even though He was spat upon and beaten and shamed, is the One Who is sending them out and the expectation is they will act and behave just like Him.
He says, "I want you to go out there and be a blessing." And we need to be reminded that when we go out in obedience to our Lord and Savior, we go to connect people with God and to be a blessing to them as we go!
There's one other promise I want us to see in this section, and it is woven throughout these verses, and that is not only do we go out to connect people with God and be a blessing to them, but
3. God Will Bless Our Faithfulness
verse 42
Now this verse is one of those verses that is very often read at face value, we assume we know what it means and quickly move on to something else.
But I must confess to you, this verse has challenged me this week. It seems to be rather obvious. God expects His followers to go out, connect people with Him, be a blessing, and do it in the smallest of ways, such as a cup of cold water.
But to understand the verse in that way is to remove it from its setting and context. When read with what precedes it, it's obvious Jesus is still talking about the way people receive His messengers.
It helps to read how Mark recorded that comment.
Mark 9:41
Now it's interesting to me how the comments of Jesus In Matthew 10 progress. He starts out in verse 40 by talking about those who receive "you".
He is most likely addressing the Apostles in particular.
But then, in verse 41, it becomes less specific in that He talks about receiving "a prophet". Then the one received is "a righteous man", and finally, in verse 42, it is "these little ones".
So what's going on with these descending adjectives? In my opinion, all four references are to the same group. Who are the little ones?
Well, who was he talking to? Little nobody disciples. You say, "No! He was talking to men like Peter and John and the others!" Right! Little nobody disciples! Remember, that's what they were when He makes this comment.
At this point in their career, they were a bunch of unproven nothings. They were nobodies. He's talking about His sheep who are being sent out to preach the gospel. And the point He's making is that those who receive these messengers of God are not being rewarded because they are receiving a certain classification of men.
Listen: it's not because they are Apostles or prophets or righteous men that people are blessed. In fact, they are nothing more than "little ones". Rather people are blessed when they receive these apostles and prophets and righteous men and little ones because what they are really receiving is the Lord and His Word and His ways and His Gospel and His eternity!
But that's not all. Look at verse 42 and let's read it again.
verse 42
But He ways to them, "When you and others like you go out to preach and to represent Me, you will be treated in the most terrible of ways. But those that you reach, those who receive you, because they receive Me, not only will you be a blessing to them, but they will be a blessing to you.
The "little ones" who are given the cup of water are not the poor and needy and thirsty lost people in the world. Instead, they are God's servants, God's messengers. Remember, they are being sent out into a hostile world as sheep among wolves. They will be hated and despised and killed.
  1. there will be some out there that will receive them, and when they do, they receive the Lord.
Now zero in on the word "receive" for a moment because it is the most prominent word in this text. It occurs no less than eight times in verses 40-42. So obviously, Jesus wants them and us to understand what He means in all this talk about receiving.
Let me try to explain what is in this word "receive".
When you and I go out in the name of the Lord and people believe in Christ through our witness, they receive us. That means they accept us and our message. So we become the means by which they receive God Himself. What an incredible thought! That is an amazing thing to comprehend!
But that's not all. In verse 41 He says, "When you go out representing God and someone receives you, they will also receive the reward that you receive. If you are saved because of my preaching, then you receive the same reward that I do for proclaiming the gospel to you. We all share in that reward.
That means when I am faithful to God's Word and calling, then I become a means to your blessedness. So on the one hand when I proclaim the gospel, some are cursed and alienated. But on the other hand when I proclaim the same gospel, some will receive the very reward that God has promised to give the one who preaches.
So faithful witnesses become the instrument through which others are blessed. If you want to be a blessing in the world, then confess Christ before men. Boldly stand, unashamed of Christ, and share His message of salvation. In doing that, your life becomes the source of unimaginable blessing and reward.
Move forward in church history just a few years from when Jesus spoke these words and you will find the early church demonstrating exactly what He says here will happen.
In the earliest description of the church given in the New Testament, as early as Acts 2, we find them giving and sharing what they have with one another.
In one of the earliest testimonies of the faith of the early Christians written by historian Tertullian, he wrote of how the Romans, observing these Christians would exclaim, "See how they love one another!"
It has always been the hallmark of the Christian church that we love one another, and what is often overlooked in the study of that topic is, not only does God expect it, He rewards it.
Even when we help in the simplest of ways, Jesus is reminding His followers thatGod will take note of that. He will reward those who have shared in the ministry of His gospel! Together we are intimately involved in the work of God, from the greatest to the least.
It doesn't matter if it's the highest and most noble of the prophets or the least of these my brethren, we do the same work and enjoy the same reward.
There was a lad in a country village who went off to seminary to prepare for the ministry. During the days of his studying, there was a cobbler in his home village who helped him. He was a simple man, but a man who loved God with all his heart.
In time, this young man whom he had helped became licensed to preach, and on the day of his ordination the cobbler said to him, "Young man, I always had in my heart the desire to be a minister of the gospel, but the circumstances of my life never made it possible.
You are doing what was always my dream, but never reality. I want you to promise me one thing. I want you to let me make your shoes for nothing, and I want you to wear them in the pulpit when you preach and that way, when you preach the gospel, you'll be standing in my shoes."
When the lowliest servant of God, serving in the most remote and isolated place in the world gives just a cup of cold water, God takes note of it, and His promise is a reward.
In fact, listen to what Jesus said about this scenario in
Matthew 26:31-46
It couldn't be more clear. There are just two divisions of people. There are the sheep and there are the goats.
The sheep go out in obedience to Christ and make an impact on lives, so much so that they will, at great cost and risk to themselves, go public with their faith. And Jesus says here that when they minister to one another in the simplest of ways, it's just the same as doing it to the Lord Himself.
After all, that makes sense because if we receive them, we receive the Lord.
On the other hand, there are those who do not receive the gospel or the messenger of the gospel, therefore they do not receive the Lord, and they are destined for everlasting punishment.
Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is an amazing responsibility. For many, you are nothing but an irritant, a source of conflict. But for others, you are the source of the greatest blessing they will ever experience.
Back in 1812, Napoleon Bonaparte led his French army to invade Russia in an attempt to liberate Poland from the threat of Russia.
By November of that year, in the dead of winter, the French army was pressed on all sides by the Russian Cossacks. Napoleon's plan was to cross the Berezina River and head for Poland, while his enemies wanted to trap him there and destroy him.
The Russians had destroyed the nearby bridges, and Napoleon's plan suffered an additional setback because the river, which was usually frozen, had thawed and was impassable.
So the order was issued to build a bridge. Many of the men working down in that frozen river sank from the cold and exhaustion. Some were swept away with the force of the moving icy water. But more and more men came and the work proceeded as fast as possible.
At last the bridge was complete and the army reached the opposite bank and was completely safe. And then followed the most dramatic scene, and one of the most touching recorded in the annals of history.
When the men who had built the bridge were called to leave the water, not one of them moved. Clinging to the pillars, says the historian, they stood silent and motionless, frozen to death. And even Napoleon shed tears.
In a real sense, that is our calling. God calls us, some in very real and physical ways, and others in a more spiritual sense, to give our lives to build a bridge for someone to cross into the presence of God.
We do it, knowing we have the privilege of connecting people with God and bring to them the blessings that includes, and we do it, knowing God will take care of us and bless us. Those are our marching orders.
Let's pray.
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