In Matthew chapter 10, the apostle compiles and summarizes Jesus’ teaching from various discourses on missions. After initially outlining the source, staff and specifics of the mission of the twelve apostles, Matthew goes on to outline the peculiar dangers that they, and subsequent generations of disciples, would suffer as a result of preaching Christ (what we call evangelism). The church is sent by Christ into a hostile world as vulnerable sheep among wolves, where we carry on our mission of evangelism in the midst of hatred, confrontation, mockery and persecution. Jesus explains that the source of persecution is found in the world’s hatred of Him first. “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” (10:25). There is a link between the manner in which Jesus is treated and the treatment of His church. In the final section of the chapter (10:40-42), once again Jesus teaches of the tie between the treatment of Himself and that of His followers, only now stated positively: “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” (Mt 10:40)
The chapter concludes with a declaration of the rewards that would be distributed to those involved in various capacities in the mission. Just as the entire discourse moves from the twelve apostles to all believers at large, so does its conclusion. Jesus moves from describing the rewards for “prophets,” to “righteous persons,” to the “little ones” (10:41-42). It is not His intention to present these three groups as mutually exclusive classes, but rather to show that all kinds of people are necessary and vital in support of the mission. Those who actually go and preach the Gospel, those who pray for those who go, and even those who support the mission in the smallest of ways (whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water) are all going to be appropriately rewarded.
While not mentioned in Mathew, Luke 9:10 and Mark 6:30 speak of the return of the twelve apostles to tell Jesus all that they had done in their mission. Unquestionably one of the rewards we have in this life, is to hear the testimonies of how other disciples came to follow Christ through the witness of His people. Next Sunday, in addition to addressing the text in Matthew 10, we will rejoice together as we hear the testimonies of our brothers and sisters, particularly how God used them to share the good news with others. It will be an opportunity for us to rejoice in the various roles that we have together in our common mission.