Summary: When Christ’s Disciples reach out to the less fortunate with a hand of compassion they are in fact reaching out to Him.
Lectionary 13 A
This morning our gospel text concludes the discourse that Jesus gave to His disciples when He commissioned them to continue the ministry that He had begun with the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Two weeks ago the Gospel of Matthew informed us that after the disciples had witnessed the healing ministry of Jesus Christ, Jesus instructed His disciples to go and do likewise.
And we heard last week that the ministry that Jesus had given to His disciples would not be easy because not everyone who heard the “Good News” and experienced the presence of God in their life would want to be a part of God’s Kingdom.
And we were told that Jesus warned His disciples that they might be persecuted and that some people might react violently against them when they acknowledged Jesus as Lord and continued His ministry of humble service.
And yet, in spite of all these risks, last Sunday we also heard Jesus instruct His disciples to be faithful and to pick up their cross and follow Him and not be afraid because each one of them was precious in His sight and was well known by God the Father in Heaven.
Well today we have the final words from Jesus concerning the ministry He had bestowed upon His disciples. And unlike the doom and gloom of the previous two weeks today Jesus informs us that persecution is not the only result of discipleship.
In fact, Jesus informs His disciples, that they would come across people that loved God and who would honor the people that God sent to them.
And so Jesus explained that these folks would welcome them like they were welcoming Him and like the one who sent Him and that they would receive their reward (for their act of welcoming will not go unnoticed). 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: “… 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.”
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 disciples examples of how they could “Be His Ambassadors” and carry out the ministry His Father had given to Him. One such example is recorded in Matthew 25: 31-40.
The texts reads: “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 have to 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.