Jesus wasn’t received well by the religious community. Why? Because he wasn’t a “yes” man. He didn’t regurgitate the religious policies that had been in place for many centuries. He messed with Moses. He messed with tradition. He was sowing discord. He upset the neat and comfortable applecart of the Temple.
In the verses previous to these, Jesus said he came, not to bring peace, but a sword. Families would divide because of his teachings. Ouch. If you follow Jesus, that might mean you will be in opposition to Moses and long-standing religious tradition, and people in your own family or faith community might reject you.
Don’t think this applies only to Jewish tradition. When you divert from orthodox Christian tradition, be prepared to be received in the same way Jesus was received…the words “cross” and “crucified” might be familiar. Yet be assured that those who embrace you – embrace Christ, and as important, the One who sent him. All three of you have a lot in common, a trinity kind of thing, a God-with-you kind of thing.
What I want to know is this: what is a” prophet’s reward” and would you want it? One of the definitions of a prophet is this – an interpreter of oracles or of other hidden things. If you embrace (receive) an interpreter of hidden things for what that interpreter stands for (in his or her name/character) then you will receive that interpreter’s wages/dues. I think this can bring positive or negative wages, depending on what the interpreter/prophet stands for.
Or then again, maybe Jesus wanted us to learn to trust our own instincts based on what we think of God personally rather than trusting what has been handed down for thousands of years. After all, if Christ is within us (as the apostle Paul wrote), isn’t he giving us guidance in some way?
What about embracing a righteous/virtuous person and receiving his or her reward? I think the reward for doing what is right is usually a good thing. Except the last beatitude in Matthew 5 implies you can be persecuted for doing what is right. Still, the reward is a good one – the kingdom of heaven.
The last example in this text is can be stated two ways. I’ve only seen it stated one way, but I think it means the same thing. You decide:
Standard way: 42 And whoever gives to drink one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.
Water is an addition by most translators that does not appear in the Greek text. They do this to try to make it sound like it makes more sense. Additions like these are made all the time. But look at the verse when someone unconventional like me uses the metaphorical interpretations found in Greek concordances:
42 And yet – whoever in the name of a disciple saturates the mind of one of these lesser ones with only experiences that are destitute of warm Christian faith or the desire for holiness, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”
This sounds more like a warning than it does a positive affirmation. It almost sounds like the upsetting verses prior to these three where Jesus tells his disciples it isn’t going to be a cakewalk if they follow his lead. This alternate translation promises it won’t be a cakewalk if they don’t follow him either. That’s life. You reap what you sow whether you understand it or not.